Paper love: a celebration of architectural fanzines
An exhibition of independent and alternative magazines and journals on show at Vitra
By Robert Bevan. From Art Basel daily edition
Published online: 14 June 2013
Unlike an art show, exhibiting architecture is always an exercise in something one step removed from the object itself. In the absence of experiencing the actual building, curators have looked to models, photographs and installations to stand in for the architecture. Magazines too play a vital role in interpreting the architectural.
All these cultures of representation are on display at the furniture company Vitra’s Weil am Rhein campus outside Basel with shows on Louis Kahn, installations by Zaha Hadid and Renzo Piano (see below) and a review of a new generation of architecture fanzines.
“Archizines”, first developed by the curator Elias Redstone, began life as a show at the Architectural Association design school in London before touring the world, clocking up 20 evolving iterations since 2011. Vitra Design Museum, under its chief curator Jochen Eisenbrand, is recreating the original installation with the Architectural Association’s exhibitions team.
At a time when mainstream architecture magazines are vanishing into the financial maelstrom that is facing paper publishing or thinning down to pamphlet size, or bumping themselves up via dodgy advertorial, “Archizines” can offer something more personal, uncommercial and heartfelt.
The show gathers Redstone’s collection of these printed fanzines from the esoteric Preston is my Paris and Evil People in Modernist Homes in Popular Films by the Yale graphic graduate Benjamin Critton, to the Italian cult favourite, San Rocco—compiled by architects for architects, rather than being mediated by journalists. “‘Archizines’ celebrates the resurgence of alternative and independent architectural publishing in recent years,” Redstone says.
The exhibition brings together 90 fanzines, magazines and journals from more than 20 countries, including China, Chile and Tanzania, alongside video interviews with their makers. Zine might be a misnomer for all the titles, with some being peer-reviewed and others that are more like small-circulation mainstream titles that carry advertising. An accompanying book carries essays by a number of zine editors.
With so many commercial architecture titles suffering at the hands of design websites whose cheap content model involves simply posting online unmediated press releases from architecture practices, the critique and counter-cultural ethos of the zines makes this paper love ever more intense. But while they can offer frank and fearless opinion, they are an addition to rather than a substitute for the professional news gathering and editing of the mainstream architecture titles.
“They make an important, and often radical, addition to architectural discourse,” Redstone argues, “and demonstrate the residual love of the printed word and paper page in the digital age.”
Also continuing at the Vitra Design Museum is “Louise Khan: the Power of Architecture” (until 11 August), which celebrates the work of one of America’s most influential architects and is the first significant retrospective of his work in decades. Kahn (1901-1974) built powerfully sculptural and often symbolic works that are explored through six themes: city, science, landscape, house, eternal present and community. Among dozens of models and drawings is a four-metre-high model of the City Tower designed for Philadelphia and a screening of previously unpublished footage shot by his son Nathaniel Kahn, the director of the film “My Architect”.
Vitra’s campus is studded with buildings by star architects, including a fire station by Zaha Hadid—her first completed building. To coincide with Art Basel and to celebrate the building’s 20th anniversary, Vitra and Swarovski’s cultural foundation have commissioned an installation by Hadid called Prima (until 11 August). Swarovski has worked with many leading designers including Hadid over the past decade to create chandeliers, but the foundation’s work is more broadly cultural and the installation will be crystal-free. Prima measures 11 metres by eight metres and is composed of five pieces that together make one large work inspired by Hadid’s early sketches of the fire station. It is a composite double-curved structure with a highly reflective gun-smoke metal finish and incorporates LED strips. A small exhibition of original sketches and maquettes of the fire station includes her famously deconstructed paintings. Also opening at Vitra during Art Basel is Diogene, a permanent installation by Renzo Piano, the architect of the nearby Fondation Beyeler.
• “Archizines”, Vitra Design Museum Gallery, until 29 September. For more information, visit www.design-museum.de
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