I really used to love getting Dwell magazine but now …ehh. When I hear the beeping of the magazine truck backing up to our office to unload the 5 metric tons of magazines that we get, I still look forward to getting my hands on Dwell, but not for the same reasons as before. The projects have become so silly that it is bordering on irrelevant. Sorry folks, but Dwell has jumped the shark.
I like modern residences probably more than your average person; I have hundreds of books on modern architecture, I know the rules, I understand it’s objectives, and I get to design and build modern architecture. But none of my projects will ever get in Dwell magazine because:
- they aren’t 700 square feet (or less),
- they aren’t made from recycled wood pallets,
- and I don’t use shipping containers
Bottom line, my projects are too practical and normal. Please don’t mistake my observation as sour grapes, rather as a primer for a conversation about relevancy. When I receive my issue of Dwell at the office, the projects are becoming so extreme and fringe that they have little practical application to the readers. I look through the projects searching for the handfull of details that are clever and exciting. You can find them, you just have to get past the ridiculous bits.
An on-going storyline appears to be what’s the smallest modern house we can find. Without much trouble, and with about 5 minutes of looking, I found three issues to illustrate my point;
- Jan/Feb 2005 issue – Small is the new big: Homes under 2,200 Sq. Ft.
- May 2006 issue – Think Small: Homes under 1,700 Sq. Ft.
- March 2008 issue – Small Wonders: Homes under 1,000 Sq. Ft.
These were the on the cover page, who knows how many more stories there were on even smaller houses? Even in this months issue (June 2010) you can find the following article and caption -
‘Mind the Gap: On an eight-foot-wide site in London, architect Luke Tozer cleverly squeezed in a four-storey home equipped with rain-water-harvesting and geothermal systems’
Ooooh…that’s a double whammy – 8 foot wide and sustainable. Awesome….and so obvious.
I’m not really sure why the magazine is searching for examples of projects that their readers can’t don’t need to appreciate. It seemed to me that Dwell originally was a magazine that supported the exposure and promotion of modernity. Modern houses were highlighted between the covers and the ads exposed the readers to the resources and vendors that were available. And as a result, people could wishfully imagine their lifestyle onto the projects. As modernism became more mainstream, Dwell seemed to lose it’s way and started to focus it’s attention on a lifestyle suppported by the consumerism of modernity. Gone are the articles that explained and educated the masses on the modern style – now replaced by tragically hip dual income metrosexuals and photos full of bizarre and self-important props. With the rise in popularity of the Unhappy Hipsters, it’s no doubt (despite being such low-hanging fruit) why it’s so much fun to poke fun of the photos.
According to Foliomag.com, Dwell saw ad dollars plummet 43.4 percent and ad pages decrease 46.4 percent in the first half of ’09 versus the same period in 2008 – something to which the recession undoubtly contributed. We have already seen other once-popular shelter magazine’s disappear (Metropolitan Home, In Style Home, Blueprint, Home, Cottage Living, Country Home, and Domino).
Yes, advertising dollars steer the magazine – I know this – but the bumbling around trying to find new sources for missing ad revenue has turned Dwell into a carnival freak show of projects and I’m kinda sad about it.
When I was looking up some information, I stumbled upon this article in the Washington Post about the demise of shelter magazines due to the lack of advertising dollars in the middle to lower markets – the demographic Dwell seemed to originally target 6 years ago.