"La Rivista di Engramma (open access)" ISSN 1826-901X

A Discussion on Tendency Journals with Jacques Lucan

Nicole Cappellari, Julien Correira

English abstract
French version

On March 18th, 2021, in collaboration with the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, we organised a round-table discussion that focused on the journal as a tool for the formulation and transfer of architectural and urban theories in the post-war period. In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, the meeting took place at a distance, with the screen – like the journal – allowing us to go beyond the borders and gather a wider audience, coming from various countries[1]. At the origin of the meeting was a double reflection resulting from our respective doctoral research. First, considering the gaps in the study of media in architecture, how can we develop methods of research on the journal as a source for contemporary history and an object in itself? Then, starting from the study of architectural journals in post-war years – which can be considered as their “belle époque” – how can we read their evolution until today, at the time of the transformation of certain historical journals through digitalisation and the emergence of new titles that form a kind of resistance? The article does not intend to limit itself to a feedback on the meeting, but rather proposes a deeper discussion of the questions addressed following the testimony of the architect and theorist Jacques Lucan, as former editor-in-chief of a journal, on 18th March.

Cover of issue 89 of “Revue de l’art“ 1990, dedicated to architectural journals.

Our reflection starts from the observation that the historiographic study of the architectural review in the French context – where our reflections are situated – deserves to be developed. Lagging behind the Anglo-Saxon world, it is only since the 1990s, and more extensively in the years 2000-2010, that architects and art historians have taken up the subject in France. The “Revue de l’Art”, created in 1968 by André Chastel (1912-1990), devoted an issue to architectural reviews in 1990. The art historian Françoise Hamon, editor of the issue, emphasized the importance of the architectural journal as “an essential primary source as much for fundamental knowledge, i.e., for the understanding of doctrinal debates, the dissemination of models, the reception of works, etc., as for the documentation of the existing architectural heritage and the reasoned management of its future”[2]. These multiple aspects conveyed by the journal are brought together by Hélène Jannière in her doctoral pioneering thesis on French and Italian journals till the interwar period, discussed in 1999[3]. The architect and architectural historian discussed the links between review and criticism, to be studied simultaneously. Since then, more specific studies have focused on a particular journal or on the role played by the journal in theoretical construction. For example, in 2010 Jong Wong Lee dedicated his doctoral thesis, supervised by Jean-Louis Cohen, to the French journal “Architecture Mouvement Continuité” (AMC)[4]; in 2018 Véronique Patteeuw directed with Léa-Cathérine Szacka a book on the involvement of the journal and the exhibition in the emergence of postmodern architecture[5]. Thus, the architectural journal becomes both a specific research object and an essential source of study for research into the history of contemporary architecture. This idea was discussed at the international conference Revues d’architecture dans les années 1960-1970 : fragments d’une histoire événementielle, intellectuelle et matérielle, held in Montreal in 2004[6].

The centrality of the formulation and dissemination of architectural and urban theory through the journal brings us to a second reflection on the functioning of the architectural journal from the post-war period to the present. From the 1950s to the 1960s, in particular, new journals were created, others evolved, changed titles and editors, some took the side of an architectural and urban movement by constituting a homogeneous editorial team, while others saw a succession of articles supporting different or opposing trends. Some journals propose themselves as true “tools of culture”[7]: they do not limit themselves to presenting a catalog of new architectures but contribute to disseminating or defending certain intellectual and cultural positions. This type of magazine, described by Jacques Lucan as a “tendency journal”, played a central role in the second half of the Twentieth Century, particularly in the discussion of certain notions of the Modern Movement and the presentation of a critique of the shaping of architecture and the city by the precepts of the Athens Charter. To what extent has the role of the journal evolved since the 1950s? Are there new "tendency journals"? How has the transfer of ideas evolved with contemporary issues and the digital turn of journals?

We discuss this topic with Jacques Lucan, architect, historian, critic and former teacher at the École nationale supérieure d’architecture de Paris-Belleville (1979-1998), honorary professor at the École d’architecture de Marne-la-Vallée and at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, editor of the French journal “AMC Architecture Mouvement Continuité” from 1976 to 1988[8], and member of the editorial board of the journal “Matières” from 1997 to 2020[9]. In the 1990s, Jacques Lucan also collaborated with the Italian journals “Casabella” and “Lotus International”, as well as with the XIX Triennale of Milan within the scientific committee. He has published several works whose issues cover the question of habitat, the theories and history of architecture of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as well as the architectural and urban forms of the present time[10].

NC+JC | You have experienced several moments in the history of the architecture magazine, as a reader and then as an editor. What are the main phases of the magazine's evolution for you?

JL | I was editor of AMC between 1977 and 1987 and the period was quite homogeneous. At the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s, what was no doubt peculiar, and something that has more or less disappeared or weakened ever since, is the great number of reviews. I am talking about Europe in particular. In Italy, we had “Lotus” and “Casabella” in Milan, “Eupalino” and “Controspazio” in Rome, and “Parametro” in Bologna. In Spain, we had “Quaderns and Arquitecturas bis” in Barcelona, “Arquitectura” in Madrid, and another magazine in the Basque Country. And in France we also had three magazines that were in the lead. Well, two of them were really prominent, “L'Architecture d’Aujourd'hui” and “Techniques et Architecture”, and AMC was the third. Some of these magazines have disappeared. For some of them we do not know what happened to them, they probably do not exist any longer, or have a very limited circulation. And I believe that the time was also marked by the fact that the actors of the reviews knew each other, and could meet and exchange ideas. There were, if not colloquia, at least meetings that were set up quite easily. We all met once in Barcelona, once again in Milan, and in Paris. And we discussed. We were in the same movement. I’m not implying that the journals were of a single tendency, but the problems concerning the city. We had the same intellectual affinities and shared the same cultural universe, in which Italy was very important. This moment ended and lost its intensity perhaps at the end of the 1980s or beginning of the 1990s. And I think it never regained this intensity for the magazines.

NC+JC | During what we could call the "belle époque" of the 1970s and 1980s, you described certain magazines as "tendency journals". What were their characteristics?

JL | At the time, the magazines, which were quite numerous, defended, despite everything, a position, a point of view on architecture. Generally speaking, a point of view on urban architecture. And to this extent, they had a position, against the architectural establishment in particular. They were what I call “tendency journals”. Some were more engaged than others: “Archithese” in Switzerland, for example, and in Spain, Barcelona-based “Arquitecturas bis” was much more engaged than “Arquitectura”, based in Madrid. There were differences, but there was a kind of cultural community where we knew what we were talking about. We knew what we were defending, the books we liked. When I say “trend”, it also corresponds to the fact that the people in charge of the magazines chose what they wanted to publish. So from the moment we make a choice, this choice is necessarily biased. The objective, I think, is then to give an account of a situation, of a reflection on a certain number of themes, of problems, and to choose things that are considered interesting. But there is always a risk in choices, and not at the moment when we choose to publish, but afterward. Sometimes I open some old issues I have made, and then I say to myself: “How could we publish this?” (Laughs)

JC+NC | And do you think this type of journal has a future?

JL | Yes and no. No, because there is another way to report on current events today. At the time of these magazines there was no internet, so the projects that were published found a way to be known, to be seen, etc. Today, we don’t have the internet, but we have a way to make the news. Today, there is almost no need to show projects. You just have to go to the different architects’ websites. The need to present projects through a publication is less strong today than it was yesterday, in my opinion. On the other hand, at the time, the editorial board of a magazine could call on a person, because they knew that he or she was working on an interesting subject, that he or she had done work, often academic work, on a subject that they decided to publish. In the end, the decision was subject to the judgment of one single person: the editor. Today it is not the same with the system of journals with calls for papers and peer reviews. Or they may be trendy journals, but where the circles are much narrower. These are journals such as “San Rocco”, “OASE”, “Polygone”, etc. A group of people decide to self-publish first, and then to call on a few people, but without the need for a reading committee. And maybe it is interesting to create a trend through cooptation, so that there are reflections that come together, rather than a firework of reflections, in which one gets lost. Moreover, this does not mean that these journals hold the truth, it simply means that they develop certain points of view or points of view that are somewhat related. If we consider the journal as a field of reflection, it is necessary for people in charge to orientate such a reflection by choices, by kernels of reflection. We cannot simply tell ourselves that diversity is the best thing…

NC+JC | In the last issue of “Matières”[11], you question the place and future of theory in architectural journals. Do they still play a role as a vehicle for theory and criticism?

