clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Thumb Through Bau, the Edgy Architecture Zine of the Late '60s

The late '60s was a golden era for print design, when legends such as Art Paul (Playboy), George Lois (Esquire) and Milton Glaser (New York) all oversaw the look of their respective magazines and helped define the visual style of the era. That same climate of colorful experimentation carried over to architecture publications, such as Italy's Domus, Archigram in the United Kingdom as well as Bau, a publication formed by an Austrian architecture foundation that would become radicalized in 1964. When a new new editorial team took over, it refreshed the established trade publication, giving it the look and energy of a fashion magazine while staying focused on the architectural avant-garde. Curbed spoke to Juliette Desorgues, curator at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London show about Bau, "Everything is Architecture," to learn more about the publication's glossy look and animated collages.

Who was behind Bau's visual style, and how did it reflect larger trends in both architecture and publishing?
Bau was edited by a team of architects and artists: Sokratis Dimitriou, Günther Feuerstein, Hans Hollein, Gustav Peichl, Walter Pichler and Oswald Oberhuber. It was very much a collaborative endeavour. All shared a similar ethos and ideas about architecture and art. The editors did however take it in turn to design the different covers from that period. Hollein for instance was responsible for the cover of issue 1/2 of 1968 that shows the city of Vienna dominated by a large block of Swiss cheese, a visual pun referring to the large-scale modernist architecture of the 1960s and 1970s that this editorial team was trying to distance themselves from. Hollein's interest in collage, as well as his playful approach to design, is evident in this striking image.

What was the larger impact from this period of Bau's existence in the late '60s?
The magazine was the most important architectural publication in the German-speaking world and very much brought together a wide range of architects and thinkers of the time (philosopher Theodor W. Adorno took part in a talk hosted by the Central Association of Austrian Architects and the editors of Bau in 1967). The magazine served to provide exposure to Austrian and German architectural figures both past and new. Bau helped establish the Wittgenstein House—once a derelict unknown building doomed to be demolished by the city of Vienna—as one of the most significant examples of modernist architecture of the 20th century. Whilst some of the articles were translated into English—including contributions by American artists Buckminster Fuller and Claes Oldenburg— the magazine was largely in German which meant that it didn't quite have the broader international impact and notoriety as other magazines of that time.

What are some of your favorite articles and layouts from this period of the magazine?
My favourite piece is in issue 1 1969 pp. 20-21 which shows various proposals to rethink the architecture for spaces of learning such as the university. These proposals by international figures coincided with an international conference and exhibition on the subject, and reveal the multi-disciplinary ethos of the magazine, but also the way it sought to engage with some of the ideas emerging intentionally at that time. The left-hand page shows American architect Charles Colbert's pioneering 'Shoulder Carrel' (1966). A forbearer of today's Google Glass, this device was intended an electronically controlled helmet that would produce information for people to read. Below is Hans Hollein's 'Telematic University' from the same year, which proposed the TV-set as a form of learning and alternative to the university. On the right-hand page, British architect Cedric Price explores similar ideas in his text 'Universities – rethink or write-off'.

What happened to the magazine after 1970?
The editorial team was disbanded in 1970 and replaced by Austrian architect Rudolf Kohutek, who edited the magazine until 1971. Whilst the design gradually returned to its more conventional pre-1965 form, it still very much championed the radical work of the Austrian avant-garde such as groups Zünd-Up and Salz der Erde.

What were some of the best pop-culture references found in the magazine?
The best examples of pop-culture imagery can be found in the magazine's advertisement, particularly one by the company Svoboda, an office furniture provider that still exists today. Their advertisement used many of the design tropes from the time: bold bright colors, combining both popular imagery such as the astronaut suit, and real human faces, animated using comic speech bubbles with playful puns. Issue 5-6 from 1965 also contained images that refer to the popular culture of that time. This particular issue was entirely dedicated to the US and its pages populated by images that include Marilyn Monroe, Coca Cola logos, cowboys and JFK. The editors, and particularly Hollein (who studied in the US), greatly admired the US and what it represented at that time, particularly the technological progress brought on through the so-called space age.

· An Extremely Detailed Coloring Book for Architecture Lovers [Curbed]
· 92 Years of Architecture Through Time Magazine Covers [Curbed]
· Architectural Record Surveys 50 Years of Special House Issues [Curbed]