Mark, man of the world

Yet another new architecture magazine? Yes, and what a magazine! It’s called Mark, weighs 1.6 kilos, is 32 centimetres long, 240 pages thick – a real glossy.

Riding the waves of success in Dutch Design, various Dutch publishers have launched new architecture magazines primarily aimed at international readers over the past year. The latest to join A10 and Volume in the bookstores is the English-language magazine Mark. Mark boasts lively layout, hip though not overly so, with a whiff of social engagement though without any particular position. It's a magazine you could imagine Lenny Kravitz picking up at the airport or Brad Pitt leaving on his coffee table. Mark is something of an i-D magazine for architecture. Read this and keep up with 'what's hot'. Read? Yes, because even if you're hit by a visual bombardment as soon as you open the mag, there's enough reading pleasure to get you from Amsterdam to New York.

What the editors of this periodical have in mind is a matter of conjecture, given the absence of an editorial. The name of the publication prompts some lame jokes. One report takes the form of a letter and starts with 'Dear Mark'. But the magazine's subtitle, Another Architecture, hints at the editorial ambitions. Representing architecture in a different way is probably a form of 'Another Architecture'. A feature on UN Studio's La Defence office building in Almere, for example, includes photos by architecture photographer Christian Richters and by fashion photographer Viviane Sassen. Both photographers explain their particular way of working. 'Another architecture' would also seem to refer to the shift in focus from the building and its architect (that which is depicted) to the observer (the one who depicts). The author, at any rate, makes his presence clearly felt. A few opening sentences to articles: 'You better stand back, Peter St. John informs me', or: 'My vintage Mustang is about to boil over as it strains up the long, steep incline to the Tejon pass, about 150 kilometres north of LA.' And: 'It's the sunny morning of a lovely spring day in Barcelona. I'm on my way to Cloud 9's office.' The stories are by three different authors. The provider can also be a photographer. OMA's Casa da Musica in Porto is photographed by Charlie Koolhaas (yes, the daughter of) and she tells how she experiences the building from the perspective of photographer.

What else is in Mark? Regular sections of the magazine are Cross section, On the edge with small items on all sorts of subjects, among them urban climbing (young adults who scale walls), the application of sharp colours in and on a Japanese house, chairs designed by the new generation of star architects, trends in façade structures.

In Viewpoint, men of Mark, offices present their design vision. In this issue the chance falls to Spanish outfit Cloud 9. 'We can't let architecture fall behind the times. […] If we can't manage to integrate that kind of virtual dexterity into architecture, we'll lose contact with the younger generation. […] It's up to us to make the physical world just as interesting as the digital world.' And American architect Michael Jantzen talks about cheap and sustainable building: 'playing with silo domes is an example of how I like to create novel shelters that are cost-effective and energy-efficient'.

Long-section, making it contains reports – this issue features stations and monorails, Pyongyang (North Korea) and treehouses – and project reviews. The project reviews do not take the form they usually have in 'ordinary' architecture magazines. Instead, they are spread out on many pages, with drawings (especially plans) and lots of photos. In most cases the reviews were written on the basis of interviews, judging by quotes sprinkled liberally throughout the writing. As a result, the texts are light, though they sometimes acquire a high lifestyle calibre when the author shares with us his state of mind. Features in this first issue of Mark include a sturdily designed brick house in London by Caruso St. John and a very lightweight-looking house in Tokyo by Tekuto architects. Other works of note are the recently completed Agbar tower by Jean Nouvel in Barcelona and the Allianz Arena in Munich by Herzog & de Meuron. The magazine ends with the Service area: browse, buy, build which includes book reviews and information on products.

As this run-down suggests, Mark is a merry medley with plenty of splendid photos and texts that aren't too complicated. It's only the typography that makes it difficult for the reader.