Although winter is inevitable, it still feels like a surprise every year. Anjulie Rao, an architecture journalist, describes winter as a time of reflection, reevaluation and transformation.
Rao is fascinated by winter and has started a small publication about it. This grand experiment will have a biweekly publishing schedule that follows the length of the season from December 21, 2021 to March 30, 2022.
Through Weathered,Substack is a platform that hosts newsletters. Rao commissions reporting and essays on winter from all backgrounds. Newsletters have become increasingly popular among writers with unconventional interests or underrepresented perspectives in recent years. Weathered was one of the first Chicago-based indie newsletters. With the ambition of publishing new voices, it is also one of the most popular. It is supported by subscriptions starting as low as $5 per month, and a grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts that will help writers and illustrators.
Weathered has published two editions and attracted nearly 400 subscribers. The most recent edition of Weathered was a MeditationMarianela DAprile, writer, on the New York subways and the injustices that force the homeless to take refuge in them. Other planned pieces include a profile about an urban arborist and a report from northern California’s controlled burn areas.
Recently, the editor of Chicago Architect The bimonthly publication of American Institute of Architects Chicago, Rao writes often about design, public spaces and the effects of urban policies on marginalized communities. Her desire to start her own media is a result of the turmoil in the industry. Rao writes that Weathered is trying to keep some hope alive as publications that focus on the built environment close down and new voices are scarce.
Rao, who is an ad hoc advisor, was the one I spoke to. Reader Contributor to the project about the state of Chicago architecture journalism and how we can better understand the built environment.
This interview has been edited to make it more concise.
Taylor Moore: What made you decide Weathered to be started?
Anjulie Rao When I quit my full time job [at Chicago Architect]A lot of people reached back and said, “You know, if you created a newsletter, I would sign up.” I read Anne Helen Petersens Culture StudyReligiously, she is a great scientist. But I love it when other voices are heard. [in her newsletter]. I thought, “Do I want to write a newsletter that only I can read?” Then I realized that I could actually make a call for pitches.
What’s more, after spending a lot of time at SAIC, I now teach writing in different departments. This is because I am indoctrinated in this strange world of interdisciplinarity. I wanted to make sure nonfiction writers could also pitch.
I find it fascinating to see how people talk about change in cities. Winter is a time when we learn a lot about our own self. If there is a winter season in your area, whether it is just getting colder or if you get ten feet of fresh snow, your way of living in the world will change. Winter change can affect how we feel about our friends, family, and what it is worth traveling for. Winter is a microcosm for what happens when we are forced to face change that we cannot control.
Can you give an example of the work you want to do? [in your last job]But are you able to do this now?
It is difficult to be openly critical of decisions made by Chicago’s architects when you have a full-time job. I find the architecture community to be amazing. [here]Ive been looking for communities that are interested in holding the city responsible for its actions. [its support of the] Southside Recycling facilityOr the botched Hilco implosionThis was in 2020.
I feel like architecture journalism has been, for most part, defined by [the same types of stories]You can have a building review or a profile of an architect. People like Eva HagbergSome people have been able break free from such things, but it is limiting to only one voice. My thought is now, how can we be more inclusive about what constitutes architecture criticism or architecture writing? That’s when this project started to come together in my mind.
What is the current state and future of architecture media in Chicago? And who are the missing voices?
When I was working at Chicago ArchitectMagazine, we watched Curbed Chicago closely, along with [Curbeds]Other city sites The midwest editor position is at The Architects NewspaperIt was terminated, and it had been communicated to me from one of the people running. Architects NewspaperThey didn’t see the value in having a midwest editor at that time.
New voices are what is missing. There is finally a recognition of the importance of having diverse voices. Architecture is always 20-50 years behind in changing the profession. I believe that this also applies to architecture writing.
It’s not surprising that the Architectural League was established only recently. [of New York, a design nonprofit] launch fundraisingAround a fellowship for new architects writers. It is a great idea, but if you have ten incredible BIPOC writers, it is important to ensure that they can sustain a normal life. [after receiving a fellowship]. It feels like we are competing for the same publication, maybe five to ten. We can have all the amazing voices we want, but if they can’t pay their bills, then why are they doing it?
What do you hope readers will take away from Weathered
I want people to have a different view of architecture writing. Part of me wants to show editors and readers that there is more to writing about architecture than what Blair Kamin, Paul Goldberger, or Michael Kimmelman have focused on. The built environment issues touch on many different social and political issues and are not limited to building criticism.
Personally, I want us to be able to see ourselves and others as agents of change. We don’t have to change. We adapt to change and can cope with it. How can this lens be applied to some of the most dangerous futures facing us right now?