Architectural Record just sent me another “final notice your subscription has expired” complimentary issue. They’ve been spamming my physical mail box with them for a while now. In case you hadn’t heard, for unstated reasons the AIA has ceased to include a subscription to Record in their membership.
The November issue of Record began with a note from the editor announcing this change and rather pompously enjoining its readers to renew their subscription without AIA support. Why? Well, they explained, the magazine is so portable – you can take it on the airplane where you aren’t allowed the internet. You can flip through the pages. “It slips right in your briefcase.” And the editor kindly requests on behalf of “junior employees” that their firms continue to provide it for them.
But you know what? My office needn’t bother to subscribe for me. And I won’t be paying for my own copy either.
I’ve been an involuntary recipient of Record since last spring, when my boss decided he wanted “Associate AIA” on my business cards. Its content is really not my kind of architecture but I’ve flipped through the issues and even sat down and read the occasional article. I like looking at well lit photographs of shiny buildings just as much as the next girl (I have stairporn on my bookmarks toolbar) but I find the written content and editorial choices of the magazine almost unbearably irksome. It bothers me how little they cover buildings that have some sort of ethical merit and it bothers me still more that whenever they do, the tone of the reporting is so unremittingly patronizing.
In the same November 2010 issue they have a review of the MOMA exhibit Small Scale, Big Change: New Architecture of Social Engagement which I saw when I was in New York last fall. The exhibit was fantastic, by the way; beautifully curated and teaming with inspirational work on a number of scales around the world. (I’ll write more about it in another post, perhaps.) The review couldn’t be more condescending. It designates the architecture involved as “do good design” and notes that “a number of design-oriented non profit groups have cropped up in recent years.” (emphasis added)
“So,” author, Jenna McKnight, wonders, “have we reached a point where architects are no longer seduced by the chance to design glitzy skyscrapers for clients with deep pockets? Its unlikely. These projects do pay the bills. But the slumped economy has halted the big building extravaganza, allowing the spotlight to shift to more altruistic undertakings. As Small Scale, Big Change confirms, modest projects for underserved areas can yield great rewards for both the architect and the community.”
The January 2011 issue (the first complimentary issue to try to persuade me to renew) concludes with a feature of “Schools of the 21’st Century”, showcasing “three modest yet remarkable projects making an impact on impoverished areas” along with five relatively high design new school buildings in America. The five each get a multi-page spread with copious images and sycophantic text. The three charity projects are again referred to as part of the “do good design movement” (the author is the self same Jenna McKnight, who seems to find this phrase very clever). She continues to patronize: “These projects aren’t elaborate; rather, they are smart, simple structures built with a little money and a lot of heart.”
Perhaps Record is speaking for some or most of its readership when it throws in these cute little “do good design” pieces and breezes over their innovative points with condescension that is copied and pasted from one month to another. I hope not. But I know they aren’t speaking for me. And frankly there are plenty of frustrating things in my life already without having them delivered to my mailbox in an ad laden un-recyclable chunk every month.
So, goodbye, Architectural Record. I’m sure my reasons for dumping you are different from the AIA’s but I’m glad to see the last of you!