University of Illinois at Chicago
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Architectural Forum, 1932-64: A Time Inc. Experiment in American Architecture and Journalism

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posted on 2015-10-21, 00:00 authored by Sarah M. Dreller
This study tells the story of Architectural Forum magazine during the Time Inc. ownership period, 1932-64. Why and how did this episode in American discursive life come about? What were its failures and successes, lessons, potential legacy? In answering these questions I describe the unusual building industry-wide sense of community this magazine’s editors attempted to nurture, and I explore its implications for both the development of American architecture and the aspirational reach of one of the modern world’s most consequential publishers. For 32 years Forum was an object fully embedded in two creative and eminently public practices simultaneously. Reconstituting the relative situation of architecture at Time Inc., opening a place for Time Inc. in our evolving understanding of twentieth-century American architecture and discovering the extent of their interconnectedness are my key aims. The first of this study’s five main chapters offers a chronological overview history of Forum as a Time Inc. publication. The next three thematic chapters work together as a suite exploring the constituencies within and against which the magazine itself operated: the building industry community; the publishing universe of Time Inc.; and American society broadly- defined, especially the so-called “American Century” ideology propagated by Time Inc.’s founder, Henry Luce. The final chapter shifts the dissertation’s focus from the magazine’s creators to the nature of the audience’s interaction with Forum. Here I use independently audited circulation data, just as architectural journalists did historically, to approach what can otherwise be a quite ephemeral aspect of media history. This chapter is crucial to the project because formulating an actual community of enlightened American building professionals and client-owners around the magazine was such an important component of Forum’s Time Inc. editorial personality. Through this research I found that the Forum experiment achieved much of what its creators set out to do. However, I also found that this editorial success did not align with the assumptions about architectural practice on which the typical business model of nationally-circulated architectural journals relied. Time Inc.’s accomplishments with Forum hastened the magazine’s end, in other words, possibly deterring future experimentalism as a result.



Hales, Peter B.Bruegmann, Robert


Art History

Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Doctoral

Committee Member

Akcan, Esra Dean, Penelope Schuldenfrei, Robin

Submitted date



  • en

Issue date