Jeremy Schipper’s interests are a bit all over the place. He likes gardening, baking, building and, of course, design. As a freelance architectural designer and writer from Toronto, Jeremy has the opportunity to stretch and flex his variety of interests. He also lives half of the year at a queer artist commune in Northern California called Salmon Creek Farm, a place which also allows him to develop these interests.
Having studied film theory and English in Montreal, Jeremy is certainly someone with eclectic talents, and this is one of these reasons that he decided to establish his own publication, Room Journal. Each issue focuses on “a different distinguishable room and challenges its boundaries and demarcations,” explains Jeremy, “both material and immaterial.” And so the first issue centres on the one room in the house where there is nowhere else quite like it, the bathroom.
Room Journal’s conception takes us back to a time before Jeremy started architecture school. He was living in Toronto and working for Monocle and its sister creative agency Winkreative. He recalls, “I was so incredibly jealous of the role of the designers’ there, and decided that I wanted to start making design instead of writing about it or facilitating it.” However, once he started his path in design, the ‘grass is always greener on the other side’ mentality kicked in, and he began to miss certain aspects of being a writer. More specifically, he missed asking big questions and thinking about the bigger picture.
That being said, architecture fills a very big spot for Jeremy. Interestingly, he likens it to RuPaul’s Drag Race, a show he came to only recently (“I’m incredibly late to the game”) and is currently knee-deep in multiple seasons of the US and UK versions. On this unusual likening, Jeremy explains, “I feel that, and please bear with me here, architecture can sometimes feel a little like drag. I like that depending on the day and my mood, I get to dress up and perform the role of designer, artist, engineer, editor, screenwriter, salesperson, therapist… the list goes on.” Aptly, he goes on to say, “We’re all born naked and the rest is architecture.”
At architecture school, he ended up conceptualising Room Journal with two other students, Jérémie Dussault-Lefebvre and Sébastien Roy. Together, and with the help of a dear friend and editorial assistant Olivia Bull, the collaborators successfully won funding from The University of British Columbia’s School of Architecture to make Room Journal a reality. Determined to contribute something unique to the architecture publishing landscape, the three founders leaned into a “print fetish” to create something with a physical feel and flow like only a glossy publication can.
“We started with the space of the bathroom because we thought it was the easiest and most urgently accessible way to prove the point we are making about architecture,” explains Jeremy. That point being that “the room is deceptively simple but is made up, quite literally, of an unknowable amount of complex connections to the outside world, often with colossally immense effects.” In the case of the bathroom, physical and literal lines are crossed, from human excrement leaving the body to the actual scale of the room. Featuring a variety of different roles that go into an architecture practice from contractors, curators, historians, landscape designers, furniture makers and artists, Room Journal aims to reflect what the field of architecture actually is and what it can do.
Putting an open call out for submissions is always risky, as you never know for certain what you’ll get. But for Jeremy and his collaborators, it was the right risk to take. Its first submission was the result of a cold call with Welsh filmmaker Peter Greenaway. “To my total surprise he not only answered immediately but was immensely generous and cooperative in workshopping a piece for the journal,” says the publication’s founder. The acclaimed filmmaker’s piece consists of an alphabetically structured narration, plus a rewrite of his 1985 film titled Inside Rooms: 26 Bathrooms, London & Oxfordshire. It features 26 bathrooms including David Hockney’s and Czech architects Eva Jiřičná’s. “Speaking to, and working with Peter is what made this publication real years before it ever actually was,” adds Jeremy.
Elsewhere in the journal is a conversation between architectural historian at the Bartlett School of Architecture, Barbara Penner and Joel Sanders, who wrote a “personal bible of [Jeremy’s]”, Stud: Architectures of Masculinity in 1996. The study delves into his project Stalled! which addresses controversies around transgender people’s access to public restrooms in the US from the perspective of architecture and design. The latter being an essay which demonstrates why Jeremy has spent years of his life “happily researching bathroom history and design.”
In another significant interview, Jeremy fulfilled another “dream come true” by interviewing Leonard Koren, the LA-based UCLA architecture drop-out who later founded Wet: The Magazine of Gourmet Bathing in 1976. Jeremy first came across Wet serendipitously at a rare book sale. After being enticed by a dishy cover photo of 70s Richard Gere, he remembers, “What I found inside was perhaps the most thrilling and memorably experience I’ve ever had with a print journal to this day.” He found a print treasure containing a myriad of art, illustration and interviews with the likes of Debbie Harry to Matt Groening (The Simpson’s creator's first gig!). A “completely ridiculous and punk, over-the-top publication, Room Journal’s interview with Koren was a “surreal, thrilling and humbling” experience. “I hope that at least some of this rubbed off on the article,” he adds.
Designed by Vancouver-based design studio Post Projects, the journal boasts a playful, loose and colourful visual system, a stark contrast to the monochrome minimalism usually associated with architectural print. Using colour and shape to manipulate the frame, the studio – which has a tendency to take a simple idea and execute it in a not-so-obvious way – wanted to add a kind of architecture to the page itself. Alex Nelson, a partner at Post Projects, adds on the project: “Throughout the publication, we created a variety of framing elements that serve as a means to distinguish one article from the next.” And throughout the design process, some questions remained key: “Where or what are the limits of creating a limit around a thing? Or, more obviously put, how do we make a room?”
Issue two of Room Journal focusing on the kitchen is simmering as we speak.
GalleryRoom Journal Issue 1 (Copyright © Room Journal, 2021)
Room Journal Issue 1 (Copyright © Room Journal, 2021)
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.