1 / 2018 - publications, UU AA 1

The media is increasingly reshaping the world around us. In the current age of fast consumption news feeds are flooding our screens with issues ranging from social phenomena to products of urban culture and the latest global trends. Cultural transitions are often made visible through publishing, and architecture is no exception in this respect. Books, manifestos and magazines record debates and highlight new subjects that are of interest to new generations. This first 2018 issue of Arkkitehti addresses the significance of architectural publications in our time and their future prospects. It provides a summary of the views of ten publishers representing different countries and types of publications, ranging from established to experimental with projects such as San Rocco, Cartha and The Funambulist. On the international scene, the discourse on publications remains lively as they provide a channel for an increasingly polyphonic architectural culture.

This issue will also provide an overview of temporary installations that are becoming an increasingly permanent part of the urban scene. A wide range of events and festivals generate urban spatial experiences at the interface of architecture, environment art and design. We showcase of a number of temporary projects created by the Helsinki Design Week, Flow Festival and the Lähiöfest. Mobile Home 2017, a centennial project launched jointly by four Finnish cultural institutes, focuses on the importance of the home. Eeva Berglund reflects in her article on the concept of the home, the changes in the perception of the home and the conflicts created by growing economic inequality. Furthermore, professor Pirjo Sanaksenaho writes about the role of housing magazines in creating the modern ideals of home in the 1950s and 60s.

With this first issue of Arkkitehti in 2018, we are also launching UU AA, a project exploring the new form of our publication. As a temporary and experimental undertaking it will invite direct feedback from readers in Finland and abroad. We will report on the progress made in the project in all issues of the magazine throughout 2018.

Contents

Praksa | Emil Jurcan
Aalto ARTS Books | Annu Ahonen
Microcities / Socks Studio | Mariabruna Fabrizi, Fosco Lucarelli
dpr-barcelona | Ethel Baraona Pohl, César Reyes Nájera
Garret Publications
bookm-ark | Anni Vartola
The Funambulist | Léopold Lambert
Rakennustieto | Jukka Lyytinen
Cartha
San Rocco | Giovanni Piovene

 

Arkkitehti asked actors working with publications to present their views on the current state of publishing and its future.

 

Anni Vartola

I realised years ago that a huge number of people are genuinely interested in architecture, that so many publications have been made on Finnish architecture, and that it may be quite difficult to get hold of them. This elusiveness of architectural literature is especially true if you are looking for older literature or literature written in a language other than Finnish. If you are lucky, you may find books in second-hand bookshops and online market places, but if you can’t read Finnish or you are looking for a specific title, you are in trouble. My online bookshop bookm-ark.fi aims to bring together publications on Finnish architecture and readers interested in them, wherever in the world they may be. My goal is also to boost the circulation of architectural books and simply to encourage people to read, learn and thereby increase the public’s general knowledge about architecture.

My business is tiny, and it operates on very limited resources, so I am currently concentrating on a very specific niche: publications on Finnish architecture in a language preferably other than Finnish. Occasionally I also accept books, exhibition catalogues and other such publications on Nordic architecture and Finnish interior architects, designers and artists. Estates and architectural firms also bequeath us more generic titles on architecture. I have drawn the line on home interior guides, administrative reports, technical planning documents and text books.

I believe the publications should communicate something about architecture, whether big or small. Within these parameters, the content and format of the publication can be just about anything: a fiery manifesto, a highly specialised scientific study, a website on the most recent architecture, an unusual leaflet about a weird, alternative exhibition, or a film or sound recording of a conversation. The main thing is that the authors have had a strong vision when composing their text, why and for whom they are publishing it.

In other words, a good architectural publication has a carefully considered information content. It documents something about its topic in a way that is born of its time and takes its topic and genre further with great precision, courage and a personal touch. As an architectural theorist, I am fascinated by publications that document architectural discussion and edgy historical texts, especially on the theory of early modernism of the 19th century and theoretical works from the 1980s, conference recordings, commentaries and manifestos.

My own collection includes several anthologies of architectural theory and publications related to certain turning points in history, especially postmodern architecture. An example of a superb collection is Oppositions Reader (1998). It is a collection of essays published between 1973 and 1983 in the magazine Oppositions, published by the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies. Another gripping read is The Vision of Britain, published by Charles, Prince of Wales, in 1989, which provides an excellent documentary into the ethos of the 1980s and is a prime example of the value debate between architects and lay persons, even if I don’t share his stylistic ideals. The questions of the foundations of architecture, after all, remain unchanged from one century to the next. I regularly follow the marginal publications and online portals of architectural theory, such as Architectural Theory Review, Oase, Footprint, Candide, Places Journal, Metropolis Magazine and Common Edge.

