Un-clogging Architecture with three emerging architectural journals
Magazines, zines, pamphlets, journals, free-sheets, papers, posters and flyers – just some of the formats for the dissemination of architectural conversation that seem to be exploding. With the Archizines exhibition at the AA last autumn (now showing at the Storefront in New York) and not to mention the recent publication of Clip/Stamp/Fold: The Radical Architecture of Little Magazines 196X – 197X, pamphlet architecture is back.
The Young Journals Symposium at the Cooper Union this April brought together three of the up and coming zines in and around New York City – Clog, Another Pamphlet and Pidgin. Chaired by Cynthia Davidson, editor of Log and the founder of Any Corporation, the symposium covered a number of pertinent questions: why here? Why now? And to what end?
The three magazines have very different approaches and each answered these questions in a series of short presentations. The first up was Another Pamphlet, a small and ‘deliberately anachronistic’ publication with a radical approach to format. With a minuscule circulation of only a few hundred – photocopied and posted in a manila envelope to a loyal readership – Another Pamphlet was the underdog of the trio. With contributions limited to 300 words and one image (a strikingly similar format to blog posts), the magazine distinguishes itself through its very physicality. ‘It holds attention because it is physical,’ its editors proclaimed.
All three of the magazines appeared to be reactions to digital media. Clog opened up their presentation by quantifying the overwhelming number of daily posts on architectural blogs and websites. ‘Clog formed in order to slow things down,’ said Kyle May, its editor-in-chief. Unlike Another Pamphlet, with its small and insular following, Clog’s editors described a stance that was deliberately approachable. ‘We wanted a holistic and accessible dialogue with a focus on content.’ Grabbing the attention of those outside architecture appears to have paid off.
Only three issues in, Clog has already expanded to a circulation in the thousands. ‘Clog was a reaction to the idea that architects are always talking to other architects – forgetting clients, contractors, users, graphic designers – when we say holistic, we’re trying to bring some of those other people into the discussion.’ But covering topics like Apple isn’t the only way that the magazine does this. To expand on the conversations in the text, Clog hosts a number of events to open up the discussions, bringing new life to the topics.
“The generation responsible for these papers has grown up with an acute awareness of how too much information isn’t always better information”
Pidgin, the oldest of the young trio, rather than being a ‘gateway drug’ to architecture, has the luxury of being born out of Princeton’s heavy academic environment. ‘The urgency for us was to get a slice through the content inside and outside of Princeton,’ its editor stated. ‘We felt claustrophobic.’ Indeed what all of the magazines had in common was a frustration with more established journals and magazines. Pidgin described themselves as a constantly evolving ‘messy thing’, which allowed readers to enjoy the physical object of the magazine, something mainstream publications have lost with unpleasant paper and too many advertisements. The ’zine argument appears to be that if the object is great, then maybe the web won’t be so seductive after all.
The questions of authorship, accountability and the role of the editor are brought to light in these young journals in a way that the internet has yet to capture. Another Pamphlet’s system of listing authors apart from the contributions, allowing readers to guess who has produced what, is an ideological, if not confusing, stance on these issues. Indeed Clog’s deliberate attempt to reduce the number of images and to expand the margins of the text is an attempt to focus on the content – a trend seen with other magazines such as AA Files, which under the recent editorship of Tom Weaver has removed images from its cover altogether.
The advantage of printed material is that it forces editors to cut down and select. While most of the magazines are open to submissions, their content is very much curated. This allows editors to place younger contributors next to more established ones – an ambition supported by Log, which has open submissions, Another Pamphlet, which obscures the authors of its content, and the AA’s Fulcrum, which with its two column format poses young authors next to established ones.
It is no surprise that a great number of pamphlets have emerged in the past few years. With the evolution of the internet the generation responsible for these papers has grown up with an acute awareness of how too much information isn’t always better information. The Young Journals Symposium provided a glimpse into how editors are dealing with this problem.
The challenge for these journals will be to defend printed matter in the digital age and to decide whether there are solutions that work with the internet rather than relying on anachronistic or potentially gimmicky ones. But without a doubt, they are proving to be an exciting and relevant contribution to architectural discourse.