“One of my favorite parts … is when I help to pair up writers and architects to create pieces together.”

“One of my favorite parts … is when I help to pair up writers and architects to create pieces together.”

A chat with Joseph Altshuler, editor of SOILED.

SOILED positions itself between a literary journal and a design magazine. Produced an artist-led team of four and published by a Chicago-based design practice, the journal publishes themed issues, the most recent of which focuses on children’s stories.

Interview by Caroline Gray.

What has been your journey to becoming the editor in chief of SOILED?

I started the publication ten years ago with two colleagues, and we’ve been producing roughly one issue per year since that time. I’m an architectural designer, and I wanted to create a platform to make architectural ideas engaging to others. Architecture is a part of the arts. Other types of art enjoy dedicated spaces to engage audiences, whether it be galleries for paintings and sculpture, or theaters for plays and music. Architecture struggles with building audience because, while architecture may be all around us all the time, it lacks a narrative frame to give audiences permission to encounter it as a body of stories and ideas. SOILED aims to fill this role and provide a narrative frame for architecture. In the beginning, the publication was an expedient vehicle to broadcast optimistic spatial ideas into the world. Later on, we began to position the publication more specifically and precisely as a literary journal for architecture.

What is unique about this journal?

There are plenty of architecture publications and no shortage of literary journals, but we believe our unique contribution is bringing these two formats together as a kind of mash up that explores the intersectionality between architecture and storytelling. Graphically, the publication is intentionally printed in two colors (as opposed to full color). We use the limited but specific color palette to build cohesion among the diverse, illustrated contributions from architects, designers, and writers.

How often do you publish emerging writers?

Frequently. For each issue, we publish an open call for submissions that outlines a specific topic and prompt. The open call helps democratize our content by providing an invitation for emerging writers and contributors that we haven’t previously been familiar with. In addition, we commission specific contributors with whom we have existing relationships. In this way, we curate content from both emerging and established contributors.

Does editing SOILED change your reading practices?

Yes. The editing process is one of constant reading, reflecting, and feedback-giving to make the contributors’ work as compelling as possible, and to render it highly relational to other contributions. One of my favorite parts of the editorial process is when we pair up writers and architects to create pieces together where the writing generates new entry points into architectural drawings and where the drawings animate the writing in new ways.

Caroline Gray is a senior at Gonzaga University pursuing a degree in English and Psychology. She hopes to break into the world of forensic and clinical psychology while also staying active in her literary and editorial roots. Caroline enjoys listening to serial killer podcasts and country music when she's not busy with school and planning her future.

EDITOR'S NOTE: After it's original publication on October 15, 2020, this interview was lightly edited at the request of Joseph Altshuler. This version was first posted on January 17, 2021.