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03.14.2014
Review> Reading Between the Lines
PIN-UP Interviews delivers the straight talk without the filter of editorial discretion.
Courtesy Powerhouse Books

PIN-UP Interviews
Felix Burrichter and Andrew Ayers, editors, Dylan Fracareta, designer
powerHouse Books, $30

In the world of glossy magazines about architecture, PIN-UP stands out as one of the most unpretentious. When putting together their self-styled “magazine for architectural entertainment,” editor Felix Burrichter and his contributors make no bones about serving any kind of overt pedagogical or professional purpose other than to give anyone interested in contemporary architectural culture something fun with which to pass the time. So, when the same group of people put together a 448-page book with all text and literally not a single image, what are these readers to make of it?

PIN-UP Interviews is just this: a collection of 57 interviews drawn from different issues of the magazine since it was first published in October of 2006. Though entertainment is not automatically more elusive without images, the stark difference in format between glossy magazine and textual tome is certainly meant to be noticed. Burrichter and designer Dylan Fracareta made this evident in many ways, from filling the cover with text to removing any sign of potential distractions in the form of contextual clues for each interview. At most, in some sections, small, italicized passages indicate essential background activity in the moment of the interview, but a sharp line is drawn by refusing to include any descriptions of projects beyond the transcripts themselves. The plain effect is that the spoken word comes to the fore. This kind of emphasis is one that a broad swath of architecture enthusiasts are all-too-unfamiliar with encountering, and it is refreshing to be reminded that participants in architectural culture think through words as much as they think through sketches, study models, or renderings.

Alongside the decision to foreground the spoken word, the editorial strategy of flattening any otherwise apparent hierarchies allows for the implication that the selection is a straightforward (alphabetical) section cut of architectural culture today, laid bare for any interested parties to see and interpret as they will. If this intention is taken seriously, especially given the flawed decision to eliminate the dates that each interview took place, then the project becomes something much more than one focused solely on entertainment. Indeed, Burrichter says nearly as much in his foreword when he claims PIN-UP has always believed that “surfaces are deceptively shallow, hiding surprising depths, and that a less serious approach can often be the more revealing.” As any architecture enthusiast knows, this is exactly what a section cut helps designers do—reveal complex relationships beneath the surface that provide fresh insight into the composition of the form as a whole. So what, then, is the form of the culture that this section cut is showing us?

Primarily, it is a culture that contains not just architects as traditionally defined, but rather an incredibly diverse group of professionals that ranges from fashion designers and artists to critics and curators. By most accounts, they are all quite established in their corner of “the field,” and they offer unsurprisingly varied perspectives on architecture, design, and the role those things play in the world. But even more broadly, the section cut shows that the world itself in which these interviewees operate is not in fact one, but rather many different worlds—albeit worlds that are somehow linked by architecture. It is pleasantly challenging to attempt to reconcile architect David Chipperfield discussing the difficulties of German building codes with fashion designer Rick Owens giggling about the nude statue he had made of himself; or to hear architect Peter Marino complain about how annoyingly intellectual the profession has become alongside architect Anca Petrescu denying of any complications from working for Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. Of course, this confusing effect is likely the point (and an entertaining one at that).

But beyond the profoundly heterogeneous nature of the culture PIN-UP helps to illustrate, there might be another lesson written between the lines. In one of the more thoughtful of the book’s interviews, Kersten Geers of Office KGDVS echoes his mentors Iñaki Abalos and Juan Herreros when he says, “I think it’s a very beautiful notion that architecture is more about intention than invention.” Though undoubtedly not every interviewee would agree, the varied perspectives presented in the book do reinforce the fact that practitioners bring their worldviews to bear in their projects. As such, architecture (broadly construed) is the product of real people with their own sets of opinions and priorities. In other words, value judgments of architecture can and should be legitimately linked to the intention behind the form. Through this kind of exposure, PIN-UP Interviews helps to make clearer some of these glaring differences in contemporary architectural production, even when renderings of the associated projects alone might lead one to very similar conclusions. Thus, though some more editorial discretion would have been helpful in highlighting architectural visions worthy of replication, the stark presentation of very real ideological and methodological fault lines within an otherwise entertainingly diverse culture is an important record to have. It is then left for the readers (i.e. clients) to translate these words back into the images of architecture they actually want to see.

Jacob Moore

Jacob Moore is a New York-based critic.