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Spazio e Societa / Space and Society, 1978-2000


This is not so much a review as an obituary - Space and Society , the quarterly bilingual journal, directed from the start by Giancarlo De Carlo, has died with the publication of its issue number 92, writes John McKean.

Starting as it meant to go on, number one, back in January 1978, had ranged from Jimmy Carter's proposed neutron bomb and the problems of Seveso, Italy (the town poisoned by a chemical plant explosion) to self-build and the limits of professional practice (in contributions from John Turner, N J Habraken and Edward Robbins). It also included a piece on neo-colonial architecture, and a major essay by Alison and Peter Smithson, 'La Qualita dell'ambiente/Quality of Place'.

While always topical, it kept pressing for a wider view of architecture.

Its only raison d'etre was the attempt to discuss architectural and urban space in a rather different way from its contemporaries, journals which De Carlo described recently as either under the sway of the industry's advertisers, or disciples clustered round famous architects.Such unfashionable resistance, however, could not sustain a large, pictorial magazine. It was a miracle that it lasted for as long as 23 years. Remaining stubbornly independent, it never achieved wide circulation; but, also, by never promoting an architectural line, not stooping to publish the editor's own architecture, it always offered unexpected nourishment.How different in this respect De Carlo has been from Vittorio Gregotti, most recently in charge at Casabella , the journal where half a century ago the two of them worked together under Ernesto Rogers - De Carlo as the ideas man, Gregotti as graphic designer.

Almost always, the short editorials were the magazine's best part. For De Carlo, the intellectual who never produced a theoretical book, this became his chosen medium. Even his being struck by a near-fatal illness early last year didn't stop production - indeed his editorial in number 91 is an extraordinary and moving meditation on viewing the city from below, seen from stretcher and ambulance. Lacking this rare, questioning intelligence in architectural journalism will leave us poorer.

John McKean is professor at Brighton School of Architecture

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