WAI interview at the Architectural Association
The ARCHIZINES exhibition held in the Architectural Association in London that featured 60 contemporary architectural publications from around the world presented the creators and editors of the magazines through a series of video interviews displayed in IPads. The series of questions presented a unique opportunity to display the different perspectives and conditions that fuel contemporary architectural intelligence today, and to discuss the influence of printed matter in a digitalized world.
What is the relationship between architecture and publishing?
Cruz: We think that there are two kind of (architectural) publishing. One that is more oriented to publicity and marketing, and that’s the one that we have plenty of, publishing a lot of images, a lot of not very critical texts, and it responds more to the market. It is not necessarily very critical with itself. And then on the other hand, we have another kind of publishing that is the one that is concerned with the framing of ideas. How to make these ideas permanent? And it’s the one that was used by Adolf Loos, by Le Corbusier, and the CIAM during modernism, and Archigram, the Metabolists, in the sixties. And Koolhaas. We’ve been losing it since the economic boom in the 90’s, when everything was getting built and there was not a very strong culture of rethinking what people were doing. And I think that relationship between the publishing of ideas is very important for architecture to create a database and a background for the future work of the people that write the texts and for the people that reads them. And for students, and for the professionals. It is what carries the discipline forward.
How do you edit architecture?
Cruz: In order to edit architecture, you got to provide architecture with tools with which you can edit it. The more tools you have, the more options you will have to find ways to edit architecture. It could be publishing, texts, it could be narrative architecture, it could be filmmaking, it could be music.
We always like to put emphasis on these two speeds of editing. One is really slow, building architecture or the construction of architecture. How can you edit architecture through a really wide period of time through what you are building? And the other one is all these simultaneous tools, like magazines, books and movies, and other kinds of media.
If we put an example, we always like to quote from the Modernists, because they were perhaps the strongest ideological period of recent architecture. And if we see Le Corbusier, how he went from his early houses to hardcore modernist aesthetics, and how he detached himself from that period and then started experimenting with the plastics of the building, and how he developed simultaneously these set of tools that set the parameters for the future of the practice like his first texts, more doctrinal texts, L'esprit nouveau, and the texts in which the CIAM bases its doctrines, and then poetry, painting, sculpture, and other kinds of mediums. And we can see how important is to provide these tools because then you can set the parameters on which you are going to set your practice after. How does people that are following you and looking at what you are doing, like the students and professionals, and academics, they can see the development, and then architecture gets edited all the time.
Nathalie: A way to edit architecture is by the process in which you produce architecture and express yourself and express your ideas, so if you use these kinds of medium, like for example filmmaking, collage, theoretical texts, research, all different kinds of tools that are not just design oriented, then you come by editing your ideas and your approach, and then you can express a much more broader expression, or idea of the meaning of architecture.
What is the role of printed matter in the digital age?
Nathalie: Printed matter in the digital age really help us to mark a point in time, and physically produce a material that will encapsulate the statements or concepts you want to develop, in this book or publication. Compare to more digital era where maybe for the user is more difficult to gather or to get what you’re looking for because you don’t know where to look for. You have so many information, that if you have printed matter, it’s all gathered in one material you can always keep, and refer to it in time. (Printed matter) it’s also a time issue, it’s something more permanent, that will not change, that you can always use as reference. Also, as a user, printed matter, will allow you to really experience it with your own speed compared maybe to the internet or even a documentary, and all these digital products that have their own speed. The printing issue will always give you, as a user, the freedom to interact with it at your own speed, in your own order.
How are architectural publications changing?
Cruz: Architecture publication in itself hasn’t change too much. If you consider the history of architecture publications maybe in the last hundred years, we have, as we said before, two kinds of publications, ones that are more market-oriented, and the other ones that are statements in printed matter. But has changed a lot are the mediums of diffusion of architectural information. For example, we can quote our case. We come straight out of our blog, which is a really inexpensive way to get information gathered. And then you gain notoriety through the publication of the blog, people know your work, and eventually you end up printing that stuff, because in the end you still believe in the permanent power of the printed matter.
But, otherwise that wouldn’t happen because if we look at the architectural discipline which is very elitist, and is a small society, and is very secluded. If you don’t know anybody from a publisher, or if your not connected with any school would be very difficult to find an outlet where you can get your ideas diffused. And then, we’re not associated with any of this, but then we find these new technologies would help us to present our ideas to a bigger and wider public. And then, some people quote you on another website, for example, eventually you end up in a magazine, and then other people meet you, and know you, and know your work, and basically without having any physical presence, you get your work known, and then it becomes part, embedded, a new branch of the architectural publications, with all these digital material.
Nathalie: This new dinamic helps to break a bit the pattern that exists, that was very like, publishing, Architecture publications was quite elitist, as you said already, it was reserved to more academic people, or people who already have a lot of experience in the architectural practice, so in a way the digital era helped a lot of people, young people, to access to this architectural world, of contemporary architecture, and opened a lot of new opportunities for a lot of different people.
Image by Sue Barr
Image by Sue Barr
Video/Image by Johan Tristan Kinnucan