Monica Pidgeon: Influential editor of 'Architectural Design' for more than 30 years

For more than three decades Monica Pidgeon edited the Bloomsbury-based Architectural Design (AD). This influential and radical journal was a prime source of information on contemporary architectural culture, and had an international reach. It gave prominence to the work of such architects as Le Corbusier, Jose Luis Sert, Mies van der Rohe, Walter Gropius, Richard Buckminster Fuller, and Alison and Peter Smithson.

Monica Lehmann was born in Chile in 1913, the daughter of an emigré family; her father was French and her mother Scottish. When Monica was 16 years old, the family moved to London in order for her to complete her education.

She studied at the Bartlett School of Architecture at UCL, where she met Raymond Pidgeon, whom she married in 1936. The couple had two children, and divorced in 1946. That year, too, she was appointed editor of Architectural Design, having succeeded the previous editor of Architectural Design and Construction, as the magazine was originally named.

As the doyenne of post-war international architectural publishers, Pidgeon presided over the appearance and contents of AD with good humour and a wry smile. She encouraged a wide diversity of content but, after a few early book reviews, wrote very little herself. Her role was that of skilful entrepreneur. She encouraged her constantly expanding network of contacts, which included well-known architects as well as not-so-well-known ones, artists and designers, to submit their work and gave younger critics opportunities to extend their ideas. It was a journal you could not afford to miss and my first copy arrived at my desk in an architect's office in 1952.

Pidgeon was able to draw into its pages the talent of the post-war generation of architects just returned from service. She was receptive to the new ideas emanating from the London County Council and Hertfordshire County Council's Architecture Department, as well as the design groups working on the reconstruction of towns and cities.

The latter became the main theme emerging from the reinvigorated CIAM (Congrès Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne) which, due to the destruction of so many European cities, was to hold its first post-war congress in, of all places, Bridgewater in Somerset in 1947. It attracted to these shores the celebrated architects who had created what we now call modern architecture, including Le Corbusier, Sigfried Giedion, Jose Luis Sert (the then president), Walter Gropius and many others

Four years later, CIAM 8 was held in a Christian retreat in Hertfordshire celebrating the 1951 Festival of Britain and produced a rather inadequate report on the theme of the "Urban Core". Pidgeon acted as host for these events, the latter with the British architect Henry Cadbury-Brown. But Pidgeon had an even more important role as the organiser of the International Union of Architects' (UIA) conference in London in 1961. There she was joined by her technical editor, Theo Crosby, who designed the fine press pavilion with the typographer Edward Wright. Many of the architects they met in 1961 were later given space in AD.

At that time, too, Pidgeon met Richard Buckminster Fuller who was, it appears, prevented from addressing the conference with his ideas for a "World Design Science Decade". This important statement, aimed largely at the upcoming generation of design students, emphasised the catastrophic depletion of world resources and their responsibility to address it. AD took up this theme and published Fuller's series of papers in the July 1961 issue, thus becoming one of the first magazines to draw attention to population control and sustainable design.

AD was also interested in what was going on in architecture schools in the 1950s, and encouraged them to develop designs for communities rather than for isolated sites. In 1956 the editors invited fourth-year students of the Architectural Association to undertake a programme based on the "habitat" theme devised by CIAM. The designs, tutored by John Killick, were published in the September issue of AD.

In 1962 Pidgeon visited Latin America, where she met the architect John Turner, then involved with the housing quality of the barriadas [shanty towns] in Lima. Housing the poor became another issue introduced into the pages of AD.

Meanwhile the journal had seen some important editorial changes. When Theo Crosby left, he was succeeded by the architect and writer Kenneth Frampton, who in turn was replaced by the historian Robin Middleton. But in the late 1960s the owner of AD, the Standard Catalogue Company, announced it could no longer produce the magazine. Pidgeon persuaded Standard to keep the magazine going by relying entirely on subscriptions revenues, not advertising, and costs were cut to the bone.

Peter Murray joined the journal and, under his influence as technical editor it moved towards being a new kind of counter-cultural journal, less about international celebrity architecture, more about nature-orientated projects which took inspiration from Buckminster Fuller's geodesic designs. It also introduced often weird-looking "organic" houses set in the American south-west, as well as the hybrid structures of Paolo Soleri, autonomous housing, the Archizoom and the Archigram groups, and much on Cedric Price. It was essentially a period of "paper" architecture; of an architecture drawn but not built.

In 1975 Pidgeon resigned as editor of AD, which was sold, and became the editor of the RIBA journal, a post she held for four years. But in 1979, looking for ways to sustain her income and her wide circle of contacts and friends, she launched a new series of recorded, half-hour-long talks by architects under the title "Pidgeon Audio Visual". This series brought together many of the personalities who had first appeared in the pages of AD. The tapes were popular with college libraries throughout the world and Pidgeon continued to produce new ones well into her eighties.

In 1970 she was made an honorary fellow of the RIBA and an honorary member of the AA in 1979. Her work on the Pidgeon Audio Visual (PAV) earned her an honorary fellowship of the American Institute of Architects in 1987.

Dennis Sharp

Monica Lehmann, architectural editor: born Chile 29 September 1913; married 1936 Raymond Pidgeon (marriage dissolved 1946; one son, one daughter); died London 17 September 2009.

News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits