Magazine article Eye : The International Review of Graphic Design

Tear It Down, Build It Up

Magazine article Eye : The International Review of Graphic Design

Tear It Down, Build It Up

Article excerpt

Tear it down, build it up Clip / Stamp /Fold: The Radical Architecture of Little Magazines 196Xtol97X Edited by Beatriz Colomina and Craig Buckley; image editor Utzi Grau Actar/Media & Modernity Program, Princeton University, euro45, £40, $54.95

Reviewed by James Pallister

In March 1966 the critic Reyner Banham wrote: 'Architecture, staid queen-mother of the arts, is no longer courted by slick glossies but is having her skirts blown up and her bodice unzipped by irregular newcomers, typically rhetorical, with-it moralistic, misspelled, improvisatory, funny-format, art-oriented but stoned out of their minds with science fiction images of an alternative architecture.'

The creators behind these zines and pamphlets were bored of their teachers, bored of the staid architectural press and bored of the architecture they saw around them. What was firing them up, though, was paste-up lettering, offset litho, accordion folds, plastic clips, Roneos and Gestetners. 'Little magazines', to borrow a term, were flourishing.

Beatriz Colomina and the students on her Princeton PhD programme on 'The Radical Architecture of Little Magazines' record this period. This beautifully produced doorstop is the project's latest production.

The term 'little magazines' has pedigree: it pops up in 1920s literary criticism to describe the many chapbooks and small pamphlets produced in the early twentieth century whose primary purpose was artistic expression rather than moneymaking. Similarly, Colomina's selected mags are characterised by impermanence, lack of polish and an energy not present in mainstream architecture magazines, which then, as now, were close to the distinctly non-revolutionary worlds of property developers, product manufacturers and commercial publishers.

Not all mainstream magazines were immune to the new, radical atmosphere. In the early 1970s, under editor Monica Pidgeon, Architectural Design switched to a book-publishing economic model (relying on subscription rather than advertising for revenue), and from letterpress to (cheaper) offset lithographic printing. This switch gave the previously strait-laced mag editorial freedom to run outlandish illustrated covers (two robots having sex being a memorable example) and articles on 'how to run your car on chicken shif , and to experiment with production gadgetry including cut-outs, tear-outs and fold-outs. …

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