Young Firms Publish Monographs

Event: First Monographs: Young Design Firms and the Experience of Publishing
Location: Center for Architecture, 09.29.10
Speakers: Andy Bernheimer, AIA — Founding Partner, Della Valle Bernheimer; Stephan Jaklitsch, AIA — Principal, Stephan Jaklitsch Architects; Stella Betts — Partner, Leven Betts Studio
Moderator: Kevin Lippert, Publisher, Princeton Architectural Press
Organizers: AIANY Marketing & Public Relations Committee; AIANY Oculus Committee
Sponsor: Group C

DVB-SJ-LBbooks

(L-R):Think/Make, by Della Valle Bernheimer; Stephan Jaklitsch: Habits Patterns & Algorithms 1998-2008, by Stephan Jaklitsch, AIA; Leven Betts: Pattern Recognition, by Leven Betts Studio

(L-R): Courtesy Princeton Architectural Press; Courtesy Oro Editions;Courtesy Princeton Architectural Press

While myriad firms vie for recognition and status in an increasingly competitive market, some young practices are investing in their reputation by publishing their first monograph. Self-publication can be daunting, but the consortium of young firms that are publishing may have found the secret to success: do it early and, perhaps, often.

Stella Betts, a partner at Leven Betts Studio, fondly recalls the process of conceiving and executing Leven Betts: Pattern Recognition (Princeton Architectural Press, 2008), published 10 years after the firm was founded. The monograph was published as one of 11 Princeton Architectural Press monographs of young firms partially funded by a Graham Foundation grant. Betts refers to the exercise of compiling the monograph as a gift, noting that the process was unlike preparing content for a magazine feature — it involved arduous editing and refinement of materials. Both Betts and her partner, David Levin, AIA, spent a year sketching and diagramming old projects and looking for patterns in their work to best frame the theme of the book.

Stephan Jaklitsch, AIA, principal of Stephan Jaklitsch Architects, had a similar experience. He spent a year gathering, digitizing, and even re-designing projects, focusing on the design process for his monograph. Jaklitsch views Stephan Jaklitsch: Habits Patterns & Algorithms 1998-2008 (Oro Editions, 2008) as the “first threshold” in framing the direction of his firm and publicizing his ideas.

The critical selection of projects to include in a monograph is crucial to achieving a clear theme. Think/Make (Princeton Architectural Press, 2009), Della Valle Bernheimer’s monograph, includes only 10 projects. While the target audience of architectural monographs may seem specific, in the case of Founding Partner Andy Bernheimer, AIA, the monograph is meant to appeal to a broad scope of readers. “Our audience is colleagues, clients, students, our parents,” he said.

Perhaps the most challenging task for each of the three firms was the writing process. Bernheimer is grateful for his publisher’s editors saying, “‘We’re not writers.’ Editors are invaluable.” The consensus among the panelists was that the efforts to produce their first monographs, although time-consuming and taxing, was well worth it and they would consider the process in the future with a more focused lens. The achievement of a first monograph for these young firms has added credibility to their work and garnered them status in the industry.