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Ack! A blogroll in a blogpost

8 Sep

Fans and lovers!
It’s been a month! Now twelve days to go! Not sure if I will post intensively but today I am, both to excuse myself and to get my head around what I’ve been doing.

A chat with Jack Self about 4-5 weeks ago crystallised a few things for me; instead of trying to locate my thesis in the established realms of reading, writing and publishing, it was necessary to step outside of it and recognise I am dealing with a still-blurry new thing. That turned things on their head, because from then on I set out to conduct some not-so-systematic research, talking to as many architectural bloggers as possible, for as long as they were kind enough to give me. I didn’t ask their permission to do so, so I won’t publish the full transcripts here – I might slap some extracts up in order to refine/define what I’m going to use in my paper. But do let me take this near-silent opportunity to express my heartfelt THANKS to all the kind men who gave me time and wisdom, greedily filched by me from their industrious days. If you, dear reader, are interested in any of our conversations – and well you might be, they were great – get in touch and we’ll see what we can do. Same goes for any of you publishing houses.. if you steal this idea and come up with some cheap-format book, Imma kick you in the ass. Serious.

Scary, innit

I feel like Hans Ulrich Obrist

So, warmest hugs of gratitude and itchy-fingered anticipation for the application of my conversations with (in chronological order):

1) Joseph Grima, of domus.web and founder of Postopolis
I visited Joseph in the Rozzano offices outside of Milan, to speak with him about his take and experiences with working on such an established and prestigious magazine such as Domus on the web. I visited after a couple of days teaching in a summer workshop in Venice IUAV; never was it so clear to me that particularly Italy is entrenched in an historic legacy of traditional architectural discourse and presentation. We chatted about Domus on the internet, about the coexistence of print and digital media, and about the circumstances which formed Postopolis, pulling the architectural and urban blogosphere (bleurgh) out from behind the flatscreen and into real life exchange.

2) Sam Jacob, partner at FAT Architects and blogger at strangeharvest.com
Sam is one of the few bloggers I spoke to who is also a practicing architect, so we spoke about blogging as part of a personal practice; about the different modes of working on interests; about the nature of reading and lots more..

3) Mario Carpo, whom you really ought to know by now
This was less an interview, more a cup of tea and lovely, rambling chat; (if you’ve read anything else on this blog you will know that) Mario has much to say on the parallels between the birth of the printing press and the dissemination of architectural thought today, as well as the only clear definition of  Web 2.0 that I’ve ever received. The distillations from this conversation will run deep and long after submission..

3) Geoff Manaugh, of BLDGBLOG and much precipitated fame besides.
It was almost mandatory to speak to Geoff, as he epitomises the unprecedented success of a true architecturally motivated blog; he now teaches at Columbia and the University of Southern California and recently completed a residency at CCA. We talked candidly about his experiences and trajectories as a writer working in a blog format, and about how that becomes a valid practice

4) Steve Parnell, of The Sesquipedalist and previously aka Norman Blogster (R.I.P)
Steve is a former architectural practitioner and current scholar/educator; he was pulled into the world of architectural magazines via his candid, cynical blogging as Norman Blogster, a fictional and long-suffering jobbing architect. We discussed the merits of putting yourself out there, how content changes over the lifespan of a blog, how to blag (not blog!) books and what the technical limitations of format appear to be.

5) Douglas Murphy, of entschwindet und vergeht
A relative newcomer to me, and the other practicing architect among the many I spoke to; Douglas’ particularly poetic and personal approach led me to ask him why he decided to jump into the already busy pool of architectural blogging, and where it might lead.

6) Enrique Ramirez, of aggregat456
Enrique is an architectural historian who blogs his incredibly scholarly musings online – in parallel but not in conjunction with his PhD studies at Princeton; we talked about his evolution as a practitioner in terms of writing and research, the widespread disdain for the term “blog” and different ideas of value. Also, a really insightful tangent on exploitation within architectural publishing..
swiftly followed by..

7) David Basulto of archdaily.com (and perhaps more crucially, the spanish-language plataforma.. sites)
.. who totally blew me away with his eloquent critical and highly politicised stance on architectural media, coming from a site that I have to confess, I do not frequent that often. As the founder of what is currently the highest-viewed architectural website in the world, I guarantee his agenda is totally different to any of the above – but not in the ways that you might think, which made our chat particularly fruitful.

viii) Cassim Shepard, of urbanomnibus.net
..who pretty much taught me how to blog and set up this thesis in the first place. Cassim is the only person I spoke to who runs a website or blog under the wings of an established (though not state-funded) institution, in his case the Architectural League in New York. We spoke about the notion of publics, the need for editorial rigour and the reasons for rising public interest in urban issues and the built environment.

I would still love to speak with Kazys Varnelis of varnelis.net (no link – links come with participation, K-Roc!), but already, what a great collection of thinkers and doers! What I have to do now is synthesize our conversations such that I can do justice to their insight and time, and to the kindness and generosity with which they shared it.

Brr… no pressure!

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Ceci n’est pas l’architecture

8 Aug

[Apologies, fans & muses, for my absence]

I have spent the last few hours chewing through Kester Rattenbury’s book, a collection of essays entitled “This is Not Architecture” (2009). It is one of the few I have found published, that deals exclusively with contemporary architectural media [no doubt because I don’t know enough – point me towards others if you do!]
I’m not allowed to embed things here for now but click the picture to go the googlebooks page. 

Most of what I’ve read so far discusses visual representation of architecture – both in terms of production and dissemination – in somewhat greater depth than that of text, writing, or verbal discourse. Instead the book purports to let the breadth of writing styles apparent in the many essays speak on behalf of the variegation of voices to be acknowledged on this topic.

For the first few minutes of reading Kester’s introduction, I played with switching the word “representation” for something like “discussion” or even “literature”. Of course, the positions of image and text have contributed entirely unique effects and each has their own field – this was just a game of word substitution. So, changing every occurence of the word “representation” to the verbal realm, and correspondingly using “representation” to stand in place of the “verbal” references of writing & literature. I’ll try to upload a photoshopped result of my game below later, until then you can try it yourself with this low-rent screengrab of a sample paragraph. 

[Needless to say after playing my game for a bit, I had to go back and start again, this time reading the words as they were expertly placed.] 
Kester’s own chapter in the book – an account of the political ministrations & mediations of the architectural press and establishment during the British 1980s – has given me a slap around the face, with regards to tackling the political potential of blogs.. and the res publica.. pushing me to climb the Habermas edifice at last?!!