“TWENTY YEARS FROM NOW YOU WILL BE MORE DISAPPOINTED
BY THE THINGS YOU DIDN’T DO THAN BY THE ONES YOU DID.”
— MARK TWAIN
From March of 1995 when the first issue hit the stall, to March of 2016, it has been 21 good years for art4d. We continue our journey during what many describe as a transitional time for the magazine industry, not only in Thailand, but the world. We have heard the news of many publications discontinuing their print versions while several are permanently closing down. Some adapt to the digital platform, some reduce the size for the sake of cost reduction and many try to catch up with the trends by becoming a free copy. art4d has gone through a great deal of changes in the past two decades, both minor and major. This year, it’s time for another change, but not because of the evolving global industry, but the desire to embrace a greater flow of energy. While other magazines explore the topics of their interests with news and knowledge in sports, technology, automobiles, medicine, films, travel and health, art4d’s content encompasses architecture, design and art. It seems niche but incredibly expansive at the same time with overlaps between disciplines and unfathomable connections with other social issues. In our view, there’s great potential in the market, still, just like in the architecture, design and contemporary art industries and their continually expanding premises.
IT’S ALL ABOUT ATTITUDE
When first released, art4d may have been remembered for its comparatively larger format than most magazines. This latest issue is the first time for the magazine to be downsized, physically. In reality, art4d revolves itself around ideas and attitudes towards creative professionals be they architecture, design disciplines or contemporary art. There have been occasions for special issues where we invite our friends and acquaintances to bring in new perspectives, something different from what we normally do for our regular issues. And as a creator of the magazine, designing special issues always feels like a nice reboot. It gives everyone such incredible energy to come up with something even better for the next issues. Rachaporn Choochuey recollects the time when she collaborated with art4d.
“It was in the early 2000s. The issue, ‘Made in Euro,’ was our attempt to capture the lesser known, more creative and young architects in Europe of the time. Under the conditions of the slower growing economy, the population started to decline and architects did not have much to do with making new buildings. They turned to question their physical environments by making these projects as a question, not an answer. The issue’s cover featured the burning barns of Rintala Eggertsson Architects in Finland, a project commenting on the desertification of the Finnish countryside, representing the sentiments and energy of the young architects of Europe. A number of projects in the issue also showed the spirit of experimental architecture fusing with installation art and the situationist idea at a time before the proliferation of digital tools and Internet media, when actual action and experience were still mandatory.”
Essentially, art4d does not refer to its ‘medium’ in the form of a magazine as we position ourselves as a ‘content provider’ through digital platforms and activities of different scales that we are involved with. Opportunities come in diverse forms, whether they are international lectures by globally reputable architects, designers and artists we have hosted, or design competitions, film sessions, the Bangkok Design Festival we have been a part of since 2007, or our booth at the Architect Expo that has invited collaborations from architects and creative contributors to do something fun and special for the occasion.
“We had already made cookies and belts to be sold in previous art4d booths. That was a lot of fun, but we worried that people were going to the ASA fair to choose ordinary building products from big boring suppliers, and leaving with the impression that interesting, youngish architects were just making toys and fashion accessories. We wanted architects to make architecture! So we came up with an idea to put the bookstore/café on an elevated platform, and ask others to make stairs and ladders to get to it. Weeks before the fair, we were scared – would any of these stairs be usable? We added a big stair on the back as a fail-safe. It turns out that there was a wide range of ergonomic usability among the designer stairs, and no serious injuries. Amazingly, we saw a few visitors trying to decide which sort of stairs they should buy!” said thingsmatter, an architectural studio who collaborated with art4d on the creation of the art4d booth at ASA 2006 under the theme ‘Ladder Lounge.’
Photography has always been a big part of art4d’s identity from day one. We have worked with many talented photographers and Pirak Anurakyaowachon is one of our long-time photography editors. Here, Anurakyaowachon shares his memories on the evolution of art4d’s photography.
“When I was still working as a member of the editorial team, if someone asked me about the ‘photography’ that we used in the articles, I would usually tell them about Skyline Studio and their works and of course the magazine ads for a doorknob brand that was run in art4d issue 2 (April, 1995) as a side dish. Personally, I think it’s the kind of work that explains the fundamental concept of how art4d uses its ‘photographs.’ It was a simple layout of letters and overlap of images but the process of the making required a great deal of meticulousness. We had to use two pieces of paper to convey different senses of touch. The first one was a stencil paper with an image of a human hand printed on it while the other was an art paper with the doorknob. Whenever I flipped through the magazine and found this ad, I always turned the stencil paper back and forth and it would create these motions of a hand reaching out to open a door. It’s a very dimensional and dynamic piece with realistic proportion because at the time, the size of the magazine was almost as big as A3.
“The photographs we used with the articles in the first five years were the works of Somkid and Oranuch Paimpiyachat, the founders of Skyline Studio, which was the first and only architectural photography studio in Thailand at the time. These photographs were captured from the point of view of an architect who had such a great understanding of the characteristics of the buildings in front of him. There were these intricate details of graphic design and very well-organized compositions. I believe that the most memorable pieces were all the images that made the covers of art4d, but my personal favorites are the photographs for the TU Delft Library article in Holland designed by Mecanoo (art4d issue 48), mainly because it was the first article I wrote for art4d. It was actually this series of photographs that made me realize how great he was and how different our levels were considering the fact that we were both there taking pictures of the same building.
“In the five years that the magazine had Skyline as its photography editor, the ‘Skyline’ signature was adopted by three photographers, Wison Tungthunya, Teerawat Winyarat and Pruk Dejkamhang. They were the assistant photographers in the team who learned the art and craft directly from Somkid and Oranuch. In this particular period, the photographs were more emotional, which were the results of dramatic camera angles, use of light and shadow and material characteristics in the compositions or even film processing techniques that gave captivating and memorable end results. The three are still working as architectural photography in the design industry and their own fields of expertise.
“2005-2006 was the time when Skyline was planning to end its operations and open what would later be known as FULLSTOP publishing house. They passed on the role of art4d’s photography editor to Spaceshift which had Aranyarat Prathomrat and I as the founders. We learned how to become architectural photographers from Skyline through apprenticeship, watching how they roll. We tried so hard to be like Skyline but it didn’t take us long to realize that we could never be where they were no matter how hard we tried. With that it mind, we looked back at what we had done, trying to find our own ‘Spaceship’ traits. Every time before pressing the shutter, we look at the architecture the way an architect is supposed to look at it, and we set up the camera at the angles that a good photographer would use, we brainstorm reasons for why we would photograph what’s in front of us. Despite the end of our collaboration, we are forever thankful for art4d.
“In late 2013, Ketsiree Wongwan, Thailand’s only female architectural photographer took over the role of art4d’s photography editor. It’s true that Wongwan did a brief internship with Spaceship before she graduated but we don’t think she was influenced that much by us because her training took place in an entirely different atmosphere. With unlimited exchanges and resources of knowledge, millions of works by the masters are at the tips of the fingers. Wongwan and tens of other new generation architectural photographers are learning the art and craft, collectively contributing new possibilities to architectural photography in Thailand. Follow Wongwan’s photographic direction in the future issues of art4d.”
COLLECTIBLE ART DIRECTION
In the early days, the format was more picture-oriented storytelling with considerably less text with dramatic headlines. The font was used very aggressively to capture readers’ attention as they gradually flipped through the pages to other things we had to offer. Time passes, the magazine grows as well as the readers, and the artistic compositions become more mature. Today, with the blogger culture and its influence on people’s ways of life, art4d has employed several artistic compositions from digital media. The new era of art4d is the hybrid between digital flamboyance and humanistic simplicity as the latest issue will be another monumental change in the magazine’s continuing chronology.
“Around mid-August of last year, during the gloomy situation surrounding publishing media and design magazines in particular, I was asked to take a look at what should be done in order to refresh art4d magazine,” described Narong Othavorn, one of the editors behind the current redesign. “It took but a minute to ring Piyapong Bhumichitra, a talented graphic designer who has worked with art4d as a design director for many years and contributed several legendary cover designs and Tunyaporn Hongtong, whose one year of working at art4d was enough for her to comprehend the nature and problems within our magazine. We were like guns and pistols shooting at the same target four years ago when working there together, all of which confirmed my idea of forming a 3-editor team to take on the task while deeming the notion of a one-manshow obsolete.
“We started to brainstorm right away while keeping one solid concept first and foremost in mind – not to demolish the whole legacy but rather to investigate and eliminate anything superfluous or outdated. We redesigned the masthead, resized the format to be a bit shorter and added a thicker cover paper to help the magazine stay in shape. The layout was redesigned with a shorter but heartier text more relevant to the new photo direction that focuses on projecting the designs themselves, the architecture and the surrounding situations. No more obsession with banal artistic compositions or dinosaur techniques. The featured works will be carefully selected to support the central idea, the relationship between design and people, and presented in straightforward categories. We also invited some acclaimed writers from other fields to contribute to our brandnew one page column called ‘Opinion.’
“After all, these directions are based on the notions developed over the past 21 years of art4d, allowing for it to take on the role of a sophisticated, mature designer with simple but efficient thoughts and wisdom ready to be shared in an attractive and compelling manner. This is what it takes for a magazine to add that value akin to collectible art to a publication, giving it what it takes to continually draw people in and cause them to stop by the newsstand when reading can happen anytime, simply in the palm of one’s hand.”
It’s the intention of the ‘redesign’ team to make the new version of art4d more visually comfortable, easily digestible and mature. We will be looking at the feedback over the long run, and surely there are still other changes that new conditions and factors will bring, but they are all parts of our ‘evolution.’ We all know that there are three important elements in the magazine business: creator, readers and sponsors. All three need to understand not only their own nature, but also the others, including their roles and responsibilities that will ultimately contribute to new developments. There’s a saying that ‘there is no such thing as coincidence and people meet for a reason.’ But no matter what the reason may be, we are thankful for having met you all. There is a lot more to come for all of us, what we will be doing, in the future, together…