Announcing Issue #31
Newsprint at last.
The rumors are true. We have a new format. Truth is, we had been thinking about newsprint for almost a year now. This March, we surveyed our readers. Working from more than a hundred responses, our team—led by art director Laura Coombs, editors Samuel Medina and Marianela D’Aprile, and publisher Nicolas Kemper—mapped out a new course. While the writing and art received a lot of love and praise, most of the readers were also ready for a different format. They found the page progression confusing—or, to quote one respondent, “I truly hate how it’s bound.”
So we sought out a vehicle that would be bound and easy to read, eventually arriving at a form very true to our city: the stapled tabloid.
We took a different approach to the content. Whereas previously, almost all of the articles appeared as a continuous scroll with minimal differentiation—the “open floor plan” approach to a publication—NYRA now has front, back, and side doors, connected by a series of rooms, among them Skyline, Essays, Conversations, and Shortcuts.
NYRA’s allegiance will continue to be to words and drawings. In June, we conducted a call for illustrators, through which we found Sean Suchara to make our cover and a cohort of others—including Laura Szyman, whose drawings accompany this issue's Shortcuts—to bring illustrated life to our pages. Our tradition of creating collectible posters with each issue will continue, both with our issue centerfolds and through a dedicated imprint, NYRA Editions, led by Phillip Denny.
Our new home cherishes and emphasizes conversation. We created more spaces, such as the letters section, to hear from our community. Two sections, Skyline and Shortcuts, channel the density of our original broadsheet format and mark the beginning and end of each issue, holding between them essays, reviews, and reported pieces. A dedicated attack column, Wrecking Ball, provides a cathartic kick on the way out.
In some ways our new home is somewhat predictable, maybe even inevitable. It is a little similar to the Brooklyn Rail and that other New York review. It matches almost precisely our “spirit publication,” the 1970s architecture rag Skyline, which also made the stapled tabloid its home. That suits us. We never planned to surprise or startle with our format. The artists, designers, and writers within will do that. ⬤
Speaking of which, read on below for some excerpts:
THOMAS DE MONCHAUX MAKES THE CASE FOR AN UNLIKELY FAVORITE
I knew, not having grown up with it, not a lot about hip hop—the Bronx birthplace of that art just a few express stops from Penn Station on the A train. But I know that seeing that concert has been as important in my understanding of what it means to be a human being as seeing, say, Chartres Cathedral. I remember Kanye in his pale smock and leather pants, floating through the air on a sparkling silver cube. I felt that seeing him then—especially at that moment in what I now understand to have been his tragicomic trajectory as a public persona and perhaps also as a private person—was probably the closest I would get to hearing the greatest of all New Yorkers himself, Walt Whitman, read his own poetry aloud. Ball so hard.
EVA HAGBERG MAKES A NEW FRIEND
I got into Terminal C baggage claim. There was a sculpture, a series of sculptures maybe, by Virginia Overton, hanging from the ceiling. It reminded me of another sculpture, at JFK or maybe at LGA, that looked like a net full of broken airplane parts. My dad, who was with me at the time, pointed it out and at the same time pointed out how common it was for airport artwork to make you think about planes exploding.
DOUG SPENCER BREAKS IT DOWN
While Norman Foster chills on his inflatable unicorn in a private pool, they will be living in shared accommodation, debt-saddled, and designing gentrifying skyscrapers or billionaire basements.
EDWARD PALKA TAKES A MEASURING STICK TO NEW GREEN POLICIES
Lawmaking is a decidedly slow process. The climate crisis, however, does not care.
Also in the issue…
ZACH MORTICE SPELLS IT OUT
Certainly, the AIA has not shied away from inviting controversial political figures into the architectural discourse and hearing from partisans taking dramatic action in the quagmire of geopolitical affairs. Just this year, President Obama, who in 2016 signed an agreement to give Israel $38 billion in military aid over ten years, took center stage at the AIA Convention in Chicago.
KATE WAGNER FINDS HERSELF IN METELKOVA
The loneliest I have ever felt was when I would go sit in A League of Her Own, the lesbian bar in the northwest DC neighborhood Adams Morgan, and try to talk to strangers, wearing my little pride pin, book in hand for when it got slow. I wasn’t entitled to a conversation, but I was lost and wanted someone to help me. Each night I sat alone, I thought, I’m a lesbian in a lesbian bar—surely it shouldn’t be so hard to talk to people.
OWEN HATHERLEY READS ABOUT COMMUNES
The problem with being the change that you want to see in the world is that the world will get its own back on you eventually.
JENNIFER TOBIAS FALLS INTO A POOL
Architecturally inclined New Yorkers easily spot perspective in modern and contemporary art: think of the spatial play in De Chirico’s metaphysical interiors (old school) or the rigorous two-point perspective of Sarah Morris’s UBS Wall Painting (2001/2019, newer school). Even if we’re not trained to render orthographics and axonometrics, life in the city often confines us to oblique views of a rectilinear world.
KELLY POPE LOOKS BACK WITH MISTY EYES
The surface of each piece commands attention beyond its subject matter, a notion that pushed forward the course of artistic possibility. We, too, can open up new realities of our own if we are willing to take action.
MARIANNA JANOWICZ GETS LET IN ON EVA HAGBERG’S SECRETS
It seems that the architectural discourse cannot hold both roles simultaneously: a woman is either a wife or a professional collaborator.
ALLISON HEWITT WARD GETS DIZZY AT THE DRAWING CENTER
We are at a stylistic impasse; no form seems to satisfy. We idle here because the types of spaces society requires have not changed. Architecture cannot but conform to the social relations it serves. The possibility of innovating the form of buildings wanes the longer their function remains the same. It can be dull, generic cladding and glass arrangements, the gaudy playfulness of the Portland Building, Gehry crumples, or even neoclassical marble, but it’s all facade at the end of the day. It feels false, incongruous, like an over- or underenthusiastic bad Photoshop job.
SAMUEL MEDINA WALKS BY A CHURCH EVERY DAY OF HIS LIFE
Now rehabilitated, the 1990s endears itself through once-cringe signifiers like neoprene and nylon, crimped hair and middle parts, uncensorious reams of flannel and denim that threatened to swallow the wearer whole. Fashion was fluid, things and events gelled, people bounced from place to place. Unwelcome discourse was invited to rapier with “the hand.” (Whose? The market’s?) Narrow subcultural rivulets were channeled into the mainstream, distended to oceanic proportions; its placid surface, however, concealed undertows of contradiction and of conflict.
ANA KARINA ZATARAIN COULD DO WITHOUT ARTIFICE
Several things happen when you design a museum with a daring and capriciously curved shell. For one, you play yourself out of a lot of flat, interior wall space, which comes in handy inside a place dedicated in large measure to exhibiting two-dimensional artworks.
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NYRA is a team effort. Our Editor is Samuel Medina, Deputy Editor is Marianela D’Aprile, our Editors at Large are Carolyn Bailey, Phillip Denny and Alex Klimoski, and our Publisher is Nicolas Kemper.
To pitch us an article or ask us a question, write to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For their support, we would like to thank first of all our subscribers, as well as the Graham Foundation and our issue sponsors, Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, Thomas Phifer, and Stickbulb.