Architecture & the Spaces of Information

Architecture & the Spaces of Information

Vol.4, Issue 1

‘… Any understanding of social and cultural change is impossible without knowledge of the way the media work as environments’ —Marshall McLuhan, Aspen No.4 1967

Architecture stays in one place, while its meaning travels between the covers of books.’ —Charles Jencks, ‘Post-Modernism and the Revenge of the Book’ 2002 


‘The printed book was used to communicate architecture as soon as it became available in the late fifteenth century, and is still being used today. Its dominance may be threatened by new types of medium, but some of its characteristics are likely to be copied in other media that may replace it. For the time being, no other media confers such intellectual respectability whatever its shortcomings may be for communication.’ —Alan Powers ‘The Architectural Book: Image and Accident’, 2002

Since Alan Powers wrote these words some time around 2002, shifts in practice, material, production and media environment have advanced the relationship between audience/user/reader and architectural space. Working between art, editorial design and architecture, between practice and scholarship, in this issue of Architecture and Culture we want to chart and explore the broad trajectory of these changing relationships as they emerge from appropriations of conventional publishing channels to take up more complex spatial dispositions.

Dr. Ruth Blacksell and Dr. Stephen Walker, Editors

Call for Papers for this Issue

A significant moment in this trajectory can be identified in the 1960s, when visual artists began to use the vocabulary of information architecture to define a new space for practice: this has effected a fundamental change in the way physical space is conceived by, in and beyond the art institution. As McLuhan’s insight hints, this has required the understanding and appropriation of an entire mediating context and structure: a different way of engaging the spectator as a participant who no longer has to be physically positioned in proximity to the work, existing now as ‘reader’ rather than ‘viewer’ within an expanded conception of the exhibition space.


As a reaction against the medium-specificity and objecthood of modernism, interdisciplinary practices became increasingly commonplace in the 1960s and 70s. Following the appropriation of mainstream publishing channels by Pop and Conceptual Art practices, institutional contexts witnessed, for example, the emergence of a type of contemporary engagement which utilized editorial strategies and text-based formats across print and —increasingly— digital publishing platforms. Conventional spaces, such as galleries, museums, libraries and publications had to assimilate new concepts and forms of practice, which led to, amongst other things, the reassessment of curation and exhibition as a form of publishing and an expanded notion of the distribution channel and the archive as places where a practice might reside.


In art, the trajectory of such practices often operated through appropriations of trade publishing channels and editorial design vocabulary, and through cross-reference to the more conventional physical spaces of the institution. Originally using typographic layout in the progression from passive ‘looking’ to active ‘reading’, with a concomitant requirement for reader participation and responsibility, these practices went on to raise significant questions concerning the notion of the ‘open’ work within the interactive and networked platforms of digital publishing.


Contemporary discourses and curatorial approaches now operate across a much more diverse range of spaces, both physical and virtual. Recently established practices now straddle the disciplinary separation between art and design and point to a new and evolving cross-disciplinary territory. Here, digital space works to radically extend physical location, with concomitant extensions or changes to the traditional roles of the audience/ user/ reader and their relationship to space.


The broader relationship between artists, designers and architects is arguably changing as a result. Some architectural and design practices have been quick to mobilize these new platforms, redefining and extending the scope of their own practice to include the spaces of information and mediation first identified and explored by artists in the 1960s. Recent architectural scholarship enjoys and expands the complexity of these relationships, exemplified by Marian Macken’s work on The Book as Site or Jane Rendell’s Site Writing. This issue of Architecture and Culture will curate work contributing to an examination of the changes taking place within, and brought about by, these particular media environments—architecture, and the spaces of information it is now involved with—and the possible social and cultural changes that might result from such an understanding.


Key ideas to explore in this issue


Contributions are solicited in response to the following kinds of questions:

  • How are the disciplines/practices of art, editorial design and architecture exploiting new relationships across the spaces of information?
  • What is the materiality and/or the active context of these spaces?
  • What is the relationship between the articulation of physical space, the materiality of the printed page, and the virtual expansion into digital contexts? How do the contemporary spaces of published information align with/ complement/ challenge the ways in which architectural discourse is now undertaken?
  • Where do such practices take place? In 1960s art practices, works inserted into to mass-circulation magazines operated in tandem with location-specific works, challenging straightforward notions of site. What are the contemporary equivalences of this complex relay in art, editorial design and architecture?
  • What are the creative, scholarly or mischievous uses to which these new spaces of information might be put?
  • What new forms of cross-disciplinary critique are required to develop understanding of these emerging environments? What are the opportunities or limitations for discipline-specific critique?
  • How far have new spaces of information challenged conventional forms of the printed publication, advancing these towards more expansive notions of multi-platform, interactive spaces or sites? How can these spaces be described as architectural space?
  • What challenges or possibilities might spaces of information present to the discipline and practices of architecture more broadly?


Contributions can range from short observations or manifestos, creative pieces or visual essays, to longer academic articles. Architecture and Culture is published in both online and hard-copy formats: there is capacity to host on-line contributions that operate in a different way to paper-based work.


Production Schedule

CfP      October 2014

Response 17h00 GMT Monday 16th February 2015

Editors Response by end February 2015

Authors’ Revisions: by 30th June 2015

Proofs out: 1st November 2015

Publication 1st February 2016.


All papers should be submitted electronically via Editorial Manager at:

Full instructions for submissions and notes for contributors are available at: