Novum Organum to be revived

Students at the School of Architecture are working to breathe life into a new organ for the school in the near future. But they’re dabbling in journalism, not biology.

Novum Organum, a radical architecture magazine published in the late ’60s and early ’70s at the Yale School of Architecture was then “a new organ” for the student body to air grievances and propose cutting edge ideas in the field, said Jimmy Stamp ARC ’11. Now, Stamp aims to revive the publication with the help of several colleagues in the school. The return of Novum Organum would also bring back a rivalry with the official Yale architectural journal, Perspecta. Together, the publications represent some of the best of student architecture journals, which School of Architecture Dean Robert A.M. Stern ARC ’65 said are crucial for spurring dialogue not just within the school, but also in the field of architecture at large.

Perspectives and Novum Organum are part of a rich tradition at the School of Architecture.
Perspectives and Novum Organum are part of a rich tradition at the School of Architecture.

“So far it’s more in the ‘sitting in GPSCY, talking about bring back Novum Organum over beers’ phase,” he said jokingly. “No — it’s actually further along than that. There’s definitely a void that could be filled with a contemporary equivalent.”

In the pages of Novum Organum, student writers voiced complaints about financial aid at the School of Architecture and decried a lack of social conscience in the field, urging students and professors to build real homes for people rather than concentrating on theory, said Stamp. Each issue was a different color, and some could fold out into posters with striking graphic design and typographic choices. Often, satirical and irreverent articles targeted professors.

Architecture Professor Peter Eisenman recalled the scrappy, “up-start” nature of the magazine, comparing it with Perspecta, the other student-run, student-edited architecture journal at the school, which is still in publication today.

“It was the shadow side to Perspecta,” he said. “Novum Organum was the unofficial Yale architecture magazine.”

The 43rd issue of Perspecta, titled “Taboo,” is the latest issue of the Yale architecture journal, and students and faculty alike said its influence is still strong.

“The editors of Perspecta have their fingers on the pulse of things,” Stern said. “It’s a window on how architecture students are viewing the world around them, and many issues [of the magazine] have been very important to the discourse surrounding architecture in the last half of the 20th century.”

The current issue tackles subjects that architects and developers are reluctant to talk about, such as issues of form, said Eisenman. The next edition of Perspecta, on the theme of “Domain,” will address questions of urbanism, boundaries, digital practice, and open-source authorship, among others, said Ryan Welch ARC ’11, one of the editors of “Domain.”

Stamp said a modern version of Novum Organum might address issues of sustainability and technology. He said the main obstacles to publication are finding the time for students to put out the magazine on top of their studies and finding a good method of distribution.

Stern mentioned another obstacle: “Architects don’t read a lot. They look at the pictures,” he quipped.

“I don’t know if it’s necessarily cutting-edge all the time, but I do know it’s written and edited by students, which I think is a good thing,” Eisenman said regarding Perspecta. “It’s not necessarily the most informed view, but it can be a provocative one.”

Novum Organum originally took its name from a 17th century philosophical treatise by Francis Bacon on a new logical order he hoped would replace existing methods of syllogism.

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