Back Issues It’s time to follow Annie Choi’s example and revive the lost art of the open letter to readers, says Steve Parnell
The marginalia of journals, letters pages in particular, are often more revealing than the features and columns, and expose the real vitality of the times. Just like Columbo’s ‘one more thing’ moment, they are the point at which the viewer sees whodunnit. As one Adrian Jones of London wrote in the Architectural Design of February 1972: ‘Sir, your magazine is becoming a big internal postal system going from Peter Cook to Warren Chalk to Cedric Price to God knows who else.’
Stirling was no writer, but neither was he a stranger to letters to the press. In a famous exchange in the Architectural Association Quarterly between Jul/Sep 1972 and Jan/Mar 1973, he fell out with Charles Jencks over the metaphor of his latest building. ‘Jencks is all balls,’ Stirling writes, ‘if he thinks the St. Andrews Residence was designed to look like a ship, any more than a crotch.’ Then, between June and December 1974, Stirling had a slightly more restrained rally with ex-partner James Gowan in the Architectural Design, Architectural Review, RIBA Journal and the AJ over the attribution of drawings (or lack thereof) in the James Stirling exhibition at the RIBA Drawings Collection.