Actors and Vehicles of Architectural Criticism (1)

Actors of Criticism: How the Editors of AD Magazine shaped Architecture
Stephen Parnell
Newcastle University

From its establishment in 1930, architect John Kendall briefly edited Architectural Design (AD) magazine until his death in 1934 when Frederic Towndrow took over. Towndrow, a now forgotten early modern architect and ardent socialist designed some of the earliest modern houses in Britain. Besides being a practising architect, teacher, broadcaster, and architectural critic for the Observer newspaper, he also found time to edit AD and managed to build it into a respected technical and professional journal and even keep it going through the lean years of the war.
Monica Pidgeon shadowed for Towndrow during the war, and succeeded him as Editor immediately after. Although Pidgeon was not an architect, she held the editorship until 1975, employing a series of talented Technical Editors (all male architects), including Theo Crosby, Ken Frampton, Robin Middleton and Peter Murray. This was the ‘Golden Age’ of AD magazine, when AD overtook even the Architectural Review as the most popular British architectural magazine by introducing the New Brutalism, Archigram, and Cedric Price to the architectural world through the personal networks of these Technical Editors.
When Pidgeon left and the Standard Catalogue Company wanted to sell AD, an awkward ménage à trois between Martin Spring, Haig Beck and Andreas Papadakis was formed to buy it, and then publish it. By 1977, only Papadakis remained. Although a physicist by training, Papadakis maintained a close network of architectural savants, including Léon Krier, Demetri Porphyrios, and Charles Jencks. Between them they named, introduced, and promoted Post-Modern architecture to the world.
Through original archival research, oral histories, and interviews, this paper will depict detailed biographies of these three editors and show how they influenced the shape of architectural practice and culture through their beliefs and network.


Stephen Parnell is a lecturer in architecture at Newcastle University, interested in architectural criticism and journalism, post-war architectural history, the sociology of the architectural profession and the role the media play in it.
His PhD, ‘Architectural Design 1954-1972: the contribution of the architectural magazine to the writing of architectural history’, completed under Peter Blundell-Jones at Sheffield University, won the 2012 RIBA President’s Award for Outstanding PhD Thesis. That year, he also exhibited ‘Architecture Magazines: Playgrounds and Battlegrounds’ in the Padiglione Centrale of the 2012 Venice Biennale. Parnell is currently extending his PhD research to the Post-Modern years thanks to a RIBA Research Trust Award and will soon write a full critical history of AD magazine from 1930 to 1992 and its relationship to architectural culture, history and practice.
Parnell regularly contributes to the architectural press and was shortlisted for the IBP’s Architecture Writer of the Year in 2011 and 2012.

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