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Patrick Lynch, Journal of Civic Architecture
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Patrick Lynch, Journal of Civic Architecture

As well as leading his London architecture practice, Patrick Lynch writes about the discipline and lectures across the world. He also runs a publishing imprint, Canalside Press, which produces the biannual Journal of Civic Architecture.

The Journal is a smart—in every sense—publication that encourages submissions on urban culture that other outlets might ignore. The result is a mix of architecture, photography, literature and criticism.

Currently on a work tour of Australia, Patrick discusses the ideas and inspirations behind JoCA.


What are you up to this morning?
I’m currently in Australia on a lecture tour having done some teaching in Brisbane last week. I’m actually catching a flight to Sydney on Monday morning where I’m going to visit some buildings and colleagues in practise and at the the university. Yesterday I was on the Gold Coast visiting a house by Vokes and Peters, who we are publishing a book with next year.



Describe your desk and your work space.
Ordinarily I work at a desk in our practise, Lynch Architects, in Regent Studios, overlooking the Regents Canal in Hackney, next to Broadway Market. The building is a twentieth century warehouse structure with exposed concrete ceilings and floors, with large scale birch plywood furniture forming a series of open-plan ‘rooms’, and the views over London are spectacular.


Studio space showing scale models of building, in dusk light


We don’t play music in the studio, and it’s generally quiet and relaxed I think, there’s enough space for people to work on large scale models and in fact it’s quite full of objects at various scales—both 1:1 and 1:5 samples and mock-ups of parts of buildings, and much smaller scale models of these and bits of cities. It’s a proper studio I mean, with the quiet hum of things being made and thought about.


Woamn and man sit at desks in studio space, walls lined with plywood


Canalside Press is part of this productive atmosphere and the studio is quite full of boxes of books and journals, which get emptied and sent off everyday. There’s always movement and yet also a sense of a still centre as quite a few of us have worked together as architects for a dozen years or more. We know each other well and work together intuitively now I think.


Bright red magazine cover with woman dressed in red

Which magazine do you first remember?
I was going to say Smash Hits but that's bit of a a silly answer as I didn't really buy it but read my mate's copies I think. Blitz was much more interesting: fashion, music, books, art, Style as an attitude, etc. A gateway to another world. I was quite seriously into clubbing as a youngster, and Blitz, and other magazines like The Face, i-D, and Arena to some extent, kind of validated communal pleasure as cultural action. Blitz was ‘quite’ pretentious to say the least, which I liked a lot, but it was also super cool and fun. We need more of that I think.


Magazine cover with illustration of swan-shaped boat and wooden palettes

Which magazine matters to you the most this morning?
I discovered the London Review of Books about 15 years ago when a friend—an architecture critic and novelist—gave me a subscription for Xmas, and I’ve read it more or less from cover to cover ever since. I love the fact that it’s a place where academics seemingly let their hair down and critics take a step up.

Although don’t let that description deceive you, things are taken deadly seriously and there are often spats in the letters pages and really serious ethical questions are discussed, and reputations are at stake. In contrast to a lot of academic writing, articles in the LRB are almost always pleasurable and well written—or well edited perhaps?

In part the LRB provided us with the model of a tone for the JoCA, as I’d noticed that my academic friends were beginning to twist their interests and thence their voices somewhat out of shape in pursuit of research funding, often leaving unfinished pieces of writing that they loved.

In contrast, the JoCA is a home for enthusiasms. The LRB bookshop and its cafe also host an excellent series of events close the the British Museum, creating a kind of extended independent institutional cultural field... like a nightclub for grown ups!?

I also enjoy The New Yorker, particularly their cartoons, and irregularly read The New Statesman and the AA Files, which used to be brilliant when Tom Weaver was the editor. We also buy quite a few of the Spanish architecture magazine-monographs such as 2G and El Croquis, which offered us a window onto exemplary imaginative work as younger architects, something to aspire to.


Magazine cover with blue duotine image of a modernist apartment block and trees

Describe JoCA in three words
Time to Reflect.


What do you mean by ‘Civic Architecture’?
Architecture that is oriented towards city life, towards celebrating all aspects of civic culture, bodily and also worldly.


Is there a single building that is a key reference for JoCA?
Alvar Aalto’s city block renewal in Helsinki that includes offices and shops, a apartment block and a large university bookshop keeps cropping up in my talks and project presentations. It’s pretty much our ideal I think, relatively laconic, background architecture attuned to the scale and manner of its neighbours, whilst clearly playing it’s own tune, somehow simultaneously attuned to others’.

I also love the work of the Porto architect Alvaro Siza, in particular his two swimming pools outside the city, his tea house on the coast, and the school of architecture that he designed for the university, and the Serralves Institute art gallery in Porto.

Claudia and I first visited these 25 years ago and have returned regularly with students and colleagues. He's the greatest architect alive I think.

I’ve just visited some buildings by Donovan and Hill in Brisbane, which blew me away. Their D House is possibly the best house I’ve ever visited—a sun-tropical civic space for modern living. The owner-client Geraldine Cleary created a kind of luxury commune, a feminist-cloister for the ‘alternative’ scene in Brisbane, ecologically and socially sustainable modern architecture twenty years before we've begun to talk about these things. It’s a masterpiece. Vokes and Peter’s work is also exemplary and thoughtful and gorgeous.


How does the Journal relate to/reflect your book publishing programme?
We’re interested in shining a light on lost or somewhat obscure examples of slightly forgotten Late Modernist architecture and landscapes, and the journal publishes scholarly essays and photo essays on this, as well as contemporary projects that celebrate city life, as well as poetry and photography concerned with civic culture, more or less.

This reflects and brings together the three strands of book projects make up the individual constituent parts of the publishing house, ie photography books, architecture books and poetry and theory books. 


Magazine spread, left opage pale yellow, right page white, with images and text


One element of the Journal that stands out is its imagery, both new and archive. How do you research this?
The Journal is designed by Emma Kalkhoven who studied fine art as well as graphics at Chelsea and then St Martin’s. She’s has a very acutely tuned eye and is responsive not only for layouts but also sometimes for sourcing imagery for the journal.


Magazine spread, left page orange, right page white, with various images disaplyed: photographs and plans


We try to show both original drawings and photography as well as new work. The aim is to make something that is beautiful in itself, but also to create a strongly congruent relationship between words and images, but not simply to illustrate points of an argument; instead, to create an experience that works at different speeds, allowing the reader to browse and to find this pleasurable, as well as offering the possibilities for deeper dives into essays and thence into footnotes too.


Black-finished buildings alongside large lake

Layers of experience I guess, orchestrated in a satisfyingly uncanny manner!


What one piece of advice would you offer somebody wanting to launch their own publication?
Involve very talented people in conversations and let these develop into a community.


What are you most looking forward to this coming week?
Seeing the bay and the Sydney Opera House, and then seeing my family and our dog!


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