Delivered by Stack, April 2016:Real Review

The gig economy, crossfit sweatbox gyms, caffeine as a capitalist drug — Real Review is an examination of what it means to live today. With a starting point in architecture, it dissects the fabric with which the modern life is built. We love it for its unique fold down the middle.

Name
Jack Self

Job title
Editor-in-Chief

What is Real Review?
A magazine dedicated to “what it means to live today” – Real Review is a quarterly publication based in architecture and spatial practice, but whose remit is really trying to come to terms with the contemporary. We particularly want to understand how the design of space creates and enforces certain power relationships. This can be both at immensely complex scales (the impact of Uber’s algorithm on our use of the city) to very banal and everyday situations (how round dinner tables destroy patriarchy by removing the “head” of the household).

What makes it different to the rest?
At the most superficial level, Real Review is the first magazine to use a vertical fold as a design element. The effect is to create a three-dimensional space of the page, and a constantly changing relationship between image and text. What I really like about this design is that it takes something really standard and common – the machine used to make horizontal folds in newspapers – and through a single simple move creates a completely new situation. That gives me a lot of hope about design generally. Even when you think there is no room for innovation of a model, even a very small change can radically alter the outcome.

Who makes Real Review?
Real Review is published by a cultural institute, REAL foundation and art directed by a design agency OK-RM. This creative partnership has been really important for blurring institutional boundaries, as we operate on the fringes of art, design, fashion, but also architecture, economics and politics.

Who reads it?
To our great surprise about a third of our readers are from the world of fashion – it was surreal when a VP at Condé Nast subscribed last month and we sent copies to New York’s new World Trade Centre 1… About a quarter of readers are from architecture, and the remainder are predominantly designers of other ilk (graphic, product, industrial, etc).

Why do you work in magazines?
Magazines are like real estate. They have a cost per square foot. They have a finite area. This means you can create a consistent and complete editorial position with each issue – basically a series of rolling manifestos. The magazine, unlike the book or the website, has an ephemeral quality tied up in its physicality. The question of completeness, frequency and timeliness can only be addressed through magazines.

Aside from the print magazine, what else are you involved in?
I direct the REAL foundation, an architectural agency and cultural institute based in London. We promote economic and spatial equality across a broad range of activities – from publishing and Real Review to architectural works and alternative models of ownership in housing.

What would you change about Real Review if you could?
There is nothing about the editorial agenda or design framework that requires change – as an experiment in what a magazine can be in the 21st century, we are very happy with its direction so far. Nonetheless, it’s really important to keep pushing the limits of its own format, to continuously develop conceptual, aesthetic and other concerns. Otherwise you end up with a static magazine whose only variation from issue to issue is the subject matter.

Where do you see Real Review in five years?
If our current growth continues, we will be the largest architectural magazine by circulation in the UK by the end of 2017. That means we will be in a strong position to shift the cultural discourse, and raise questions about the political, economic and social role of architecture to a broad audience.

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