JL | Yes, they do. For example, if I take a journal like “Casabella” it is a journal that publishes projects, that makes choices - where there is little explanation of the choices. From time to time there is a theoretical article, but this is not what one might say is the characteristic of the journal. On the other hand, in the French journal “d’a” there can sometimes be theoretical articles accompanying project presentations. Basically, a journal is there to make sure that the reflection on architecture remains and is alive. However, there are magazines that promote architects, and that architects will seek out because they know that it is their promotion that is being done. On the other hand, today there is little architectural criticism. When I talk about criticism, it's not just about describing a project. I have always understood criticism as the need to explain, when we are interested in a project, why we are interested in it, why we make this choice, why you are interested in this one and not in another. You have to bring out that interest, to make sure that the reflection advances on a certain number of points.

NC+JC | What do you think about the choice of small "tendency journals” to publish paper issues, of very good quality, while an online distribution and a distribution on social networks would allow to reach a larger audience at a lower cost?

JL: Rarity is quite precious. That means you have to look for those magazines you've heard about... I remember when I was a student, “Architectural Design” was a magazine you heard about. In Paris, the only bookstore that received it was Vincent et Fréal; they didn’t receive it regularly, and if they did, they received very few copies of it. When the issues were available, word of mouth spread. So rarity could be something that intensified reflections. Is being on the web, online, a good thing for everyone? Shouldn't a magazine first create its audience? That is to say, it should first develop a certain number of questions in which the public will be interested.


If we were to retain the main ideas evoked by Jacques Lucan in this interview, we could probably summarise them in a few points. First of all, the “belle époque” that he experienced as editor-in-chief of AMC magazine seems to be quite homogeneous and characterised by close links and intense exchanges between several European actors of the architectural editorial milieu. This network favoured the growth of a shared set of ideas that paid new attention to the city. This shared point of view on urban architecture, from which positions of resistance and criticism of the powers and the dominant fabrication of architecture were formed, constitutes the foundation of the trends started by certain reviews. Their reflections are of particular interest when they affirm clear choices. If the intensity of the editorial world of that period has nowadays largely faded, the trend journals are not completely without a future. They will no longer be necessarily structured only around the figure of the editor-in-chief, but perhaps around decisions taken by small circles of people who are equally motivated by the desire to share subjects of reflection and choices that are in line with each other, refusing the logic of scientific publications. These little journals can also engage in the path of criticism by seeking to explain why certain projects are interesting and analyze their intrinsic reasons and design logic as well as the architectural discourse behind them. Questioning their future suggests a certain optimism as the resistance in which they engage on the front of ideas is just as strong in the choice to move away from the instantaneous uninterrupted flow of information. The choice to publish few issues and to give great importance to the graphic and plastic qualities of the printed object gives them a certain aura. Applying the formula “less is more” and believing in the value of scarcity is certainly a virtuous choice, even if the life span of a journal is not eternal. Little and committed journals appear and disappear regularly, which creates myths and ensures their survival. In order to explore the perspectives of today's trend journals, it seems to us necessary to return to a thorough historiographical study, capable of highlighting the methods, objects, and objectives specific to each context, each period, and each team.

AMC,  covers of issues 45 (1977), 46 (1977), 1 (1983).

[1] The meeting was made in collaboration with the HiCSA Research Center (Cultural and Social History of the Arts) and the Doctoral School 4100 of the University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. We invited the doctoral students Alessandro Benetti (Politecnico di Milano/Université Rennes2) and Loup Calosci (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne/ENSA Paris La Villette) as speakers, the lecturer Federico Ferrari (ENSA Nantes) as discussant, and Jacques Lucan as witness. To see the video-recording of the round-table see: https://pantheonsorbonne.zoom.us/rec/share/lXrsYzGpN95p_NhcVuYbUY0UFe2gkcqlNYbpJRz-1Z6btuvV9b1QorTKVCWaIPjQ.vMv3CDQk-wxoQqyF (the password is: 2S%9q#Ag).

[2] See Hamon 1990, 16.

[3] See Jannière 1999. The thesis was published with the title Politiques éditoriales et architecture moderne : l’émergence de nouvelles revues en France et en Italie (1923-1939), Paris, 2002. She also wrote numerous articles about the magazine, amongst which Distilled Avant-Garde Echoes: Word and Image in Architectural Periodicals of the 1920s and 1930s, in “Architectural Histories”, vol. 4, n°1, 2016.

[4] See Lee 2010.

[5] See Patteeuw Szacka 2018.

[6] See Sornin, Jannière, Vanlaethem 2008.

[7] The expression is used by de Seta 1987, 69.

[8] The journal “AMC Architecture Mouvement Continuité” was founded in 1967 by Philippe Boudon, André Ménard and Alain Sarfati. While linked to the SADG (Société des architectes diplômés par le gouvernement), the journal played a major role in the renewal of architectural and urban theory and criticism in France following the breakup of the architecture sector at the École des Beaux-Arts in 1968. It also became a pioneer in the transfer of international ideas and reflections. It quickly established itself as a reference magazine in the French panorama, alongside historical magazines such as “L'Architecture d’Aujourd'hui” (created in 1930) and “Techniques & Architecture” (created in 1941). Jacques Lucan became first editor in 1976, then co-editor in chief with Patrice Noviant from 1976 to 1981 and, then, only editor in chief at the time of the repurchase of the review by Le Moniteur, until 1988.

[9] The journal “Matières” was created in 1997 by a group of teachers from the Natural, Built and Architectural Environment faculty at the EPFL (École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne). Published annually, the journal seeks to nourish contemporary debate and architectural theory as well as to present certain projects and reflections made at the School.

[10] Among his main works, we can mention: Paris des faubourgs : formation, transformation... , exposition au Pavillon de l’Arsenal, Paris, octobre 1996-janvier 1997, Paris, 2005 ; France, architecture 1965-1988, Paris/ Milan, 1989 ; OMA - Rem Koolhaas : pour une culture de la congestion, Paris/ Milan, 1990 ; Architecture en France : 1940-2000 : histoire et théories, Paris, 2001 ; Composition, non-composition : architecture et théories, XIXe-XXe siècles, Lausanne, 2009 ; Précisions sur un état présent de l’architecture, Lausanne, 2015 ; Habiter : ville et architecture, Lausanne, 2021.

[11] Discussion between Jacques Lucan, Martin Steinmann and Bruno Marchand in Lucan, Steinman, Marchand 2020. 

  • Hamon 1990 
    F. Hamon, Les revues d’architecture, “Revue de l’Art”, 89, 1990.
  • Jannière 1999
    H. Jannière, Représenter et diffuser l'architecture moderne : les revues françaises et italiennes, 1923-1939, thèse de doctorat en Histoire de l’art sous la direction d’Hubert Damish, EHESS, soutenue en 1999.
  • Lee 2010
    J.W. Lee, Un territoire de l'architecture : AMC et le renouveau de la culture architecturale en France (1967-1981), thèse de doctorat en architecture sous la direction de Jean-Louis Cohen, Université de Paris-Est, soutenue en 2010.
  • Lucan, Steinman, Marchand 2020
    J. Lucan, M. Steinman, B. Marchand, La théorie en question, in Matières, Lausanne, 2020, 22-25.
  • Patteeuw Szacka 2018
    V. Patteeuw, L-C. Szacka (eds.), Mediating Messages: On the Role of Exhibitions and Periodicals in Shaping Postmodern Architecture, London, 2018.
  • Sornin, Jannière, Vanlaethem 2008
    A. Sornin, H. Jannière, F. Vanlaethem (eds.), Architectural periodicals in the 1960s and 1970s: towards a factual, intellectual and material history, proceedings of the international colloquium held on 6-7 May 2004 at the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) in Montréal, Montréal, 2008.
English abstract

This article proposes to revisit the roundtable organised on March 18th, 2021 at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne by Nicole Cappellari and Julien Correia on the subject of architectural journals as a tool for the production and dissemination of architectural and urban theories between 1950 and 1980. The idea here is to extend the testimony offered by the French architect, historian and theorist Jacques Lucan on his experience as editor-in-chief of several journals, including “AMC” (1977-1987) and “Matières” (1997-2020), through an interview based on specific questions. The idea to put the history of the architectural journal over the last forty years into perspective by trying to highlight its main phases of evolution from what we call the belle époque to the recent digitisation of certain publications and the massification of social networks. We will also try to characterize the idea of a revue de tendance more precisely and better understand its relevance for our time. The role of journals as a laboratory and a channel for theory in the making will also be discussed. Finally, we will identify the causes of the editorial slowdown since the end of the 1990s by contrasting it with the optimism, resistance and committed regular creation of little magazines and committed journals.

Keywords | “Architecture Mouvement Continuité”; Architectural Debate; Tendency Journals.

Per citare questo articolo: Nicole Cappellari, Julien Correira, A Discussion on Tendency Journals with Jacques Lucan, “La Rivista di Engramma” n. 188, gennaio-febbraio 2022, pp. 277-286 | PDF dell’articolo