Sunday, June 12, 2011

My Architectural Record Collection

Me and my Record Collection

The venerable monthly magazine Architectural Record invites its subscribers to enter its Show Us Your Record Collection competition. To enter, subscribers simply photograph their collections and digitally upload them to Record’s online photo gallery. The magazine will select three winners, one in each of the following categories: 1) Oldest Collection; 2) Largest Collection; and 3) Most Creative Presentation. The prize for each winner will be an Apple iPad.

If you’re one of Record’s subscribers and want to show off your collection, click the following link to the magazine’s call for entries:

The deadline for submissions is June 30, 2011.

I look forward to receiving each month’s issue of Architectural Record. I find Record appealing because it expressly serves professional architects with news, commentary, criticism, and continuing education sections. It also features numerous articles exploring cutting edge designs by leading architects with photos and articles accessible to laypersons.

Record was one of the three “glossies” I subscribed to immediately once I decided while in high school to pursue a career in architecture. The others were Progressive Architecture and Architecture magazine. All three publications were slick, showcasing exemplary and provocative projects alike.

Progressive Architecture was arguably the most avant-garde of the three. Its annual January P/A Awards edition featured outstanding unbuilt projects selected by a jury of prominent practitioners and educators. You could reliably predict design trends by studying the winning projects. The juries would successively endorse and then invalidate styles such as Post-Modern Historicism and De-Constructivism. The fashions would subsequently flourish and wane, in no small part due to the magazine’s influence. P/A ceased publication in 1996.

Architecture magazine served as the official publication for the American Institute of Architects for many years before relinquishing this status to Architectural Record in 1997. Architecture eventually folded in 2006, a consequence of its declining reader base and advertising revenue. Its successor publication is Hanley-Wood’s Architect magazine, which initially sought to portray architecture from multiple perspectives, not just as a succession of high-profile projects, glowingly photographed and critiqued, but as a technical and creative process. Architect reclaimed the mantle of the AIA’s official publication in 2010 but in the process has regressed to the mean, fawning once again upon the works of star architects.

Architectural Record remains my favorite, though the reasons may seem trivial. I prefer Record’s design. Its typography and layout are cleaner, more consistent, and less frenetic than found in competing publications (the voluminous advertising notwithstanding). The quality of the printing is superior to that of Architect magazine. I appreciate the breadth of the articles about featured projects—the extent of the written critique, the inclusion of plan and section drawings, and the plentiful photography. The commentaries do tend toward the obsequious but that’s not unexpected for a magazine whose bread and butter is the vanity of architects. Reading Record is a guilty pleasure.

My Record collection spans from 1977 to the present-day.

I do find it fascinating now to look back at my decades-old collection, which serves to chronicle our aesthetic leanings and the issues that have shaped our profession. Doing so reminds me how far we’ve come during my time in architecture. The profession has truly evolved to positively respond to the complex social, environmental, and economic forces that have impacted everyone’s life during that span.

I’m going to submit photos to the Show Us Your Record Collection competition, not because I expect to win but rather because I think it would be fun. I’ve been a subscriber since 1977, which means I have more than 400 issues stuffed into my clothes closet. According to Record, its average reader has been a subscriber for 18 years. At 34 years and counting, I’m above average but there must be many others with more substantial collections.

My set of Architectural Record volumes deserves a better home than on the dusty floor of a dark closet. Someday I’ll undertake the renovation I’ve promised my wife and proudly display it within a library worthy of bibliophiles.

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