AR January 1947.
In January 1947, the editors of the Architectural Review celebrated the magazine’s half-century by devoting virtually the whole issue to exposing its previously secret editorial policy: Its prime purpose, they claimed, was to “record with varying degrees of efficiency the more interesting buildings of the age”, thereby “providing the raw material of history.”

Their secret mandate didn’t stop there. The editors went on to admit that the Review had a more active role to play in the shaping of architecture – that of “visual re-education”. In fact, the AR had been playing this role over the previous twenty years, ever since Hubert de Cronin Hastings took control and, along with J.M. Richards as editor, essentially introduced modernism to Britain. The Review remained highly influential into the ‘60s.

By March of 2005, however, on leaving the Architectural Review after a quarter century of editorship, Peter Davey wrote, “a magazine must respond to what happens, rather than trying to set the pace. It can encourage, emphasize and support but not (as I once arrogantly believed) truly initiate.”

What caused this tectonic shift of editorial attitude between Richards and Davey? Could it have been de Cronin’s resignation from the editorial board of the Architectural Press in 1973? Since then, the gradual surrender of copy and image from the critic to the architect in architectural publication has culminated in Icon magazine’s recent policy of submitting editorial control to the architectural celebrity: Criticism in crisis, indeed.

Magazines are the method by which most of us consume our architecture. Unlike buildings, they are conveniently small, cheap, plentiful and kept out of the rain in libraries—which is where I spend my days journeying through the journal-scape of the past century’s architectural periodicals, searching for a PhD. The articles, snippets and marginalia that I pick up along the way will form the stuff of this column. The contrast and comparison between then and now, is usually interesting, occasionally amazing and often amusing. Hopefully they will interest, amaze and amuse you too.


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