When it comes to buying general-interest magazines, which usually happens spontaneously at a station kiosk, there are a few things that matter: the cover has to appeal, the format should be sound, and a quick flick through it should give the impression that it's got an hour's reading in it. So not too many ads. The price then determines whether it's worth the expense, and a moment's thought is all we need to decide whether to buy or not.
And so there I stood with A10 in my hands, while my eyes scanned the other magazine covers in the arts section. Of course I did buy it - debutantes in this sector are such a rarity - but it could just as well have been an impulse purchase. For A10 hits the mark: it looks and feels good, the lay-out is clear and well organised, the handy size is ideal for commuters, and the headlines are catchy (Circus Rem). What's more, the division into six newsworthy sections accommodates the reader who's pressed for time. All in all, A10 is a real magazine, even in terms of its temporary character. You simply throw it away once you've read it, for the next issue will hit the newsstands soon.
The English-language A10 (print run 25,000) concentrates on European architecture, and targets European architects. It expressly covers architects who aren't among the 'global superstars' who hog the international media limelight. A glance at the contents and you have to agree: very few of the projects featured had I seen before in other magazines, and there were even a few architects I'd never heard of before. One amusing detail is that the first two photos in the magazine feature work by Frank Gehry and Rem Koolhaas, while the last picture shows a project by Jean Nouvel. Superstars as packaging? Let's put it down to chance: all the architecture in between is a lot less 'mainstream'. Among the six sections are 'Ready' (just completed) and 'Interview' (a very readable report of a lively discussion between Wouter Vanstiphout and Sam Jacobs of FAT).
The best thing about the magazine is the European angle. We're treated to buildings from Nanterre, Tallinn, Luxembourg, Asperhofen and Winterthur, designed by architecture offices like Ibos & Vitart, Peter Märkli, F.R. Martins, deadline (great name!), OÜ Head Architektid, Steinmetz & De Meyer, a.s.*, PLOT Arkitekter and Dürig & Rämi. I've listed all offices from the 'Ready' section on purpose, just so you can test your knowledge of architects. Anyone recognise all nine names? Not a soul I imagine. This is a direct consequence of the choice of editor-in-chief Hans Ibelings to work with correspondents in most European countries - except Britain it would appear. And that network seems to be in order. A10 intends to showcase the architectural richness of Europe, and a possible side-effect is that the correspondents themselves might be setting trends. Tallinn as 'the next Bilbao'?
I envisage another effect that shouldn't be discounted. All around Europe there are clients putting construction projects out to tender in the hope of attracting new names. After all, clients need to discover new talent if they want to be 'different', and to consolidate or improve their competitive ranking among cities. As far as I'm concerned, the Hungarian duo Fazakas and Viguier can start work right away on the Zuidas in Amsterdam.
If A10 does have such an impact, Europe will soon start looking increasingly European from the street. And that would be fantastic. Thanks to Hollywood, Microsoft and Time-Warner we have traded in our European identity - as expressed during the twentieth century in the books of Musil, Kafka, Vogel, Mann and Joyce, and as now experienced in Prague, Vienna and Berlin - for Americanism disguised as globalisation, and the SOMbre architecture that accompanies it. For that reason alone I wish A10 a long and healthy and trend-setting and sensational existence.