Winter 2004

In few words / Manplan 1

The AR’s Manplan is a tactile reminder of a time when magazines lived dangerously

They may have been a circulation disaster, but The Architectural Review’s special ‘Manplan’ issues, which began in 1969, stand as a perverse triumph of editorial conception and design. Like the concrete buildings of the period, the approach was uncompromising. The magazine * (to the horror of some of its senior staff) turned its back on large-format heroic photography of buildings, and embraced a grainy, 35mm black-and-white reportage aesthetic where people were as important as places. The rather lofty aim of the series was to ‘redefine’ architecture and planning for the 1970s: Manplan 1 set out to document ‘frustration’ in British society.

From the AR’s office in Victoria’s Queen Anne’s Gate, editor Tim Rock and designers Michael Reid and Peter Baistow behaved as though they were the British embodiment of Life magazine, driven on by the Review’s Directing Editor and part-owner H. de C. Hastings. The best contemporary photographers were commissioned (Patrick Ward, Ian Berry, Tony Ray-Jones) and an army of photographic printers was kept busy producing 15 x 12 inch black and white prints.

Manplan 1 is a relentless document. It tells its story through pictures, with just a line of Rockwell text marching across each spread and some extended captions. There are full-page pictures, double-page spread pictures and extra-wide gatefold pictures. Small images sit framed in a sea of black. It’s a tactile experience, too: Harrisons, the magazine’s printers, used a special matt-black ink to make the printed photographs look even more dense and dramatic. The Architectural Review’s Manplan 1 is a reminder of a time when magazines lived dangerously.

* See Richard Hollis’s ‘Building a graphic language’, Eye no. 28 vol. 7

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