City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

Postopolis!: Michael Kubo

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Michael Kubo

Note: This is a summary of a talk given at Postopolis!, taken in real-time, with minimal editing. Reader beware! Postopolis! was organised by BLDDBLOG, City of Sound, Inhabitat, Subtopia, and the Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York, and ran from May 29th-June 2nd 2007. Flickr group for photos here. YouTube videos uploaded here. All Postopolis! posts here.

Actar are architectural publishers based in Barcelona and New York. Michael Kubo works in the New York office, and explained how his firm is exploring the relationship between magazines, books and weblogs.

As some background, he notes that almost all people who work at Actar are trained as architects – so they’re practising within the field of architecture. There are echoes here of previous architects who have communciated through magazines, as well as the more traditional communication of books and monographs e.g. Archigram et al.

When asked about weblogs, interestingly Kubo noted that magazines have posed more questions to their work. The Actar boogazine ‘Verb’ is something of a response to the issues raised by magazines. It has speed and frequency of a magazine, yet also the physical form and presence of a book. It also enables a series of graphic experiments, which in some way is freer than the traditional publishing cycle around books.


So blogs came second to magazines in terms of what Actar responded too. Kubo sees blogs as a kind of intensification of what magazines do. The key struggle is finding the balance between rapidity and depth/quality.

Personally, I don’t see so much magazine in ‘Verb’, so I challenged Kubo on this. What characteristics would he point to in Verb, that spring from the DNA of magazines? He tends to call ‘boogazine’ a “serial publication”, rather than a book or a magazine, and that in some sense is a nod to this magazine format. Likewise, there’s a freedom in the production – in terms of the relationship between graphics, illustration, photography etc – that’s drawn from the magazine editorial process that many of the Actar staff had previously worked on in Catalonia. It also has an editorial team working across it, as if it were a magazine, rather than a more traditional book publishing process.

Michael Kubo

Michael Kubo

He saw that ‘Verb’ wasn’t just an editorial line, but more like “a constellation”, which could “sort of throw off other books” e..g. the Verb monographs etc.

There is some talk of Archigram, and communicating architecture through books and magazines. Some of those 60s and 70s experimental magazines – as seen in the recent Clip/Stamp/Fold exhibition – were in a sense going for an aesthetic of cheapness and anti-slickness as a reaction against the increasingly sophisticated media landscape emerging at the time. Kubo notes that the show didn’t depict the context of other normative architecture magazines at the time, which was an oversight as it was a large part of what that scene was reacting against. Kubo suggests that books are working in an opposite moment, where everyone uses the same software which always leads to increasing sophistication and complexity. And books therefore have to work with that. As you can do much more complex things, for the same amount of effort, you have to take advantage of that.

Geoff characterised the publishing cycle of blogs as “fast, cheap and out-of-control”, and Kubo notes that publishers don’t operate within those constraints. Sometimes on purpose, and sometimes because of inherent constraints. Books are different. They have a second life, which is much longer than blog posts. They are referenced 50 years ago. It remains to be seen whether blogs develop that resonance. Essentially, there’s a notion that books have more lasting resonance and value, and blogs are a quick cheap thrill. Personally, I think there’s something in this, in the main, but there are some blogs which will be referenced for years, just as those magazines in Clip/Stamp/Fold remain influential. It remains to be seen for how long, as the scene is so new.

Bryan Finoki asks Michael Kubo a question

One of the questioners notes that blogs don’t exercise the senses other than sight; don’t have the physical resonance of books, which in some way means they have less value. Interesting, and again I think there’s something in this. Another questioner notes the structural qualities of magazines i.e. the navigable modular components and units and suggests it would be interesting to see blogs might take that on. Jill’s Inhabitat blog has Prefab Friday, which has this sense of periodical feature, for instance, but also interesting to note that Inhabitat has a team of writers and an editor to help enable that.


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