JAE 69:2 S,M,L,XL


Theme Editors: 
Alicia Imperiale, Temple University

Enrique Ramirez, University of Pennsylvania

March 1, 2015 - 5:00pm

“The future has already arrived. 
It’s just not evenly distributed yet.”
—Attributed to William Gibson

Coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the publication of Rem Koolhaas/OMA’s S,M,L,XL, this special issue of JAE will serve as a platform to revisit, expose, and otherwise reevaluate the book’s ineluctable influence(s) on the practice and writing of architecture. We start with the premise that this rather large book— weighing in at over 6 pounds and printed with 1,376 pages of text and graphical material— has a lot to answer for. Many own the book, few have actually read it cover to cover, and yet S,M,L,XL was more than a last hurrah, more than an emissary from a future we are already familiar with. To put it another way, S,M,L,XL was very much an artifact of its time, a sterling example of the frontiers of architecture publishing when the Internet was still a low-bandwidth, slow, and limited medium. Yet the book also prefigured many aspects of contemporary architecture practice.

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The architect as global consultant, media pundit, or technological early-adopter: All of these appear in the pages of S,M,L,XL, curated and calibrated for consumption by specialist and non-specialist audiences around the world. Bloated, sumptuous, extravagant, yet serious in its analyses, and conscious of its global outlook, the book, a self-styled “novel about architecture,” becomes a kind of barometer by which the current state of architecture practice can be measured. To paraphrase William Gibson, the future of architecture had arrived with the publication of S,M,L,XL, and it took subsequent generations of practitioners and technologies to distribute it evenly. 

For this issue, we seek contributions that will shed new critical light on the influence of S,M,L,XL through multiple vantage points. Can S,M,L,XL be considered an important waypoint in the trajectory of architecture publishing, one marking the transition from the modernist manifesto to the image-rich websites of today? Does the book’s curious structure, a montage-like assembly of projects, texts, and graphs from OMA’s first twenty years, arranged across titular scales from small to extra-large, inaugurate a new paradigm for architectural expertise, one where the architect brings multiple scales into dialogue while addressing global contingencies? Do we think of urbanism differently because of S,M,L,XL? Beyond the resurgence of practices with acronyms for names and the proliferation of “big books” like U.N. Studio’s Move (1999) or MVRDV’s FARMAX (1999), what other futures did S,M,L,XL bring into the spotlight? Is today’s architect, an electronic-media-savvy, globe girdling consultant tuned in to 24-hour news cycles and streaming online content, the inheritor of the alternative modes of research, publishing, and production we find nestled inside the pages of S,M,L,XL? We hope that this special issue of JAE will invite speculation of how this is, is not, or may be the case.

Please review the Author Guide prior to submitting your manuscript at: 

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