Architecture students’ journal grows in stature with each new issue-and-a-half

The Rice School of Architecture (RSA) dean had a joke she used to tell about PLAT, the student architecture journal now approaching its third birthday. Sarah Whiting said something like this: If the publication fails, it’ll be called SPLAT.

Better change that to SPLASH.

The small journal with big impact has become established at the RSA and beyond, with its unique issue-and-a-half format spanning a world of ideas that gathers not only what Rice architecture students are thinking but where their inspiration comes from.

The new 80-page issue, 2.5, titled “On The Bias,” focuses on the incorporation of personality into architecture, a once-lost-now-found aspect of the art. Bias, in this case, refers to the impact of attitude and experience on a project, a snapshot of the architect’s state of mind that then becomes open for interpretation.

“It’s about owning an architectural autobiography within design,” said PLAT managing editor Sam Biroscak, an RSA graduate student. He said economic and environmental concerns have unjustifiably given “design” a bad name as they’ve curtailed creativity. “But owning personal bias, or design, is part of architecture and part of what makes the world livable. It’s worth fighting for a good design.”

The new issue is a response to the spring’s 2.0, which was put out by a different editorial staff and dealt with representation, said graduate student Mary Casper, co-editor-in-chief with Chimaobi Izeogu. “It’s a call-and-reponse format,” she said of the full issue/half issue cycle. “Representation in architecture refers to drawings and images and to the way that we convey projects. We’re positing that bias is just as important in conveying an idea and is embedded in much of the representation we produce.”

PLAT was conceived to give ideas that bubble up at RSA a place to go. Too often, students felt their well-conceived, graphically sophisticated designs were seen in all their glory at end-of-semester reviews and then stuffed away into portfolios.

While the journal holds true to its original intention (Peter Muessig’s “Guerrilla Tactics” is featured in 2.5, as are short biographical sketches of architecture students and their influences), PLAT has earned wide attention outside Rice as well. The new issue has contributions from a geographically scattered set of architects and academics drawn by the quality of the journal and its commitment to shaking things up. They don’t limit their influences to the physical or conceptual as they strictly relate to the field; in the latest PLAT, the authors look to dance (Rakia!) and music (King Crimson’s Robert Fripp) for inspiring examples of how personality and experience inform design by circumventing barriers.

PLAT 3.0, due out in spring 2013, will start the cycle anew with an issue focused on disruption and crisis.

“We detected an interest here at Rice, and more broadly, in examining the ways we are able to respond to what are initially seen as problems in the discipline – or in the greater global economy – in terms of the recession and natural disasters, and the way these moments can often produce real sea change,” Casper said.

The call for submissions brought about 80 pitches from around the world, she said, and the editorial team has been busy narrowing the field. “We work pretty closely with the contributors over the course of the development of an issue, so I’m not totally sure what it will look like. But we have some very interesting articles coming in.”

PLAT sells for $12 and is available in Houston at Domy Books, the Brazos Bookstore, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Menil Collection bookstore and Kaboom Books and through the journal’s website at www.platjournal.com. Proceeds help offset the cost of producing the full-color magazine.

About Mike Williams

Mike Williams is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.