My feeling is that we Finns are too high-brow and conservative when defining architectural publications. The first association when hearing “architectural publication” is a beautifully printed book with loads of photographs with informative captions, with a few quasi-theoretical words of wisdom from the celebrities of the day. An architectural publication today is something much more diverse: it can be a magazine on a narrow specialty, a collective blog, a video diary, an Instagram feed, a radio programme, a film.

Publishing in either print or online is easy, fast and cheap these days. Publications are therefore many, and their standard varies. This in turn calls for a more robust evaluation of sources. For example, architectural monographs may be marketing materials published by the offices themselves. In this deluge of publications, we need more critical analysis, a sense of historical context and contemplation on the meaning of things.

When travelling abroad, I often do some “field research” on the presentation and communication practices in architecture. I visit as many architectural bookshops, galleries and exhibitions as I can. I would welcome more diversity in Finland: “Less is a bore”. We should let our hair down a little, have fewer committees and less consensus-seeking correctness, or, in musical terms: forget high-fidelity, turn on the loudness mode. The Newly Drawn exhibition and book (2009) by young architectural offices was a very successful specimen of such an approach.

Thematic and experimental divergences from the conventional should receive more substantial, more lasting and more consistent support. The most natural role for organisations such as the Finnish Association of Architects (SAFA), the Museum of Finnish Architecture, the Alvar Aalto Museum, Archinfo Finland and Building Information would be to offer practical support for independent, grassroots publication activities. This could be something quite simple: they could lend their mental support and brand prestige, open up their archives for use without charge, show more latitude in funding decisions, give expert advice and provide access to their communication and distribution networks. The main thing would be for the established institutions of architecture to stop jealously guarding architecture as if they were its sole proprietors. Let and let live, and trust that the roses will eventually outgrow the weeds!

Our architectural institutions should take communication and information work more seriously. Will the new generations in architect school have any idea who, say, Heikki and Kaija Siren, Keijo Petäjä or Arto Sipinen were? We are in desperate need of a new series of publications on the recent history of Finnish architecture. For too long we have been focusing our gaze either on the present day or far back into the past.

Shaking up the old routines as well as how we communicate information are at the core of my third vision. Is the time finally right for launching a Finnish Architecture Review aimed purely at the international audience? Could the project descriptions, critiques and articles reach the architectural profession globally and not just SAFA members? Digital and print media is a marriage made in heaven if the strengths of both media are understood. Since no publication can please everyone, I think there is no reason not to have a much louder and more diverse presence. There will always be readers if you give them something to read. ark

 

Cartha

Cartha’s goal is to promote a lively, open critical discourse in architecture. We believe that publishing, as a means of making something available to as broad an audience as possible, is key to the process of fomenting and catalysing a richer, more interesting and conscious discussion and, as a consequence, a stronger architectural discipline.

This has been shown by a number of historic print publications which have come to shape architecture, for instance the Oppositions series, the Any series, the AA Files as well as other forms of publication such as some marking editions of the Venice Biennale, such as 1980 and 1985 curated by Paolo Portoghesi, or the 1932 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which introduced the International Style. Looking at these examples, we can say that publications can become part of the discipline itself, as cornerstones of architecture.

Another aspect we find relevant and which has influenced our choices of format and conceptual framing is the opportunity that the act of publishing offers to an indirect exchange of ideas between segments which, for some reason, tend to remain separate – such as different generations, academia, practice, etc.

There are a great number of publications that we find interesting for one reason or another. Something we find imperative is that these publications contain a clear conceptual and critical value, and this is transversal to publishing, independent of the discipline. We obviously find the magazine format extremely interesting. It implies a set of strict parameters – periodicity, chronological relevance, thematic and sub-thematic correspondences, etc. – but it also allows huge wiggle room. From the first architecture magazine by John Loudon to the semi-mandatory El Croquis, A+U or Log, the same format has brought us a huge variety of approaches without ever losing its coherence. It is accessible in terms of feasibility and logistics: a very generous test bed for experiments such as ours. Looking at publications from our perspective, focusing on their capacity to generate dialogues and interaction, the ones which remain fascinating over time are those which contain a strong critical, constructive spirit towards their context, be this publication a text, an image, a book, a magazine, an object, an archive, a collection or an event.

