Let’s be honest: We got stuck. Stuck in between the business of working multiple jobs, writing grant applications that hardly ever work, overseeing a new (digital) VOLUME shop (which some of you have been finding by now, but there is room for more), making social media posts, and caught up in the bonanza of bi/triennials that happened in the fall/spring (more about that in the next issue!). Then, it got even worse as our/your subscription management company bailed on us by going bust. Still, we needed another issue and fast.
Confronted with a similar condition, my illustrious predecessor Arjen Oosterman received some helpful advice from Mark Wigley. The former dean of Columbia proposed taking an old issue of VOLUME and wrap it a new cover. Hardly anyone would notice. The model, I imagined, came from American sitcom seasons ending with a flashback episode. The writers were either out of ideas or budget, or both.
Using this idea as a starting point we trawled through our extensive Archis/Volume archive Excel sheet, covering more than 10,000 articles, and prompting Ctrl+F on the words “interview” and “conversation”, then suddenly, the magic started to happen. Past discussions with big name architects and household thinkers popped up and an idea started to form: what if we take a good selection of these,
and yes, wrap them in a new cover, done! It would also finally give us an excuse to have a Vogue/AD/Domus cover for VOLUME. Just for once!
However, the simplest idea, of course, quickly grew in complexity. While (re)reading the interviews it struck us how ‘datedness’ became a virtue on itself. Of recognition (“Wow, nothing changed!”), puzzlement (“Yes I think this was a thing back then!”), and total amnesia (“Totally missed it!”). Yet, there were also glaring blind spots relative to the themes that weren’t addressed. Questions on identity and gender of course; as expected interviewees were almost exclusively male, but slightly more unexpected many interviewers were female. But also sustainability or the role of money in architecture hardly got serious enough attention. With that in mind I was reminded of Florian Illies’s bestseller 1913: the Year before the Storm in which he reconstructs the moment before the Great War broke out by taking excerpts from personal diaries of different writers, artists, politicians etc. and you see how none of them seemed to have seen the War coming. We have passed that moment today. The new war is here. If not only in Ukraine, then in any case our larger global war for climate mitigation. We all feel how it will be overshadowing and turning everything else for the foreseeable future.
But what did all of this mean for our supposedly quick and dirty plan? In order to capture the ∆t in between the original publication and now, we decided to give the original writers and interviewees a chance to reflect and perhaps redeem themselves, even up to 40 years later. Some were not able to and others were no longer reachable. Where these blank spots appeared we asked respected friends and experts to comment or give their own context instead. The result is illuminating, a truly layered celebration of the space in between. What started as a quick and dirty idea, became something even more messy, taking way more time and energy than first considered, but in that it was so much more revealing of the lives we live and our frail relationship with time.