THE ARCHITECTURAL REVIEW COVERS
1960 – 1979
13 OCTOBER - 05 NOVEMBER 2023
34 WIGMORE STREET
The exhibition Celebrated the cover design of The Architectural Review magazine, and featured a selection of 50 front covers chosen by Margaret Howell.
‘The bold creative graphics of The Architectural Review covers from this period are still as strong and exciting today as when first introduced. It is not surprising the magazine has become a collector’s item.’
– MARGARET HOWELL
Founded in 1896 as a magazine ‘for the artist, archaeologist, designer and craftsman’, the Architectural Review was, and continues to be, a hugely influential journal of record for a profession whose methods of exploring and communicating ideas are essentially graphic, through drawings, from sketches to construction details. Steeped in an editorial and design culture that is simultaneously progressive and eclectic, boldly juxtaposing Le Corbusier’s latest building with a travelogue on the ruins of Nineveh or putting Tuscan hill towns next to an analysis of motorway signage.
In its interests and obsessions, the AR combined the inclinations of an amateur with an intellectual’s curiosity for the new, a process that its editors described in 1947 as ‘hacking its own way up the ice-slope of modern experience.’ This also extended to its design. The AR’s typography and layout were a reflection of its paradoxical attitudes and preoccupations, leveraging the full range of graphic and print tools at its disposal - photographs, drawings, sketches, collage, typefaces, inks and paper stocks - to elegantly dissect and disseminate all aspects of architecture.
From the early 1940s, AR editors abandoned the idea of a standard cover format in favour of a new design for each issue, establishing a modus operandi that still persists. Since the magazine was sold by subscription and delivered each month by post, the cover did not have to reflect and maintain a brand identity for the purposes of newsstand display.
In 1960, William Slack joined the AR as its art editor, stamping his creative authority on the magazine for three decades. Known to generations of editors and staff as Bill, he was a designer with a cultured and incisive eye. Architecture is a notoriously difficult subject to convey in two dimensions, but few could claim to be so consistently inventive as Slack. Characterised by a striking modernity and visual richness, his run of issues still transcends its time. That the AR was consistently provocative and pre-eminent in its field was, in no small part, down to Bill Slack.
Deftly choreographed text, images, and drawings were anchored by elegantly proportioned grids and illuminated by adroit use of headline fonts. Schmalfette Grotesk, a bold condensed Swiss typeface designed in the mid-1950s, became a Slack signature. But he regularly went off-piste, selecting fonts to match subject matter, employing, for instance, Victorian display lettering for articles on architectural history.
A single photograph or illustration encapsulated the issue’s key editorial theme. Sometimes this would be a detail of a building, at other times, a more abstract illustration, but always, each cover was carefully contrived to entice the reader’s interest. With no need for a prominent masthead, the magazine title was often almost invisible, although artful variations on the letters A and R formed the basis of numerous typographic based covers. Subscribers never knew what they were going to be confronted with when the AR dropped through their letter boxes, and this radical propensity cemented its enduring appeal and place in history.
A selection of The Architectural Review front covers also forms the content of the Margaret Howell Calendar 2024.
Profits from the sale of the calendar will be donated to Open City.