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Pidgeon Audio Visual: Architects Speak for Themselves
Curated by Florencia Alvarez Pacheco
OCT 29, 2022 - FEB 25, 2023

Mining the Pidgeon Audio Visual (PAV) series—a collection of over 200 tape/slide talks initiated in the late 1970s by renowned editor of London-based magazine Architectural Design (AD), Monica Pidgeon—this exhibition features a selection of the talks and accompanying slide presentations by leading architects and designers produced between 1979 and 1989. Pidgeon once noted that people would visit the AD offices and ask questions like “Can’t you persuade someone like Jim Stirling, or Norman Foster, to come to Buenos Aires?” But international travel was not as easy or ubiquitous then which made this kind of exchange rare, if not impossible. Increasingly, Pidgeon developed an interest in bringing ideas in architecture beyond the page and thought there would be great benefit to a portable resource that featured a designer speaking directly about his or her own work.

Following her tenure at Architectural Design, while serving as editor at RIBA Journal, an imprint of the Royal Institute of British Architects, Pidgeon began to record architects presenting their work. Upon her retirement in 1979, she established Pidgeon Audio Visual and enlisted the esteemed BBC Radio 3 producer, Leonie Cohn to work on the recordings. PAV recorded architects, landscape architects, planners and urbanists, artists, designers, and others—many of the figures had first appeared in the pages of AD during Pidgeon’s editorship. The often-improvised studio sessions were highly edited and shaped by Pidgeon to fit a 24-slide and 30-minute audio format. Letters between Pidgeon and contributors to the series reveal the tape/slide talks as artificial constructions: from the cutting of the audio to the specific suggestions by Pidgeon for slides to accompany each audio fragment and illustrate the talks. The programs—each packaged with an audiocassette tape and corresponding slides—were available by mail order, poised to bring the work of leading architects and designers to interested publics worldwide.

One of the most important markets for PAV were universities and libraries around the world. By 1983, the series sold to 220 academic institutions in 30 countries. The tape/slide talks presented an innovative way to expand student access to the ideas of designers—challenging the traditional dynamic within educational institutions as such technology was usually controlled by professors. The PAV series functioned as an alternative education platform and a new model for the development and distribution of ideas in architecture and design.

At the Graham, 15 PAV slide-tape talks are presented on slide projectors, including:  Reyner Banham, Roberto Burle Marx, Charles Correa, Balkrishna V. Doshi, Frank Gehry, Myron Goldsmith, Zaha Hadid, Lawrence Halprin, Kisho Kurokawa, Esther McCoy, Cedric Price, James Wines and Alison Sky (SITE), Alison & Peter Smithson, Stanley Tigerman, and Anne Tyng. The synchronized audio recordings are accessed in the galleries on personal mobile devices.

Pidgeon Audio Visual: Architects Speak for Themselves is curated by Florencia Alvarez Pacheco with exhibition design by BAAG - Buenos Aires Arquitectura Grupal, graphic design by Gastón Pérsico and Cecilia Szalkowicz, sound editing by Nahuel De Camillis, and programming by Eric Sauerhering, Mathias Gatti, and Renzo Torrisi. The exhibition originated at Disponible, Buenos Aires. At the Graham Foundation, the exhibition is organized by Sarah Herda, director; Ava Barrett, program and communications manager; James Pike, grant project manager; and Alexandra Lee Small, senior advisor.

Monica Pidgeon (1913–2009) led the magazine Architectural Design (AD) as editor for nearly three decades—from 1946 until 1975—providing a platform for the work of architects such as Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Walter Gropius, R. Buckminster Fuller, Alison and Peter Smithson, and James Stirling, among countless others. After leaving AD, Pidgeon went on to edit the RIBA Journal, published by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), which is where she first began audio recording to bring the ideas and practices of leading architects and designers to a broader audience. She founded Pidgeon Audio Visual (PAV) in 1979 with British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Radio 3 producer, Leonie Cohn. Additionally, Pidgeon helped organize the founding meeting for the Union International des Architectes (UIA), and she was an early member of the Congrès International d'Architecture Moderne (CIAM), and an active member of the MARS (Modern Architectural Research) Group.  Pidgeon was an honorary fellow of the RIBA, of the Architectural Association, and of the American Institute of Architects.

Pidgeon Digital was created in 2006 to digitize, preserve, and make available online the complete Pidgeon Audio Visual (PAV) collection. As a collaboration between Monica Pidgeon, Stephen Albert, and World Microfilms, Pidgeon Digital presents the fully searchable collection on its website. New talks continue to be produced and added to the collection in an initiative led by Peter Murray in partnership with World Microfilms.

Florencia Alvarez Pacheco is an architect and curator who teaches at the School of Architecture, Design and Urbanism at the University of Buenos Aires. She holds a master’s degree in Critical, Curatorial, and Conceptual Practices in Architecture from Columbia University’s GSAPP. She was assistant exhibitions coordinator at the Arthur Ross Architectural Gallery where she acted as assistant curator for Environmental Communications: Contact High, Information Fall-Out: Buckminster Fuller’s World Game, Les Levine: Bio-Tech Rehearsals, 1965–1975, and cocurator for Every Building in Baghdad: The Rifat Chadirji Archives at the Arab Image Foundation, and Detox USA among other exhibitions. Her work has been exhibited at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, the Graham Foundation, the Istanbul Design Biennial, and LAXART. Her research focuses on the implications and challenges of diverse techno-pedagogical experiences from the postwar period at the convergence of politics, education, and media.

Disponible is an independent nonprofit space established in 2019 as an initiative of the architectural office BAAG - Buenos Aires Arquitectura Grupal. Directed by BAAG’s Gabriel Monteleone and Gastón Noriega, and coordinated by Leticia Virguez Lalli, Disponible is a storefront on the ground floor of the residential building Aráoz 967—designed by the office—that organizes exhibitions, meetings, and conferences to promote research and dissemination of architecture and design in Buenos Aires.

Special thanks to Pidgeon Digital, London; the Monica Pidgeon Collection at the Royal Institute of British Architects, London; the Esther McCoy papers at the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; and the British Library Oral History Collection, London. Also, Lucian Palmer and Peter Murray from Pidgeon Digital, London; Amy Trendler, Architecture Librarian, and Bradley Johnston, Building Materials Librarian, from the Architecture Library at Ball State University, Muncie, IN; Rebecca Price, Architecture, Urban Planning & Visual Resources Librarian and Museum Studies Liaison at the Art, Architecture & Engineering Library, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI; and Jill Chisnell, Art & Design Librarian at Carnegie Mellon University Libraries, Pittsburgh, PA. Additionally, gratitude for production support from Ron Konow, Daniel Vicino, Prographics, NFA Space, Aron Gent from Document, and Andrew Kephart from -ism Furniture. Finally, together with the Graham Foundation, the curator is also grateful for the support and mentorship of Felicity D. Scott and Mark Wasiuta.