Piranesi no. 33/Vol. 21/2013 (Cover: Villa Tugendhat by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe)
In our fast-paced digital world, the role of print media is more important than ever. Who still remembers how once – not so long ago – daily newspapers, printed on paper, published extensive reviews of exhibitions or theatre performances that were not just brief summaries of press releases, but encouraged critical reflection? Today on the internet, we can find huge amounts of news every day, every hour, and every minute that immediately disappears into the digital universe, and a similar fate often befalls even more comprehensive and in-depth texts that are published only online. We live in a transitional era, when archiving methods for digital media are still being developed, and so print on paper remains a relatively reliable way of preserving information. And here I am not talking about the purely sensory experience of sitting down comfortably, picking up a printed book, touching its pages, viewing its illustrations, and – when we put it down – enjoying the sight of it on the table.
Architecture has naturally not been able to avoid this trend. Printed magazines have been unable to compete with the speed of the internet, and many have ceased to exist. Those that have prevailed must offer more than just ordinary information. Piranesi has the good fortune that since its beginning it has been shaped by a certain vision that justifies its existence even in today’s day and age. It has never been a rapid medium filled only with the latest news. It has always published articles that take a deeper look at their subject, be it the history of modern architecture, interviews, or presentations of recently realized projects. For thirty years, the magazine has covered important subjects of architectural debate within a specific geographic and cultural space, and these thirty volumes can be read as a contribution to the history of Central Europe at the turn of the millennium. Where the goal in the early 1990s was to rehabilitate the idea of “Central Europe” as a cultural concept that had been shattered by the turbulent politics of the Cold War, with the onset of the twenty-first century it became increasingly clear that there was a need to find an updated definition of this old term and to confront it with the reality of a globalized world. Piranesi is unusual not only in that it has retained the quality of a slow medium in a fast-paced era, but also in how it faces the cultural challenges of the present day. It promotes the search for local identity and culture within our global, universal civilization, and this positive mission is greatly needed in our severely tested world.
Personally, I am sincerely pleased to be a part of Piranesi’s circle of authors and editors and thus to contribute to the debate that plays out on its pages. I am well aware that the magazine could never exist without the great efforts of all those who look after its more practical side. And so, with wishes for all the best in the coming years, I would also like to thank Robert, Staša, and everyone else who works to ensure that Piranesi fosters not only the culture of architectural debate, but also the culture of the printed magazine in a digital world. Long live Piranesi!