After 120 years, the AR remains dedicated to a slower journalism, carving out space for ideas to unfurl
Will the AR of the future be collated by artificial intelligence, delivered into an earpiece, or consumed as a psychedelic drug that induces instant creativity while implanting in the mind a thousand precedent studies from the archive? It is vertiginous to contemplate the next 120 years. For now, I am preoccupied with current opportunities and challenges. There’s the thrill of a readership that spans six generations (GI, Silent, Boomer, X, Millennial and Z), all with their different tastes, politics and appetites – the youngest of which, under the age of 24, has surprised us by being delightfully passionate about print.
We’re enthused, also, by the new creative toys in our play den – films, talks, podcasts – while relishing the sense of event and craft at the heart of everything we do: curating our matrix of global collaborators; editing disparate voices; distilling the art of photographers and filmmakers; focusing the website and its breathless, instant, endlessness; and, of course, making the magazine itself – the painstaking assemblage of every page, every sentence, and working with our printing house to achieve the hand-inserted mix of papers, perforations, die-cuts and gatefolds.
‘Too many architects fail to recognise the difference between an independently written article by a critic who has visited the building and a press release’
As for the challenges, they are rooted in this troubling post-truth era, in which too many architects fail to recognise the difference between an independently written article by a critic who has visited the building and a press release – a distance that should be as obvious as the gulf between reality and render. But some don’t care. Like Narcissus, they prefer the digital mirror’s filtered fantasy selfie – blue skies above a sanitised architecture in which 12-year-olds fly kites on private corporate estates, while in the windswept real world, 12-year-olds stare only at their mobile phones.
Meanwhile, here at the AR, we are so old that we are becoming brand new – reincarnate and slippery as a wet baby in a caul of resistance, committed to doing things differently, which, paradoxically, is also how they have always been done. We are committed to a slower journalism – carving out space for ideas to unfurl. We exist for readers who feel dissatisfied, standing against that empty scroll of clickbait images. We want you to pause for reflection, to quench your thirst for some meaning, a glimpse of enlightenment, an idea on which to place a stone.
Creativity takes time, requires nourishment. But in the post-human future it is the most valuable skill architects have left – to synergise past, present and future, and care about complex social contexts. While artificial intelligence may learn to design buildings for a site, it can’t make moral decisions, predict the future or perform jazz; it lacks empathy and complex understanding. While firmness, commodity and delight may be reduced to an algorithm, architecture that serves people and place for 100 years cannot.
‘We need empathic writers who spend more than 15 minutes at a building and can tell the story of its context’
To enhance the creativity of our audience, we need to commission empathic writers who spend more than 15 minutes at a building and can tell the story of its context, documentary photographers who know how to capture reality, filmmakers who can craft a rich, thoughtful and compelling experience – we need to create a considered arena for journeys of discovery and change, as well as events that bring us together to challenge traditional viewpoints and talk about the issues that matter to you. Good journalism is honest, not neutral, and architects need a critically independent voice to consider the impact of what we build, beyond aesthetics.
Over the coming year we are planning special editions, salons and documentary films that will confront some of the most pressing issues of our time and how architecture can address them: water and the lack or excess of it; the post-digital and post-human society; craft and delight. We can only do this with the continued support of the subscribers who invest in our work and secure our future. I’m grateful to you, a global tribe that shares our belief in the importance of critical thought to spur architecture forward. You resist with us.