New arrival Citizen asserts such a confident presence on the shelf that you won’t believe it’s just launched. Emerging from the London School of Architecture (LSA) the magazine was set up with the express aim of enabling people living in cities to live more fulfilled and more sustainable lives, and will be released quarterly.
The front cover image is by Michael Cradock and comes from a lengthy feature, ‘Queer freedom’ by Nigel Coates that investigates how a gay culture could influence city-shaping. It’s an angle that mines a rich seam of London’s counterculture as well as questioning the pros and cons of taking gay culture mainstream. There are also in depth pieces on Extinction Rebellion and The Loneliness Lab, which reinforce the citizen-centric editorial approach to architecture, and call for sustainability and inclusivity over growth.
One of the central features – Think Tanks – is an opportunity to see in depth the research and thinking behind six proposals from the LSA to help meet sustainable development targets set out by the United Nations. They cover everything from homesteading to last mile deliveries, and are design-focused ways of improving the way we live in cities. There’s a mixture of design styles across the different proposals, but I particularly enjoyed the more playful illustration in the ‘Welcome to Walthamstow’ section (below) – not your average architectural blueprint.
The magazine feels like the natural descendent of The Architectural Review and the Real Review: slightly left-field, not afraid to delve into theory or tangential subject matter yet will be interesting to a wider audience.
I spoke to Editor-in-chief Isabel Allen about how the magazine came about, and where it’s going:
‘We felt that there is a pressing need to think in terms of broader approaches to rejuvenating and reinventing the city. Our magazine addresses the fact that the most pressing problems we face today – inequality, climate change, social discontent and so on – call for radical solutions and, crucially, for joined-up thinking and working between different professions. We were particularly inspired by magazines like National Geographic, The Economist and New Scientist, which have come out of a particular professional specialism but are relevant to a much wider readership.
‘We hope Citizen will make a real impact on people’s lives. The launch issue featured all sorts of ideas for changing the way we fund, design and deliver improvements to the city. The dream is that the magazine serves as a vehicle to crystallise and test this kind of thinking. We hope that it will end up influencing investors and policy-makers as well as nurturing and celebrating creativity. The dream is that it ends up functioning as a kind of investment prospectus, showcasing ideas which get real traction with the people who can afford to make it happen.’
I’m impressed by the range and depth of the research and thinking in the first issue of Citizen, as well as the typically assured art direction and design from Simon Esterson and team. Whether it will be able to influence policy- and city-making is yet to be seen, but it’s certainly uplifting to read about a more reflective vision of future cities.
‘Citizen’ is the perfect title for this endeavour: in the wrong hands it might feel righteous, but they manage to get just the right pitch of contemporary discourse and expert analysis to make it an informative and approachable read.
Editor-in-chief: Isabel Allen
Creative director: Simon Esterson
Co-founder & Head of the LSA: Will Hunter