Monica Pidgeon

Monica Pidgeon, who with Pentagram co-founder and architect Theo Crosby edited and transformed the journal Architectural Design (AD), died on September 17 at age 95. Before, during and after the current partners of Pentagram Architects were in architectural school, AD was the most avant-garde of the British architecture magazines. Among the first to publish the work of James Stirling, Norman Foster, Richard Rogers and Ove Arup; enthusiast for Archigram; promoter of all things A.A. (the Architectural Association, then London’s equivalent of today’s Sci-Arc), AD defined British architectural radicalism.
Crosby was the technical editor to Monica Pidgeon’s editor from 1953 to 1962, when the pair transformed AD from a free trade publication to a potent advocate of modern thought, design and art. Crosby and Pidgeon also collaborated on the book An Anthology of Houses (1960) featuring the 1950s work of a huge assortment of international modern architects. Crosby curated the influential This Is Tomorrow exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery while working with Pidgeon at AD.

Pidgeon was the rare female in a male-dominated profession who was present, or at the center of, every important national and international architectural congress: Congrès International d’Architecture Moderne (CIAM), International Union of Architects (UIA), MARS Group (Modern Architectural Research Group), etc. She continued to produce AD through 1975, briefly editing the RIBA Journal before establishing Pidgeon Audio Visual (PAV) in 1979. In a typically prescient enterprise, PAV collected the images and recorded presentations of architects to distribute to colleges and others. Now available at Pidgeon Digital, this early foray into “podcasting” was Pidgeon’s passion until her death.

The range of personae and vintages in the Pidgeon Digital archive is remarkable: James Stirling, 1980; Richard Meier, 1985; Konrad Wachsmann, 1980; Jean Nouvel, 1989; Erno Goldfinger, 1980. And Theo Crosby, of course, but in 1979, just a few years after Pentagram’s founding. (Pidgeon also interviewed Pentagram co-founder Alan Fletcher in 1987.) The archive contains more recent entries as well: Peter Eisenman, 2009; Renzo Piano, 2007, Robert Maxwell, 2007, and Cecil Balmond, 2009.
In honor of Pidgeon, Pidgeon Digital is offering free access to its archive through the end of October. Interested parties should contact Pidgeon Digital here.

These talks are illustrated with what would now be considered an utterly unacceptable technology: a clunky, slow, analog “slide show.” This lack of fast moving parts, quick cuts, visual overload or multi-screen presentations is actually closer to learning than to entertainment. What might seem rather primitive now is, in fact, beautifully historical, serious, and considered, and demands a level of attention and focus that most podcasts never muster.

Pidgeon was, until the end of her life, an educator of the highest order, disseminating into the trade and popular lexicon a range of ideas, images, iconic individuals and provocative issues that continue to resonate in the world of design, architecture and art. We will miss Monica Pidgeon, but luckily she foresaw that as well, leaving us with an invaluable archive of architectural thought, curated with the benefit of her insightful editorial eye