The monograph is a popular platform for dissemination and debate in the art and design world, yet architectural monographs are often treated with suspicion – viewed more as a self-serving PR exercise. But do monographs actually have a more substantive role within the practice of architecture? This was the backdrop for a discussion entitled ‘Why a Monograph?’ held at Waterstones Piccadilly as part of this year’s London Festival of Architecture. The participants included Jay Merrick, architecture correspondent of The Independent; Simon Henley of Henley Halebrown Rorrison (HHbR); David Grandorge, architectural photographer and Senior Lecturer at London’s CASS; and Ros Diamond of Diamond Architects. The session was chaired by ArchDaily Editor James Taylor-Foster.
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It's common to find an architectural monograph (or three) on an architect's bookshelf. Within the pages of these large, heavy, often expensive tomes lie a formalised portfolio of a studio's professional output, interspersed by essays penned by influential writers, thinkers or practitioners. They are sources of both information and inspiration, bringing architecture from around the world into your personal field of vision.
Recent years have seen a vast number of these types of books published on architects and their practices, begging the question: Why a Monograph? Are they simply part and parcel of a studio's creative process, or necessary tools for communication with the wider world? Perhaps more interestingly, what role does the recording of work in this way have for architects in enabling them to take stock and move forward? It will seek to examine how the print monograph has become a staple tool for self-promotion, reflection, and criticism in a world which is leaning towards a gradual digitisation of the discourse.