matzine #13 Jargon

Jargon can be defined both as a language particular to a trade or discipline and an unintelligible code. The ways through which we discuss a piece of work or an object is inextricably tied to how the profession that made it is perceived and experienced by others. Much like any other language, each ‘jargon’ is comfortably familiar to some, alien and intangible to others; this secrecy allows a skill to be guarded, to build intriguing fortresses that ultimately add value and distinction.

Arguably, in architecture it is on the blurry boundaries with other disciplines where the most exciting and innovative things are taking place. In talking about art and architecture, we often find jargon to be both inescapable and irresistible – in particular when it takes a form other than the spoken.

In collaboration, each discipline must exchange particular forms of expression with the understanding that something may be gained – as well as lost – in the translation. How do we balance this exchange with a critical language that is necessarily immersive and unselfconscious?

In matzine 13, the editors sought to explore these themes, and to invite for inquiry some of the questions which might frame them. Contributors have responded admirably, throughout a welcome collection of pieces that range from the sincere to the playful; some reference the theme implicitly, leaving the reader to elucidate, while others provoke with definitive response.

We have included submissions which argue cogently for and against jargon; pieces which in their composition aim to eliminate it; and pieces that are jargon – some submissions even represent a gleeful celebration of it. One essay argues for the utility of its failure – how ‘glitches’ in a digital, code-based design process can offer the possibility of unintended outcomes – while another two question the result of jargon finding itself in the built environment, having been assisted in escaping the page by humans in possession of good intentions.

Our contributors have been just as adventurous in the form their responses take; from the Serpentine Pavilion review offered as a Pantoum – a poetic form which interweaves repeated stanza lines – to a version of architect Cedric Price’s Fun Palace distilled to the monochrome aesthetic of furniture assembly instructions. We applaud the inventiveness. Geography plays its part too: in addition to submissions from the UK we are delighted to include in this issue work from Shanghai, Tokyo, Cape Town and Torre De Moncorvo, by way of Porto.

To conclude we note that in a continuation of recent matzine issues we will be hosting an event in London to accompany the launch, during which several of our contributors will consider the use of jargon when communicating design to the public in a debate entitled ‘To Jargon or Not to Jargon?’; a question we now invite you to consider with enjoyment as you peruse the work within ■

Editors: Esme Fieldhouse & Ian Pollard

Cover illustration by Nous Vous.

First published in a limited edition of 60 for the occasion of the debate ‘TO JARGON OR NOT TO JARGON’ held at 38 Hoe Street, Walthamstow, London, on  Wednesday 21st August 2013 with the support of Waltham Forest Council.

All work © the contributors. Please respect their work and reproduce and distribute this publication, electronically and in print wherever possible. 

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