So as the discussion continues about magazines like Architectural Record and their Swimsuit Issue – Record Houses, I have had a few additional thoughts as I read the ongoing online debate. Again, I am not condemning the publishing of these particular houses outright. I am asking questions of relevance, appropriateness and net results of bringing value to the profession. My recent pondering came from a discussion with my mother in law (not an architect) who likened the portrayal of unusual houses to the frequent shock effect of the fashion industry. We have all seen the runway models strut their starved long-legged selves down the runway with the most shocking (and awfully uncomfortable) latest fashion lines. Although creative and oddly “cool”, we all know no one will ever wear these clothes, but these artistic expressions will be simplified into some one-off dress that a wealthy person will wear once before sending it to auction. The rest of us will shop online, at the mall or sadly, Wal-Mart.
Let me be clear here. If you want to build something unusual, go for it; it’s America! I may even design it if you hire me. This is not the real issue in my opinion.
However, is this what the glossy magazines are going for when they select these houses? Let’s isolate our potential grievance here between the glossy magazines aggrandizing only the unusual, unlivable and ridiculously expensive houses and these houses simply existing for whoever commissions them. Can we liken publishing these houses to fashion magazines publishing their clothing lines on “Photoshopped” models that desperate teen girls will never look like?
I have dozens of books on unique houses. To be honest, I like them. These houses are fun to peruse and perhaps dream about, but according to a great comment on my last blog post they are “not likely to influence any purchases or decisions.” This architect goes on to comment by questioning the AIA’s publication’s motive for their position. Are they trying to distinguish themselves from trade magazines? Architectural Record themselves acknowledge that “we are drawn to those sexy, dangerous houses” in their recent editorial titled “Domestic Seduction.” Is this just another Madison Avenue trick or are they truly advancing the profession of architecture? We need to be clear to distinguish what the real issues are here. They are not about style, size or form.
So again, let’s discuss this with civility, but passion. In an era when we cry of marginalization, who is doing the marginalization? Should we leave Architectural Record alone and let them publish the new, innovative and houses “that capture and reflect the state of architecture at a distinct moment in time?” Should our universal value as architects be represented in another magazine or medium where the average person can see how we CAN design better housing that is still livable? Have we been unfair with the glossy magazines or do they have accountability here to represent a broader spectrum of the profession? What do you think?