“Here” is There and Everywhere

Here Magazine No. 1
This week the most unlikely of things landed on the front desk at the office, an oversized paperback titled “HERE No1 2005”, the first issue of a magazine published by the Atlanta architectural firm Cooper Carry. I’ve spent the past couple of years honing my chops as a guest juror for Southern Poly’s architecture program and was eager to pierce the company’s veil of archispeak, especially since several of my fellow HotRats are working there now. Look alive you Emo fairies, it’s jury time.

Katrina (Should the city of New Orleans be rebuilt?)
Grade: C-
Arranged like a monologue from a Frank Miller graphic novel, with color-keyed strips of text laid atop aerial images of New Orleans at full flood, this article seems to document a real-time conversation between three people discussing New Orlean’s future after the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. Scanning the article I realized that this was in truth a conversation assembled from comments made by a room full of CC’s staff. Still, I came to think of the three “color voices” as belonging to Mr. Green, Miss Blue and Colonel Mustard (in the library with the lead pipe). Colonel Mustard and Mr. Green take wildly schizophrenic turns at railing against Federal funding for rebuilding efforts and incredulity at the thought of not doing everything we can to help our brother countrymen. Miss Blue runs alongside, tossing in praise for the efficiency of Corporate America and condemnation for the inequity of rich people being able to afford the highest ground. I don’t object to the brainstorming session but a little consistency would be nice in the presentation of the ideas (attributions perhaps?). Several themes emerge from the group’s conversation, notably the need for long-term planning. Mr. Green proposes a large-scale re-engineering of the Mississippi’s watercourse via a “Mississippi Valley Authority”, an entity that would no doubt be toothless and underfunded in this litigious age of the snail-darter. You think that rebuilding New Orleans is going to be expensive? Try buying out acreage for a 50,000 acre lake THEN fighting it in court for 25 years. With the requisite hallelujah tossed in for the church of New Urbanism (save us Jeebus!), I left this article with the distinct feeling that this dialogue, however inane at times, is representative of that of architects everywhere. Everyone in the design community senses the opportunity that exists and the dead-certainty that it will be flubbed in favor of political posturing and in-fighting (you DO know how to make chocolate don’t you?). Whatever happens to New Orleans there’s no question that it will be rebuilt. It will be faster, safer, stronger; a Bionic City. What a much more exciting article that would have been.

Grade: WTF?
Utter filler. Who ARE these people? Why do I want to see a picture of an emaciated alcoholic in a leather hat (page19)? Does this guy work for your firm? Is he Cooper Carry’s mascot? Leatherhat Bob the Wino, yeah, that does have a ring to it. Take a clue from the kid on page 20 wearing the vaguely unsettled look. I can hear him asking the photographer “What’s this for again? A maga-what?”. You dirty tree killers, you didn’t use your powers for good OR for awesome. Please, somebody, take their Kodachromes away. Like, now.

Grade: A
The best thing in the entire magazine to this point. You could have filled the magazine with ten sections like this and it would have earned rave reviews. So far it’s been like dating Fran Drescher… shhhh, don’t say anything my love or I’ll bleed from my ears… or eyes in this case. Yeah, this is turning into a completely unfair rip… so keep reading!!

Grade: B+
Who doesn’t like a nice travelogue, especially one that compares Buford Highway to Amsterdam? (hint: you can score hash easily in both places but Amsterdam doesn’t have a Taco Veloz).

Grade: B+
Photos of Ebru Ercan’s sketchbook. Other than editorial choices of which of Ercan’s pages were featured in large scale, this was a fine section. How many architecture grads still maintain their sketchbooks? Damned few. Yeah, I’m talking to you.

The Grand Tour
Grade: A-
A fun bit of dress-up nostagia. Short on architecture, long on self-serving twaddle, it reminds me of another long-winded, self-serving publication I’ve run across in times past. It’s a fair cop.

Big Boy
Grade: A++
Shoney’s Big Boy made out of cans. Perfect. Anything that encourages stocking the foodbank goes to the head of the line, especially since it bears a passing resemblance to the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man and looks like it could collapse and kill someone. Very Nice.

Space Concerns (Remoteness, Cost)
Grade: B
Mostly boring. The data’s good and all, and important I guess, but it’s boring like an annual report. Facts and figures are boring, I can’t fire off any cultural references here… no, wait, yes I can….. okay, no.. no I can’t. I’m lying, I got nothing. Nice job by the graphic designer on representing the population densities of various nations as dots superimposed on place photos. There’s the silver lining to my shallow review.

Space Concerns/Car Culture
Grade: C-
Check it out! Mr. Green, Miss Blue and Colonel Mustard are back and this time they’re talking about cars and American culture and urbanism and turning parking decks into “experiences”. Oh my, how ruthlessly absurd!. Welcome to the 1973 oil shortage kids, were you tree killers alive and paying attention back then? Easy there little missy, just you settle down… I’m just teasing you and your bitchin’ VW Golf. Mostly.

Space Concerns/Crystal City
Grade: A
Hey, real city-mending architecture! A whole double-page spread. Wow, good advertising guys…. did you run this past Leatherhat Bob first?

How long is this dang thing? I think somebody’s brother-in-law is a rep at a paper mill! I’m only halfway through this thing and tired of reviewing… let’s wrap this up with a random flip through the remaining pages.

Lunar Boutiques
Grade: A+++
Lest that thy love prove likewise variable, this is the kind of stuff I want to read from a magazine written by architects. Engaging drawings, fun photoshoppery and a tongue-in-cheek fact-packed FAQ all about our inconstant moon and how we could build there.

Final Thoughts
Great first effort guys, I hope that you do this again next year (maybe next time I can get my own copy since I had to snag this one from a colleague in our office). I wouldn’t be doing my job (which is to obsess over my website like a model railroad set) if I didn’t pose a few hard questions that might piss off the grown-ups over there at CC. Guys, if this is a “magazine” why does it only come out once a year? In my book that’s called an Annual. This effort to advance the firm’s visibility, to “get published” if you will, looks it. Why did you waste paper and ink on platitudinal conversations and pictures of Leatherhat Bob? The Cooper Carry Talks website would seem to address that goal far more effectively. Were I a shareholder I’d do some harrumphing. Still, I’d like to know when the Leatherhat Bob mugs come out, I’d sure like one. Finally, Wired magazine is an awesome magazine, filled with eye-bending graphics but they can get away with it because the articles are pure gold. You’ve got several months before you get down to crunch time on assembling “Here No2 2006”? One suggestion: start writing “HERE” now.

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