Read Your Local Architectural Magazines and Get SMART.

If you’ve never took the time to open up an architectural magazine and browse through the content, you’re hampering your learning potential.

I bought my first two Architectural Magazines with my allowance way-back-when in 2008. I was a giddy little freshman who was both clueless and elated to learn about this new world before him. So as I stepped out of the bookstore I immediately tore open my fresh issues of Archikonst and BluPrint, found a nice seat in the food court, and devoured my new found toys.

To this day, I believe regularly buying and pouring through architectural magazines – especially your local ones – is a valuable learning tool for any design student. Here are some great reasons why you should consider buying some fine-print.

1. They’ll introduce many a clueless student to your country’s prominent architects, and practices to watch out for.

I came into architecture school clueless about who-did-what and who-was-who, but reading my first magazines immediately changed that. There’s always a feature here or there that interviews important and allows you to get inside their head and history.

There are sections on architectural inspirations that take you back in time and introduce you to the movements of the past – which is a valuable starting point for your history classes.

Point is, for the most part, you’ll have many pages worth of getting to know people you probably should know, which is the foundation in understanding your local built scene.

2. Diverse themes allow you to dial-in and focus on many topics over time.

Different magazines will focus of different niche markets. In the Philippines, for example, BluPrint, Archikonst, Shelter, Homestyle, Condo Living, etc. – they all have different target audiences, and will hence offer you slightly different perspectives.

Even within the magazines themselves, each issue will have their own theme. Which means one month will give you insight primarily on post-modern design, others on chic furniture, and yet others on high rise trends. By grouping each issue into a theme, your mind can take cohesive information chunks and store them regularly in an organized manner.

3. They’ll give you insight to buildings you may have visited or will soon visit.

We’ve all had those buildings we pass by and wonder – “I wonder what the architect was even thinking when he built that?”, and there were many times that I was enlightened by chancing upon a feature on those exact buildings.

Reading magazines made me realize that nothing is ever black and white when it comes to how a building is put up – there are always a number of issues that contribute to the final product- whether political, structural, unforeseen construction bumps, or changing designer’s intent.

Try this – after you read up on the story of a certain building, visit it and see if the issues surrounding it have noticeable ramifications. Decipher for yourself whether the architect’s intent was communicated well. It can be quite an eye-opening experience, especially when you know the back-story.

4. They tell you about current issues surrounding your country’s practice, and serve as a visor towards international events.

Architecture is undoubtedly a political animal – and you don’t really talk about it in freshman year, but you should. The politics of architecture will affect your trajectory not only in the practice, but also in what your professors will expect you to infuse in your work – and your trusty archi mag will give you a needed heads-up.

It was through local magazines that I found out about crucial topics like the ASEAN integration, Continuing Professional Development, The National Artist Award Controversy, Sustainable Architecture standards, UNESCO Heritage Sites, design trends, new design competitions and the like.

5. The ads will give you perspective on the most recent products on the market.

Even being critical of ads can be helpful, especially in your initial foray into building materials. Just by taking a moment to pay attention to ad materials, I learned things like:

German bathrooms and counter-tops were generally the high-end standard, there are finishes that (supposedly) look like wood but are really laminates, LED lights save a whole lot more electricity than Fluorescents (ans cost a whole lot more), roof gardens are thick and have many layers, and white toilets are just a lot nicer than pastel toilets (though that’s a bit of personal preference right there).

So pay attention to the ads. there’s a lot of insight to be found in the fast-paced world of marketing.

6. They are relevant and handy research paper sources.

You will be writing research papers in architecture school. And you will need sources. Tadaaaa! Suddenly the magazines you read for leisure and knowledge have doubled as credible and relevant research material. That’s quite a double-whammy if you ask me.

Chances are, your professors would encourage you to find local research sources, so by starting your collection early, you just jumped the gun and acquired a multitude of sources. Not too shabby.

7. They make for an impressive shelf collection and an interesting coffee table piece.

Other than the pragmatic value, there’s just something quite fulfilling when you look at your small little shelf slowly filling up with your own little magazine collection. It’s a pretty thing to behold, their uniform spines rhythmically resembling your constant commitment to learning. Mmm.

Or you could add a bit of a culturati vibe to your coffee table by giving guests the option to read about the Venice Bienalle or the wonderful milestone that was Shigeru Ban winning the Pritzker Prize. Nuks. Ain’t nothing wrong with showing off your architecty-ness.

8. Local magazines are cheaper – especially if you buy back issues.

You don’t need to spend an arm and leg to start your own collection. There was a point when I would only buy a new issue if I was genuinely interested in that release’s theme. If not, I’d simply wait until I’d find a back issue sale, and buy four for the price of one.

A little patience goes a long way, especially when you’re living off a student’s allowance but want to invest in good reading material.

9. They don’t need batteries.

Last but not least, your magazine will never conk out on you, and their OS will always be the latest version. Yes yes, we all love our tablets, laptops and mobile phones (which you are probably using to read this site right now), but many would agree with me that nothing quite compares to the experience in immersing yourself in a real, physical book.

You can read it for as long as you like without worrying about rationing your day’s power consumption, while at the same time undergoing an intimate and sensual experience of turning the page, whiffing up that new-printed smell, and projecting to everyone else on the train that you are indeed a man, or woman, of knowledge.

So keep reading, and keep learning.

Wishing you well,

Aldo

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