Cartha was born from the will to create an open publishing platform that would allow people from all backgrounds to contribute to the construction of a discourse around certain topics we deemed relevant within the contemporary context of architecture. It was also central to us that the content we publish had to be available free of charge and free from geographic borders. With this in mind, we started an editorial and publishing project based on a web platform and the sourcing of contributions through open calls and direct invitations.

Something that characterizes our project is that we work in yearly cycles, dedicating a full year to a given theme. In 2015 we had the theme “Relations in Architecture”, in 2016 we worked on “The Form of Form” and last year we dedicated ourselves to “The Limits of Fiction in Architecture”. We are currently working on the topic for this year, which will be announced soon, alongside the call for contributions.

We select our themes through an intensive process of research, analysis and discussion within the editorial board. We dedicate about two months to this process and we manage to extract from it the conceptual, procedural and organizational structures for the whole year. In the process of selecting a theme, we also have to create a format that allows us to foster the creation of original content in relation to it. It has become clear that the precise elaboration of the open calls and the framing of the submissions are extremely relevant to the quality of the outcome of the issues. To prepare these documents, we summarize our research, which is done in a more or less casual way throughout the year, into documents filled with concepts and references in which we see a potential. We then come together and pitch the ideas to each other, assimilating and excluding certain inputs until we come up with a plan for the whole year on which we all agree. We see the multiple voices and intentions within the group as a great asset and we manage to profit increasingly from it as Cartha continues publishing.

When we started Cartha, we felt that editorial projects in general – excluding academic publications for obvious reasons – were not completely at ease with the pressure imposed by the digital format and all its consequences. Speed, periodicity, size, format and synergies had and have to be re-approached from new perspectives. But now we are seeing that some possible new directions are starting to emerge, and we are very excited about where these may lead.

What has also become a defining characteristic of Cartha is the use of digital and print formats. From the beginning, we wanted to produce a book. We wanted this object to be a memento of the contributors’ work, a conceptual and legal “depository” of the cycle and, of course, a beautiful object that would potentiate the communication and interaction of the audience with the ideas present in it. We started an on-going relation with Park Books, which resulted in two volumes published in 2016 (CARTHA On Relations in Architecture and CARTHA On Making Heimat), and two more are coming out, one in the second half of 2018 (CARTHA on The Form of Form) and one in 2019 (CARTHA on The Limits of Fiction in Architecture).

Parallel to this, we promote events – always directly related to the issues – which have come to play a highly relevant role in the way we understand publishing. In the current environment, making information available is not necessarily effective as an act of publishing. Awareness has to be created around this information, in a sort of layering movement of different kinds of publishing. The events we promote help us to address this situation in a very straightforward way, in direct contact between the contributors, the audience and the editorial board, generating a discussion around the published content. This discussion can be understood as something ephemeral, but it can also, and has done so, give origin to new content that we later feature in the magazine.

Since our participation at the 2016 Lisbon Architecture Triennial as an associated project, we have found ourselves extending our range of action towards exhibitions and curatorial initiatives. We see this as a sort of organic, natural evolution of the project, in the sense that it offers us a complementary set of possibilities to enlarge and deepen our scope when approaching a theme. We find it very interesting to approach exhibitions from an almost inverse perspective, exhibiting material that has previously been published, a kind of thinking exhibition starting from the catalogue instead of the other way around. It follows the same path as we took regarding the relation between digital and print formats, something we are still very keen to work on and further develop together with the graphic experts in our team – Max Frischknecht and Philipp Möckli from studio Début Début – and other peers who also work in this field.

We enjoy working on this verge, on the search for a stable line between formats, between themes and technologies. ark


All four essays in the issue.

Bookm-ark is a store for used architecture books founded by architect Anni Vartola.

Cartha is an online publication founded in 2014 focusing on sharing different forms of critical thinking regarding architecture and society.

KOTI Sleepover | Linda Bergroth
Thermocene | Tuomas A. Laitinen, raumlaborberlin
Lastu | University of Westminster
Street View (Reassembled) | Anssi Pulkkinen

Helsinki Design Week, Flow Festival, Lähiöfest, Seurasaari

Tikku | Casagrande Laboratory
Finnish Rooftop Sauna | Aalto University

Rakennetun Suomen tarina | Mika Savela
SOS Brutalism. A Global Survey | Kristo Vesikansa

Näköislehti: Site Logic