February 6, 2011

Re: Cornell Journal of Architecture

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On Friday at 5 p.m., architecture students and faculty gathered in Hartell Gallery in Sibley Hall to eat baked Brie and celebrate the publication of the 8th edition of the Cornell Journal of Architecture, marking the first publication of the journal in eight years. The publication is a result of the efforts of a group of students who expressed interest in its re-launch and visiting assistant professor and editor-in-chief Caroline O’Donnell. O’Donnell agreed to oversee the project and is teaching a class created specifically to publish a new issue.

“There are a lot of people involved with this, and I’m just the DJ,” O’Donnell said, adding that the journal’s history and importance to the faculty made this a very weighty and meaningful project. The journal was initiated by former architecture chair Jerry Wells, and first published in 1981 to serve as a forum for discussion and debate amongst world-famous architects and Cornell professors alike. Although the journal was never meant to be an annual publication, it was published intermittently for several years until 2003. After 2003, nobody stepped up to head the project until O’Donnell and other faculty became interested, marking the end to the longest hiatus in the journal’s history.

The theme of the current issue is “Re,” which suggests a dialogue between ideas of reuse, renovation, reimagining. These issues are important in the contemporary architecture world, which tends to look toward more sustainable practices and favors imaginative solutions to age-old problems such as population density and small budgets.

Said Nick Cassab ’14, “‘Re is an important idea for architecture because of the way that we think about the past and future.  Architects think about design in terms of precedent and antecedent.”

After an open call to the architecture faculty to write about the subjects related to the theme of “Re,” the journal’s student editors sent postcards and prompts to other renowned professors and architects. Both the prompts and the resulting articles are compiled in the journal. In accordance with the theme of “Re,” each article is formatted as a response to a prompt or email.

The Hartell Gallery exhibit included a hung 10-by-10 grid of roughly 100 journals, each open to a successive page, allowing visitors to walk through the grid and read the entire journal. Courtney Song, an organizer of the exhibition, said that it is supposed to allow visitors to explore the publication in a way that encourages their participation, instead of intimidating them by presenting only a closed book. The idea of a hung grid of books started as an attempt to portray the open books as “flying bats.” Pages from the first issue line the walls around the grid of the new issue, reminding visitors of the journal’s roots while looking toward the future.

Original Author: Jackie Krasnokutskaya