Publisher with a cause
Andreas Papadakis was initially attracted to architecture 'because it had all the right ingredients - a mix of the arts and sciences in the best Classical tradition. After all, I am a Greek'. Thirty years after he first began publishing architectural books, Papadakis is back with a new imprint and a new magazine, New Architecture. Papadakis's aim is 'to promote pride and joy in good architecture', with particular emphasis on its broadly cultural and intellectual context. 'People in Britain are still resistant to the idea of architectural theory,' he says. 'For me, ideas are vital to architecture.'.
Andreas Papadakis was born in Nicosia, Cyprus, moving to London as a young man in the mid-1950s. His doctorate in physics and mathematics at Imperial College was followed by further research, but Papadakis was fascinated by the idea of publishing. Having resolved to specialise in architecture, art and design - because it looked a commercially promising field - he launched his enterprise, which became Academy Editions, in 1968. He soon established a reputation for producing large-format, colourful, good-value paperbacks.
He bought up the well-respected Tiranti list and acquired a bookshop. Then came ad. The magazine was being edited by Monica Pidgeon, 'a brilliant editor, with a knack for recruiting excellent staff'. It had been originally founded for the 'gentleman architect', but by the 1960s was a highly regarded feature of the world architectural scene. 'Unfortunately, it made no money at all,' says Papadakis. The magazine was heading for closure, he says, when he acquired it in the early 1970s, believing that 'books are rather passive, a magazine means active involvement'.
Gradually, Papadakis became ever more involved with ad. Monica Pidgeon having left before the magazine changed hands, he assumed a supervisory editorial role. By the 1980s, ad was publishing an extraordinary variety of work - the Post-Modernism of Venturi, Graves and Stirling, the stricter Classicism of Quinlan Terry (ad mounted the first exhibition of Terry's work) and Leon Krier, and, in due course, the architecture of the Deconstructivist school. There were strong links with the us and with figures like Peter Eisenman and Kenneth Frampton. There was also Charles Jencks. The American architect and critic became the star of the Academy Editions list and the prophet of Post-Modernism.
'Post-Modernism was a matter of reconnecting architecture to the people,' says Papadakis. 'The work of Venturi, Stirling and others shook up established ideas. I've got no patience with the pseudo-morality of the Modernists - look what they did to our cities!' Nonetheless, Papadakis is adamant that he never sought to promote Post-Modernism or any other style. (It was Academy, he points out, which published the first monograph on Richard Rogers.) 'Out of around 1000 books I've published, maybe 20 are about Post-Modernism,' he insists. When Academy organised a debate on 'The Prince of Wales: for and against', it was 'two-sided, non-partisan'.
The most recent of Papadakis's books is, however, a tract by Leon Krier, fulsomely dedicated to the Prince. Papadakis has plenty of sympathy for the Classicists - 'as a Greek, I am very aware of Classical civilisation. Classical architecture has lasted 2500 years - modern architecture extends back only 90 years'. But he wants to present the best work of every school. 'I'm a publisher. I don't promote or exclude; I present. It's up to the readers to form a view.' As evidence of his inclusive approach - not pluralism, 'potentially a dismal soup of disparate styles' - Papadakis cites the membership of his new editorial board. Nobody could accuse Tadao Ando, Michael Graves, Jean Nouvel, Daniel Libeskind and Demetri Porphyrios of constituting a single-minded orthodoxy. Only Papadakis, it's safe to say, could bring them together. But then he enjoys being provocative and backing the new and extreme.
One of the fruits of Papadakis's time at Academy - he sold the company to the German vch group, departing 'abruptly' as managing director a few years ago after falling out with the new owner - was the prestigious Academy Forum, which continues to organise regular symposia and an annual architecture lecture at the Royal Academy. Papadakis is now recruiting a new forum - 'a champion for the cause of architecture'. Having overcome a lifelong fear of flying, he has been jetting around the world lately and plans an issue of New Architecture devoted to Japan - 'very interesting at the moment, with architects who think'. Since his departure from Academy, Papadakis has been far from idle, founding a Hellenic Institute at Royal Holloway College and lecturing widely.
Perhaps it is Papadakis's determination to goad the old moderns (who saw Deconstruction as a frivolous perversity) which cost him an honorary fellowship of the riba. (He was proposed, but his name did not go forward.) He insists honours do not interest him at all, yet it seems extraordinary that someone who was the principal promoter in Britain of serious debate about architecture for several decades has been so cold-shouldered. Perhaps it is the idea of a businessman who actually cares passionately about a cause which the British find unintelligible and rather worrying.