Jonathan Solomon ’00 saw a void in the architectural press: Academic journals and consumer publications weren’t addressing the issues that he and other young architects were discussing. So with a group of fellow young architects, Solomon created a new journal, 306090: A Journal of Emergent Architecture + Design, to highlight the projects and ideas that were being ignored in the existing architectural press.

A third-generation architect, Solomon grew up thinking about design and its impact and speaking the language of architecture and design. “I’ve known pretty much since age 6 or so that architecture was something I wanted to do,” he says. “It’s like when you grow up in a household that speaks a second language. I’ve known forever that architecture is the language that I wanted to speak.” After receiving his degree in urban studies with a focus in architecture at Columbia, Solomon continued his studies at Princeton, earning a master’s in architecture.

During Solomon’s second year in his master’s program, he and classmate Jenny Ferng came up with the plan to start a journal that published student work. They wanted it to be more than a house organ for the architecture school, instead conceiving of something that could challenge and criticize the architectural establishment, including their own education. The first issue included the work of several young designers and a conversation with architectural critic Philip Nobel. After Ferng graduated, Solomon took 306090 to New York and incorporated it, bringing on new staff members, including architecture major Emily Abruzzo ’00. Partially funded with grants from the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation and the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, 306090 has a circulation of 2,000.

The first issue was launched with a simultaneous show at the Storefront for Art and Architecture, named “eMeRGenT” as a nod to the journal’s subtitle. A number of subsequent issues also have had a concurrent “eMeRGenT” show, designed as a way for contributors and readers to meet and to see the objects in the journal. The events have given 306090 more exposure and brought new and established designers together.

Solomon, Abruzzo and the other editors strive to create a mix of the new and old, finding fresh ways to look at traditional topics. Architect Michael Sorkin wrote about the possibility of an Olympics in the Bronx, which was followed by the work of five students who had developed models and proposals to put the plan into action. Another article explored Nathaniel Kahn’s documentary, My Architect, about his struggle to understand his father, Louis Kahn. Abruzzo says the editors would like to see more student work, maybe publishing “the very, very good competition entries that get lost when they don’t win.” Solomon is interested in working with “young people who are practicing in offices that nurture and appreciate their work, and also people whose offices are suppressing their work but are doing interesting work on the weekend.”

The theme for the third issue was “Collectives and Manifestoes.” Solomon wants to open a dialogue for architects and designers and exhorts his colleagues to join in. He jokes that his Columbia years were a great preparation, as “the best students are the troublemakers” and the Columbia education “can instill a very strong belief in making waves.” It was this belief in challenging the status quo, combined with his four years of editorial experience at Spectator, that led to the forming of 306090.

Distributed nationally through the Princeton Architectural Press, 306090 is available from bookstores, online booksellers, and from its Web site.

Originally published in Columbia College Today, July 2003

Posted in profiles, Uncategorized, Writing at July 18th, 2009.

200403-04Print.jpgImagine a book that has all the qualities of a prized relic of Chinese history: crisp, beautiful letterpress printing, hand-sewn bindings, careful layout, detailed margin annotations. Now, imagine not being able to read one word of the book, even if you know some Chinese. Your literacy has been supplanted by an odd sensation that the words are floating right there on the edge of your subconsious, on the tip of your tongue.

Even though it has been 16 years since Xu Bing first exhibited Book From the Sky, his monumental, otherworldly work composed entirely of illegible Chinese characters, the piece is still haunting. The work launched the artist’s career and defined the conundrums he would puzzle over in the years to come: How can characters be illegible, yet still Chinese? What are the limits of language? What do words symbolize?

Book From the Sky drew praise from the art and intellectual establishment in late-’80s China, as an idea and a creation. But it also drew sharpcriticism for its shocking reinterpretation of traditional linguistic forms. In the intervening years, public opinion turned in Xu’s favor. Today, the artist is firmly established as a major player in the international art scene, having won a MacArthur “genius grant” in 1999 and appeared in a succession of major exhibitions in the U.S. and in China. In recent years, he has experienced homecoming exhibits in both countries: At the end of 2002, his work was included in the government-sponsored First Guangzhou Triennial and in the Shanghai Biennale-his first shows in China since immigrating to the U.S. in 1990. And this spring, Xu will return with new work to the Elvehjem Museum of Art in Madison, Wisconsin, the venue that held his first solo exhibition in the U.S. a decade ago. For an artist who has said, “I worked for many years to create something that said nothing,” his ways of saying nothing have spoken very powerfully indeed.

Excerpted from the profile that originally appeared on pages 90–95 of the March/April 2004 issue of Print.

Posted in design, profiles, Uncategorized, Writing at July 18th, 2009.

20090718-jake-jen

How people get their daily news is a matter of preference: Some listen to the radio, others prefer newspapers (print or online) or television. But for a younger generation, the morning newsfeed is increasingly coming via blog reading. One influential type of blog (short for Web log) could be called a news and information blog a form of online media updated daily with many short entries, each a few paragraphs, with links to longer articles on other websites and a snappy and opinionated introduction.

Gothamist.com, launched by Jen Chung ’98 and Jake Dobkin ’98 in February 2003, is one of the older and better-known New York blogs. Offering about 15 entries a day, the site, which receives about two million visits per month, or about 58,000 visits per day, features summaries of intriguing stories from major New York papers as well as original reporting and a daily feature interview. Read More…

Posted in profiles, Uncategorized at July 18th, 2009.