Essay on establishing a platform for sharing the voice of others, whether architects or not, in order to instigate a fruitful discussion amongst the design community







The publication ARCHIZINES features MAS Context and includes an essay by Iker Gil titled “On Research, Collaboration, and Discussion.”

From handmade fanzines and print-on-demand newsletters to magazines and student journals, ARCHIZINES celebrates the recent resurgence of alternative and independent architectural publishing. Edited by Elias Redstone, ARCHIZINES showcases 60 new publications from over 20 countries alongside critical texts from Pedro Gadanho (Beyond), Iker Gil (MAS Context), Adam Murray (Preston is my Paris), Rob Wilson (Block), Mimi Zeiger (Maximum Maxim MMX / loudpaper) and Matthew Clarke, Ang Li & Matthew Storrie (PIDGIN) that explore the relationship between architecture and publishing today. Themes addressed include the role of publishing in academia and architectural practice, and the representation of architecture in fictional writing, photography, magazines and fanzine culture.

Featured publications: America Deserta Revisted, another pamphlet, Apartamento, Archinect News Digest, Beyond, Block, Bracket, Camenzind, Candide, Civic City Cahier, Club Donny, Conditions, Cornell Journal of Architecture, Criticat, dérive, Ein Magazin über Orte, engawa, Evil People in Modern Homes in Popular Films, face b, Foreign Architects Switzerland, Friendly Fire, Generalist, Horizonte, Junk Jet, Kerb, Le Journal Spéciale’Z, Log, MAP, Mark, MAS Context, matzine, Maximum Maxim MMX, Megawords, The Modernist, mono.kultur, Monu, no now, OASE, One:Twelve, Pablo Internacional, P.E.A.R., PIDGIN, PIN-UP, PLAT, PLOT, Preston is my Paris, Public Library, San Rocco, Scapegoat, scopio, SOILED, SPAM_mag, Thresholds, TOO MUCH, Touching on Architecture, UP, UR, VOLUME, The Weather Ring, What About It?

You can find Iker’s essay below.

On Research, Collaboration, and Discussion

Almost three years ago, I decided to turn an idea that I had in my head into reality: to start a publication. A publication that could be created with the resources I had available (a laptop) and that could be produced at a faster pace than traditional methods of publishing allow.

Publishing has been an interest of mine for years despite that my training is strictly in architecture and I have always worked in what can be considered traditional architecture firms. My knowledge of the publishing world was strictly as a consumer, acquiring frequently both magazines and books, but no knowledge beyond that. Looking back at this interest, I think that there were two factors that determined my desire in starting a publication. The first one is my love for publications as objects themselves. I love a publication that is thoughtfully designed and carefully produced. One that has in mind the way it wants to be experienced and it is produced to achieve exactly that. Sometimes that requires an expensive production but other times, a low-tech approach can be just as effective. Regarding this first factor, moving to Chicago and discovering the existence of a place like The Prairie Avenue Bookstore (which unfortunately closed in 2009 after 50 years in existence) was a pleasure. The second aspect is that, while my work has always been related to designing buildings, I have always been interested in how other disciplines inform architecture. Through the lenses of not only photography, graphic design and industrial design but also sociology, economy and politics to name a few, I was able to identify other aspects of architecture that were as relevant as the ones covered by my own discipline. Whether you work at the scale of a piece of furniture, building or a city, each project is the combination of a series of conditions, some related to design and some not. Looking at all these conditions with this kind of holistic approach has always been important to me.

When I decided to dedicate my time to establish my own architectural practice, I had a clear vision that the design work produced in the office had to be paired with another arm that could become a tool for research, collaboration and discussion. An office that had my own voice as a designer but also facilitated the establishment of a platform for sharing the voice of others, whether architects or not, in order to instigate a fruitful discussion amongst the design community.

Andrew Clark and Andrew Dribin, colleagues with whom I had collaborated with on a few projects, were interested in getting involved in the publication of a design journal and, with our resources and a small but enthusiastic team, we decided to put together a publication that would be released quarterly. Since then, we have published 11 issues dealing with topics such as Events, Work, Living, Energy, Amusement, Information, Public, Network, Conflict and most recently Speed. The publication is an ongoing project in itself, continuously refining its design, expanding the list of collaborators and understanding the potential audience. It became a non-profit organization and, while the publication continues to be produced within the office, it exists as an independent entity from our architecture practice. This decision was made to ensure that it was valued as an initiative on its own, without being mistakenly understood as a just a PR effort for the practice. It is intended as tool and a framework of discussion where ideas are valued without being compromised by prejudices of who produces or finances it.

Identifiable benefits

Producing a publication as part of an architecture office is not exempt of its challenges, such as coordinating the rigorous and fast-paced schedule of the publication with the deadlines of the projects in the office, or how to finance such an open-ended effort. However, we can begin to identify the benefits of producing a publication as part of the architectural practice: first, it is a fantastic excuse to research specific topics that we have some fascination with, and second, it facilitates collaboration with people from other perspectives and disciplines as a method of working.

In terms of research, the publication is a defined outcome that helps concentrate your efforts in a single topic in an organized and timely manner. You have a format and a schedule that does not vary from issue to issue, allowing you to focus on the content itself, whether that is in the format of a project, written or photographic essay, data visualization or interviews. The topic of each issue reflects the current themes that affect the architectural discipline but also themes that reflect the interests of the studio and the collaborating editors. In fact, it is common for the design work in the studio and research for the magazine to be combined. While those two areas remain clearly identifiable and separate, they continually influence and inform each other.

The topics are already present in architecture and therefore something we also have to address as a practice whether we like it or not. Our recent issue on Conflict, for example, is a topic that we would rather not have to deal with. However, the research for the publication also gave attention to what the possible opportunities Conflict could present in practice.

In terms of its collaborative nature, it has helped to confirm a way of working in the office already employed in some of our previous design projects. The architecture office in itself is closer to a flexible network of people that comes together for specific projects than a static organization hierarchically organized. This has been applied to all sorts of design projects and, most recently, a collaboration with photographer Andreas E.G. Larsson to document the units and residents of the Bertrand Goldberg-designed complex in Chicago. While it is a photographic project in its outcome, the project was approached from an architectural and sociological point of view, which makes this collaboration and combination of approaches the only possible way to produce the project in a successful way. Urban research, in particular, benefits when it is approached from multiple perspectives, and this may lead to a combination of data visualization, photographs and essays, and the collaboration with architects, urban designers, economists, filmmakers, residents and visitors. This was the approach to the city of Shanghai in our book “Shanghai Transforming.”

A profitable relationship

Of course, the relationship between architects and the production of their publications is not just recent. We have innumerable examples, from the 1903 Das Andere publication edited by Adolf Loos, L’Esprit Nouveau founded in 1920 by Le Corbusier and Cubist painter Amédée Ozenfant, and Domus founded by Gio Ponti in 1928 to Archigram started in 1961, Oppositions founded by Peter Eisenman, Kenneth Frampton, and Mario Gandelsonas in 1973, and Circo founded in 1993 by Luis M. Mansilla, Luis Rojo and Emilio Tuñón, just to name a few. In Network, our 2011 spring issue, we published an interview with architectural historian and theorist Beatriz Colomina by Ethel Baraona Pohl and César Reyes from the Barcelona-based collective dpr-barcelona. Beatriz is the co-editor, with Craig Buckle, of the book “Clip, Stamp, Fold: The Radical Architecture of Little Magazines, 196X – 197X” (ACTAR, 2010) and the curator of the traveling exhibition of the same name. In the interview, Colomina establishes that “all of the modern architects were involved in one way or another with the publishing industry.” [1] She continues by saying that “Le Corbusier used them [publications] to communicate ideas that were not only related to architecture, but to cities and history in the decade of the 1920s, architects built themselves through the magazines. After that, in the 60s, the idea is the same. The better-known case is Archigram. They were a group of architects working on this magazine, yet there’s not an Archigram’s office, they don’t even know themselves as “Archigram” on those years. Archigram is simply what they do, a magazine.” [2]

A new set of tools

Nowadays, we have access to a new set of tools that can make the process of producing and sharing information easier than ever. We have software to quickly layout magazines, Internet to connect with people around the world and share content, and print-on demand services that make printing small runs more cost-effective.

As a result, ease of access to these tools has given a voice to people that may not have previously been able to share their point of view. The filters between the producer and its potential audience have been removed. Now each one of us has the possibility to select the content, control how it is produced, and share it through our own channels. The author, alone or with whomever he decides to work with, becomes the editor, designer, publisher and distributor.

This condition differs extensively from more traditional architectural publishing, in which the publisher heavily determines the content, process, timing, outcome and distribution. This works when an architecture office has an established audience and the publisher, more often than not, produces some form of “safe” monograph. Publications about architecture are generally not cheap to produce, so the economics have to be clear for the publisher before committing to any production. But, what about the younger architecture offices without a massive following? What about the emerging trends that need to be discussed but cannot fit within conventional formats? What about the topics that are present in architecture but are not considered mainstream? This is where the use of these new tools are crucial, as they help overcome the challenges of traditional publishing, providing a way of bringing new ideas and approaches to the architecture field.

A growing relationship between architecture offices and independent publishing has not only helped to share new ideas but has also helped to explore new forms of collaboration between practices and with other disciplines. This in turn becomes part of the culture of the office, a way of working and approaching problems where barriers between disciplines get blurred. This notion of blurring also relates to the format of the publication itself: physical copies complement the digital versions and vice versa; new means of production are followed by new means of consumption; the immediacy of the digital world with the attention to detail of the printed one. This feeds back into practice and, as Javier Arbona points out in an article about blogging culture published in MAS Context, “many are blogging while designing, and vice versa, blurring distinctions between spaces for theory, collaboration, entertainment, documentation, and production.” [4]

In the end, content and collaboration are key. However it must not be forgotten that a publication, whether printed or digital, is only one of the possible outputs of the content. Exhibitions, lectures, panel discussions, tours, design charrettes, film festivals, podcasts, actions and an innumerable amount of other platforms are at the disposal of architects. A smart combination of all this outputs that features solid content and has a desire to understand problems from the various points of view involved will, in the end, advance the wider architecture field and the office itself.


[1] Colomina, Beatriz; Baraona Pohl, Ethel; Reyes, César. “From xerography to HTML”. MAS Context Network. March 14, 2011.
Retrieved September 2011

[2] Ibid

[3] Galef, Julia. “A Few Zines: Dispatches from the Edge of Architectural Production”. The Architects Journal’s Books Blog. January 27, 2009.
Retrieved September 2011

[4] Arbona, Javier. “Spaces for architecturl discourse and the unceasing labor of blogging”. MAS Context Information. September 1, 2010
Retrieved September 2011

Type: Publication
Editor: Elias Redstone
Articles: Iker Gil, Pedro Gadanho, Adam Murray, Rob Wilson, Mimi Zeiger, Matthew Clarke, Ang Li, Matthew Storrie.
Publisher: Bedford Press
Size: 21.6 x 13.5 cm.
Pages: 152
Year: 2011
Status: Published


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