“The verb ‘take shape’ describes something taking a form that didn’t previously have one. It’s equally used to describe intangible ideas and concrete things. It occupies a grey area linguistically—it’s kind of idiomatic and kind of literal,” says the team behind new architecture publication Take Shape. Spearheaded by editors Nolan Boomer and Julia Goodman who worked alongside editor Cole Cataneo and Sean Suchara – who was in charge of the magazine’s layout – they have created a magazine sits at the intersection of architecture, law and politics.
Julia and Nolan met in high school but by the time they began working on Take Shape, Nolan was working as an editor at an architectural press and Julia was a legal reporter. “There aren’t many places where those ways of thinking overlap, and we wanted to bring them together to create something informed by both artistic and political methods of information-gathering,” they explain.
The magazine seeks to imagine and then initiate change in the fields of community-building and urban design. Take Shape, takes the realties of urban design seriously, but it also “sees the fun and facetiousness as key modes for subverting mainstream discourses.” We caught up with the Take Shape team to find out a bit more about the new publication and what we can expect from it.
Why did you decide to create Take Shape – what need is it filling?
There are few other architecture publications that give equal voice to both the users and creators of buildings — an imperative for a more inclusive and nuanced understanding of the built environment. Within architectural publishing there are academic publications by and for the ivory tower, glossy magazines for design insiders, and political zines by individuals. While these all serve important roles, Take Shape aims to unite a broader audience invested in understanding the experiential realities linked to the built environment.
Why did you decide on the theme of the loft for the first issue?
Our idea for the first issue of Take Shape came out of the media and political response to the devastating fire that took place in late 2016 at the Ghost Ship loft space in Oakland, California. There was a lot of fear-mongering about these illegal loft spaces, but that ignores how police responses to these spaces are often to shut them down, to evict people so that they become homeless or have to enter even more precarious living situations.
On the other hand, there was also a lot of talk about how if we tried at all to make these spaces safer, it was going to destroy the artistic community and spaces for creating art. That solution ignores the fact that a lot of people living in lofts are already proactively making their spaces safer, and there are ways for them to do so that don’t involve policing. We wanted to look at these disparate claims being made about lofts and pull them together in a way that wasn’t focused on eliminating contradiction, but simply on creating a fuller understanding of what loft spaces are and how they can become safer.
Tell us more about the content in the first issue and the stories that are included?
This issue features contributions including a satirical proposal to reclaim foreclosed McMansions as spaces of artistic production and a list of DIY safety tips compiled from a document crowdsourced by people living in lofts. There is also several stories from people who have lived and worked in lofts, who write and create art about the difficulties and beauty of their experiences.
There are two interviews, one with video artist Ericka Beckman, who looks back at the importance of collaborative workspaces and self-selected communities. Another interview with Chicago-based organiser Marguerite Horberg describes these wild fashion shows through the streets around her loft space. Both find the preservation of ad hoc spaces to be integral toward community-building, especially for those who aren’t accepted into the mainstream art world for a variety of reasons.
We also have a few longer, reported pieces about the political landscape of lofts in different cities.
Take Shape is already working on the second issue and plan to have a call for submissions out by the end of the year. Continuing its focus on both legal and political definitions of architectural space, while also drawing on personal and community stories of that space, the next issue will focus on commutes.
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor.