DIY Publishing: An Interview With SOILED

  • With the recent launch of the ArchiZines website and Actar’s publication of Clip, Stamp, Fold, it would seem that independent architectural publications are enjoying newfound importance in the architectural scene. But in the age of cheap and accessible blogging platforms, what is the value old-school physical printed media has over its online digital cousin? And what inspires people to go down the road of DIY publishing? SOILED is a new independent architecture publication coming out of Chicago. I decided to put these questions to the editorial team of SOILED. The following is a short interview.

    What was the inspiration to start publishing an architecture zine?
    “Our agenda in creating SOILED was twofold: one part content-driven and one part media-driven. We’re interested in creating a venue for work that investigates the role that the built environment plays in social issues of earthly but marginalized proportions; SOILED documents hidden systems and in-between spaces. Perhaps more importantly, we’re interested in testing multiple modes of mediation including narratives, manifestoes, mappings, and ephemera so as to engage a broader (i.e. non-architectural) public in our architectural discourse — we’re hoping to engage just as many non-architects as architects.”

    What are you hoping to achieve with the zine format that a blog format can’t achieve? What is the niche you hope SOILED will occupy?
    “We see SOILED as straddling the boundaries of zine, journal, ephemeron, and performance.  Historically, zines are photocopied and passed out en masse.  SOILED’s format negotiates moments of such do-it-yourself immediacy with other moments that are more refined.  SOILED seeks to operate on a personal and physical level that a blog format would not be able to achieve on its own. Certain pages of the publication are intended to be removed, manipulated, and used to explore and re-contextualize the reader’s environments.  In this way, SOILED aims to push the potential of the printed page and reconnect with the materials and landscape from which its content originates. We hope SOILED will resonate with readers looking for an alternative to the proliferation of digital media; in a strange way, we hope it can be simultaneously disposable and precious.”

    Are there any architecture zines you find particularly inspirational?  Are there examples of kinds of publications you want to avoid emulating?
    “One of our favorite architecture ‘zines’ is MAP(Manual of Architectural Possibilities), a publication out of Denmark. ‘Map presents itself as a folded poster where information is immediate, dense and objective in one side, and architectural and subjective on the other.’ We are also inspired by Thawed, a publication out of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and MAS Context, another publication out of Chicago. Thawed is literally a journal in pieces; it is an assemblage of ‘multiple pamphlets, objects, and posters that can be viewed together as a unit, or distributed in individual pieces’. MAS Context is a quarterly journal that ‘aim[s] to provide a comprehensive view of a topic by the active participation of people from different fields and different perspectives’; each issue is highly-curated through the lens of a specific theme.

    We’d like to avoid the approach of publications that celebrate exclusively ‘high architecture’ — design that is reserved for the highly-resourced. SOILED aims to be inclusive as it reveals hidden systems inherent to our urban environments and suggests socially-charged interventions.”

    You run a practice concurrent with the zine — do you try and separate the two intellectually, or does one inform the other and how?
    “The production of SOILED is closely knit to the operation of our practice, CARTOGRAMSOILED is the media-based incarnation of our architectural design activities.  By interacting with each issue’s contributors and by re-mediating their content and research, our own design work is continually enriched.”

    What’s your communication strategy?  Where do you see SOILED in the next few years?
    “Currently, our content is available for order print-on-demand (POD) via Lulu in addition to a free downloadable PDF. One of our priorities for the future is to expand this distribution model by additionally printing a small run of copies to distribute via coffee shops, zine shops, and the libraries of relevant cultural institutions. We hope to find funding to do so!

    Also, we plan to expand SOILED’s scope to include exhibitions, performance, and additional ephemera.  We’re interesting in using participatory live events to stimulate further dialogue about the work investigated in the print edition of SOILED while engaging an even broader public.  Right now, we’re in the midst of planning an event to celebrate the recent release of our inaugural issue, entitled Groundscrapers.  It will take place in April, and details will be available on our website (www.soiled.cartogram.org).”