German Moinopolis magazine explores contemporary issues related to society, culture, new technologies, urbanism and architecture by bringing together researchers and creative people from different backgrounds and initiating a discussion. Interview with editor Radostina Radulova.
Can you tell us about Moinopolis magazine?
My sister and I are like twins – same age, same interests and same profession. Sometimes it can be quite frustrating as a young architect not to be able to start practicing the profession you have been trained in. Maybe this was the reason why we started Moinopolis.
The only way to take position in architecture is by writing – if building is impossible because of economics, politics, or any other reason. If we can't contribute to the built environment with a piece of architecture, we thought we could contribute to the architectural discourse.
We know how to build a solid, resilient structure – may it be physical or verbal. I like thinking of writing as if it were building.
We are architects. We haven’t been trained explicitly to write or to edit. But yes, we have been trained in telling stories and communicating concepts, ideas and arguments. This is what we are doing with Moinopolis, even if it's only one of dozens of young and interesting editorial projects around the world. We believe it is important to find relevant topics to the discipline, pleasant ones as well as unpleasant ones, and to gather polyphonic attitudes to be able to deepen into the matter. Another important aspect is the internationality. Often we can observe widely represented national styles or academic positions. But is there an international tendency? As a laboratory, we are trying to find out if it’s possible to mix up various countries' different properties and conditions and distillate one common attitude that will be specific to our own generation of architects.
(In fact, the distant aim is somehow similar to the New Generations project.)
Furthermore I'd like to point out the difference between editing and curating. The editor of a magazine is able to affect the structure, clarity or argument of an article. He/she is included in the process of transferring thoughts into words and somehow he/she is working with the author. The editor is an advisor and can even be a collaborator.
The curator contrariwise sets the conditions, chooses and arranges the context and draws a line through the artworks, or in this case, the articles. The curator sets the frame but he/she is not directly included in the actual process of creating the artwork. What we do as the editorial team is rather curating the publication and not editing it.
Tell us about yourself:
I would argue that architecture – from the very beginning of the discipline, with Alberti in the 15th century – has been a poly-layered practice and so to say multi-disciplinary. Alberti itself was a humanist, a writer, a mathematician, an art theorist and an architect in one highly skilled and talented person. Or let's take an ancient example: Vitruvius’s multi-volume "De Architectura" and his diverse skills and qualifications such as engineering, theory and architecture. Nowadays, the professionals are much more specialized in quite narrow fields of expertise, so it is evident that we are searching for cognate disciplines to enrich our thoughts and broaden our paths of thinking. I guess it has to do with the division of labour the industrialization brought us, and of course it also depends on our education – both personal and academic.
Why choose print? What kind of paper do you use and why? What about typography?
If we compare the logic of the internet and its conditions of existence with our human sensual perception of the physical world, it appears reasonable to transmit complex thoughts into theoretical articles of larger complexity and information density in the context of the physical, printed matter. The simple reason is the physical presence in space is determined. It permits less distraction. The surrounding is of stable nature and the reader is in an absolute condition. Whereby the internet has a much faster dynamic and consists of endless possibilities of distraction. It is inappropriate for larger theoretical material, which often needs remarks or highlighting essential statements and arguments. We are very enthusiastic about printed matter ourselves and we like the fact that the production of a physical issue demands you to be very clear about what you want to be like.
Writing has always been a powerful tool to disseminate ideas in forms of projects or positions. Publishing has always been essential for the discipline, not only to rethink the way we build but also to develop new ideas and put foreword visions for buildings that might come.
Also Palladio’s "Four books of architecture" was first published in Venice in the 16th century, the center of the publishing world. It succeeded in founding an architectural movement by disseminating Palladio's ideas. It prepared the ground for new ways of thinking and making architecture.
Publishing helps us understand the world in which architecture lives. It is a very physical thing put into words, it dematerializes it and activates different parts of the brain. This process may be compared with the work "One and three chairs" by Joseph Kosuth, which shows the image of a chair, the actual chair object and the definition of the word chair. And by the moment you see all three together, you start to understand holistically what a chair actually is. And the same thing happens when you write about architecture: it brings the polylayered meanings together.
The other point I’d like to make is the immortal power of the written word. When a building gets finished, it goes through the press and gets conserved for ever. Even if it eventually gets demolished – as it often happens to great architecture – it can be discussed and reinterpreted all over again and again.
This may seem paradoxical if we understand architecture as a massive, solid, permanent building meant to last for hundreds of years, compared with a magazine or a book made out of paper. But the real power of conserving it obviously doesn't lay in the object itself but in the ability to forward ideas over generations of architects. I would suggest magazines to be regarded as architectural vampires – making architectural thoughts, projects and buildings immortal.
How's the audience response?
The fact that ambitious and successful young architects are participating and contributing their positions to the calls is the best feedback we can get. Last year we became part of the ARCHIZINES project – an international exhibition of independent architecture magazines – with about 85 magazines stated to be the best in the world – by the curator Elias Redstone. We are very happy to be part of it.
An other great achievement is our participation in the New Generations Project since 2013 – a cultural association and a platform for young architects all over the world. The project EINS EINS EINS - Webarchive for Magazines also invited us to present our magazine on their platform.
From time to time, we are asked to give interviews or lately we were invited to organize an editorial workshop at the Istanbul Bilgi University. As a really small publication, it's already a really nice response.
Good print mags get a lot of love that doesn't always translate to sales or advertising. How are the sales? Advertising wise, do you have a traditionnal approach of selling an ad page or more of a brand ad approach?
Moinopolis is a nonprofit project. We are not generating economics. We are rather elaborating architectural evidence by powerful mindsets, not monetary value. The project is free of commercial considerations and it somehow depends on the readers. I think it's an honest approach: if we do good work and manage to create an interesting and beautiful magazine it will be able to support itself. From this point of view, we follow a sustainable model, as it is self-sustaining.
For the editorial board, it is both a mindful experiment and a theoretical playground. The diversity of positions we get and how creative they are are incredible. We are learning all the time. Writing — especially in the academic world — can be quite repetitive in its structure and sometime also in its content. In architecture especially, innovative ideas have to be communicated in an innovative way to be holistically transferred — content and structure can be adequately adapted to strengthen the argument.
This is the value we believe is reasonable to create. Moinopolis is a passion — not a business.
What are the upcoming projects?
We would love to do more special editions in cooperation with a graphic design studio we cooperated with in Istanbul, KILOGRAD Hamburg.