28. Architecture Publications
It is a well known fact that architects purchase books for the sole purpose of displaying them on coffee tables to serve as conversation pieces. Unfortunately, the conversation begins with a question about the content of said books, and ends abruptly with a blank look, a series of throat clearing coughs followed by a change of subject, or a direct dive into the theory of famous starchitects that has nothing to do with the book itself.
While books may serve as a token decoration in the home or office of the architect, they are harmless symbols of a greater struggle the architect faces: architecture publications. On the surface, the architect’s home or office may appear clutter free and in full compliance with the minimalist lifestyle possession limits, but a secret danger lurks in the background. Stuffed behind file drawers and under desks, crammed into cubbies and piled high next to computers rest the troves of untouched magazines that were advertised as ‘free to architects’. These magazines are like a drug addiction to architects, and each stack can tell a sad tale.
The usual pattern begins when a young architect attends a ‘lunch and learn’ vendor meeting where they are invited to take a product brochure back to their desk. The bait has been laid. The naïve and unsuspecting architect gleefully engages the vendor and accepts the ‘information’, only to discover a lengthy list of websites with ‘more information’. The trap set and the prey fixated on gaining knowledge, the architect delves into these websites and is invited once more to ‘sign up for a FREE publication’. At this moment, the architect’s future hangs in the balance. The first magazine subscription is always the tipping point. Upon registering for the free publication, a stream of vendor magazines, professional development catalogs, and product brochures begin to pour in. Each new subscription tempts the architect to take advantage of an exclusive free offer that will aid in achieving project goals and career advancement. With no one to prevent it, the architect falls into the downward spiral, subscribing to every offer that comes along. At some point in the process, the architect even begins to pay for subscriptions they won’t read, because the latest and greatest design and product information is purported to be included within those pages. After all, as an architect, one must be cutting edge. Business expense? Of course.
Since architects are notoriously busy, the victim has no time to actually read through any of the magazines they have just acquired. Not wanting to throw away such a treasure or feel guilty for killing so many trees single-handedly, the architect sets the publication aside to read at a later time. Eventually, a neat stack of ‘read later’ magazines suddenly turns into an overwhelming pile that has to be sorted by construction type and discipline. The pile then grows so large that they are separated into multiple stacks and turned into ordinary furniture items: Architectural Record ottoman, Texas Architect stools, Custom Home lounger, and Metropolis lap desk. Though no substitute for an Eames chair, these utilitarian constructs somehow cloud the architect’s mind from seeing them as they truly are: piles of advertisements.
Finally, the architect realizes the folly of the ‘free publication’ and vows to quit the habit. All subscriptions are cancelled, cold turkey. A weekend is dedicated to purging the piles. Binders are procured and approximately three pages from each magazine are ripped from the seams and inserted into a manageable organizer. Product advertisements and inspirational images are neatly tucked away into tabbed folders. Binders that separate interior and exterior finish options are placed lovingly on a shelf where the piles once served as ‘book ends’.
With the mess eliminated and magazines picked over for useful information, the architect can breathe a sigh of relief. A working office space is now again visible. However, the space begins to feel lonely, as if it was missing something. The architect notices a lone publication, nestled between the recycle bin and the wall. The issue of Residential Architect is placed delicately on the newly cleared desk. The architect opens the magazine and flips through several pages before a ‘free publication’ insert flutters out. An idea strikes. The empty shelves and desk seem to be calling out…the binders begin to look sterile and boring. The architect thinks to himself: maybe just one publication wouldn’t hurt. He reaches for his beloved pen and fills out the ‘free publication’ offer.
And history repeats itself.
If you or someone you know is addicted to architecture publications, please seek help. This is a serious condition that causes the death of many trees and ruins many relationships. Remember, just say no.
Written by: Brinn Miracle