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Not Your Average Architecture Magazine

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Student-led publishing continues to be a powerful vehicle for challenging mainstream perceptions of what architecture and built-environment publishing 'should be'.

Not Your Average Architecture Magazine

Covers of the first five issues of 'LOBBY' magazine.

Credit: Regner Ramos / LOBBY

“We wanted LOBBY to have personality and charisma. We weren’t interested in fitting in or screaming ‘architecture’ loudly. And we didn’t want to play by the rules.”

Published by a team of PhD students at The Bartlett School of Architecture, the magazine LOBBY lasted for only six issues, but over its short lifespan it very much lived up to that bold manifesto.

With a name that was both spatial and confrontational, it was hailed as a punch-you-in-the-face tonic against the ubiquitous sleek, glossy architecture magazines. LOBBY featured cheeky illustrations and witty commentary on topics ranging from Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch to Scrooge McDuck’s money bin. As its Editor-in-chief Regner Ramos says, it was “a little bit rogue and a little bit naughty”.

Set up in 2014, with seed funding from the school to support editorial and print costs, its mission was to “critically discuss what is missing from the institution”. Its arrival coincided more broadly with a wave of independent publishing ventures started by people who felt similarly that mainstream publishing was falling short.

Not Your Average Architecture Magazine

Covers of the first three issues of 'Urban Pamphleteer'.

Credit: magCulture

Not Your Average Architecture Magazine

From the cover of the first issue of 'Outlet' magazine in 1959.

Credit: Bill Ungless and Michael Turner

The Urban Pamphleteer, another notable, outward-facing magazine connected to The Bartlett launched around the same time (2013), and has succeeded in stimulating public debate about important subjects in an accessible manner.

Edited by Professor Ben Campkin, Co-director and previously Director of UCL Urban Laboratory (2011–2018), and Central St Martins’ MA Graphic Communications Course Leader Rebecca Ross, the Urban Pamphleteer is distributed for free, in the spirit of the pamphlets that were once handed out around the streets of London to disseminate radical ideas. Unlike these pamphlets of the pre-digital era, you can get this one online too – but the ethos is the same: to be a vehicle for bold ideas and public engagement.

Urban Pamphleteer is now in its seventh issue, has covered subjects ranging from smart cities to LGBTQ+ night-time spaces, and has been praised by the magazine press and academics alike.

Not Your Average Architecture Magazine

'Outlet' covers – clockwise: 1959, 1960, 1962, 1961.

Credit: Bill Ungless and Michael Turner

Not Your Average Architecture Magazine

‘Natter’ collage from 'Outlet 1'.

Credit: Bill Ungless and Michael Turner

More than a student publication

Where LOBBY differed was that it was run by students, giving a voice and platform to a group that arguably gets ignored by the architectural establishment – a profession in which many people don’t properly establish themselves until their forties.

But LOBBY was always more than a student publication: from its inception, the idea was to reach beyond the university walls – attracting artists, thinkers, researchers and designers within the field and beyond, as both readers and contributors. It’s an ambition helped by its editors’ ability to secure input from major figures in architecture. “Having [architect and planner] Denise Scott Brown invite us to her home for an interview was one of my favourite memories,” Ramos recalls.

Perhaps what really gave it its edge was the international nature of its team: hailing from Syria, India, Scotland, Mexico and Puerto Rico, each editor brought their unique world-view, experience and contacts to the project – and a diverse field of practice and study that, in the UK at least, is often criticised for its monoculture.

“Without a doubt our diverse ethnicities played an important part in how LOBBY unfolded,” Ramos says. “LOBBY was a space where many different voices could speak, had a place and could share ideas.”

Ramos has gone on to take the helm at ‘informa’, a magazine by the school of architecture at the University of Puerto Rico, with a brief to transform it into a peer-reviewed journal.

Curating talks as part of his remit at LOBBY has also fed into his current work as a researcher, organising a three-day conference called “Sites Queer: Technologies, Spaces and Otherness”. Ramos’s growing workload, and that of his colleagues, meant that LOBBY shut down in 2017 – but not before inviting readers to “party like it’s 1961” at the launch of its final issue that reflected on the year that pitted the optimism of John F. Kennedy’s presidency and Beatlemania against events like the erection of the Berlin Wall and the detonation of the Tsar Bomba.

While there are no plans to revive LOBBY, other student-led publications are encouraged and supported – and one new publication has found inspiration in the archives.

Finding an outlet

The first student publication started at The Bartlett was in 1959. Outlet was founded by Bill Ungless and Michael Cassidy, just as The Bartlett School of Architecture was on the cusp of a complete overhaul in its management and teaching, with the retirement of Professor Corfiato and the introduction of a new regime imminent.

Clearly influenced by New Brutalism, a movement that many of the students at the time were eager to engage with, Outlet 1 was painstakingly printed by hand using a Gestetner machine, a type of stencil duplicator, but the editions became glossier as the years went past, with the introduction of advertising from trade companies and architecture journals.

At some point Outlet ceased publication – until 2019, that is, when it was relaunched as a weekly A4 pamphlet by Bartlett School of Architecture student Paul Humphries. “We have an editorial board – four of us, two guys and two girls – and each week we sit at a round table and edit the pieces. We print 250 copies on the Xerox printer and put them out every Friday at midday.”

Humphries, a Part 2 Master’s student who had previously written for LOBBY and Room One Thousand (an architecture journal run by the students and alumni of UC Berkeley’s Department of Architecture), says that he decided to revive the magazine after meeting the son of Louis Hellman – the cartoonist for the original Outlet magazine. “I had come across Outlet on a blog. So I already had the idea of using it as a framework for a project I had in mind; meeting Louis’ son convinced me.”

Humphries is in the process of arranging an interview with Hellman (now in his 80s) and is hoping to be able to publish or archive some of his drawings. “A lot of the of the ethos behind the original Outlet really resonated with me. The students were evidently passionate about the subject, rebellious. It’s really important for students to have a voice.” He says that while there’s an abundance of academic publishing, “there’s not something like us”.

“The whole idea of Outlet now is as a blueprint for other students to take on next year and maybe reinvent for themselves. That would be amazing.”

The School of Architecture is internationally renowned for innovative research and teaching that is academically rigorous, critically informed, design-led and interdisciplinary. It is part of The Bartlett, UCL's Faculty of the Built Environment. Find out more:

Urban Laboratory is a collaborative cross-disciplinary platform to promote critical and creative urban research, teaching, practice and participation. It is supported by four faculties at UCL: The Bartlett, Engineering, Social & Historical Sciences, and Arts & Humanities. Find out more:

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