Does the AIA need a magazine?

February 15, 2010

The American Institute of Architects announced recently that it is severing its ties with Architectural Record. As I’ve written in previous posts, I have never liked the magazine as an organ for the AIA. Despite its distinguished history, Record is burdened by excessive obeisance to the current starchitect system. I doubt whether cutting ties with an architectural organization will change this.

The AIA, meanwhile, is struggling to stay relevant in a rapidly changing profession. I am a member, in fact a fellow, and I applaud the efforts of the leadership to stay with, if not ahead, of the curve. The AIA has an online newsletter that goes out to every member–it contains many articles of interest to practicing architects. There are other vehicles that keep members informed as well,  such as a bookstore, a software service, and online education resources.

As the Institute prepares to get in bed with Hanley Wood, publisher of builder’s magazines and a rather lightweight architectural periodical, I think that many members will ask why? Print subscriptions are at an all time low, and many architects get their information on the web anyway. What will be served by creating another print vehicle for the sporadic publication of design awards and official news? If the only regular feature in the new magazine will be news and Continuing Education articles, there will be very little bang for the buck.

The AIA needs to ask the hard question of whether the old media model of a sanctioned print journal is really appropriate in the 21st century marketplace. If it refuses to do so, I suspect that the new relationship will be short lived, and the AIA will suffer another embarrassment.

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