It's perhaps a sad irony that the short article I wrote for the last (very last) issue of I.D. magazine was on follies—those temporary structures that spring up with architectural exuberance, only to be torn down as their spectacle wears thin.
Featured in the Dec/Jan issue was the installation Folly—The View from Nowhere by Los Angeles–based architects Frank Escher and Ravi GuneWardena on view at the MOCA Pacific Design Center, a space that itself is a folly-like, westside spin off of the downtown museum. Frank and Ravi's installation is both a historical survey of transition of the folly from aristocratic expression to middle-class entertainment and a folly—a belvedere—itself. Yet the view at the PDC is fake. With four vinyl photo murals, it offers views to anywhere from nowhere.
The untimely closure of ID has been dissected at length by the design community and the unwise economic choices made leading to its folding are held in some quarters as examples of why traditional print publishing is itself a kind of folly. What's become more clear to me over the last year as more and more titles close, is that a publication can't rely only on the stakes and rigging of print, nor is the move to a digital format as surefire fix. But maybe embracing publishing as pure folly—that is, as spectacle, as event—can offer a worthwhile model. Magazines like GOOD take an integrated approach, content is online as well as in print, and it hosts events based its featured subjects. It also has the good sense to team with other titles, like Readymade, to build cross branding and robust content.
I come to this thought on the heels of spending two days in a conference based around Learning From Las Vegas, a book that in its lifetime has sold 80,000 copies. A big number for architecture publishing, but relatively small for any mass media. Despite the relatively limited number of copies, its influence is persists. In his keynote, Robert Venturi insisted that LLV is about communication and Denise Scott Brown noted that "in our information age" it is more important than ever.