Collapse of Artifice and Black Dog Publishing "terrible blow" to architecture

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Building Stories by Design Engine, published by Artifice

Collapse of Artifice and Black Dog Publishing "a terrible blow to architectural culture"

Independent London architecture publishing company Artifice and sister publisher Black Dog Publishing have become insolvent, leaving architects scrambling to rescue copies of their books and retrieve digital files.

Studios affected include Simon Conder Associates, Design Engine, Morris Adjmi, and Lynch Architects – whose founder told Dezeen that a thousand copies of their book were lost "in a shed somewhere".

"The book was on its final edit," said Alexandra Barker of Brooklyn-based Barker Freeman Design Office, another architect caught up in the collapse. "I am trying to recover the InDesign files so I can get it published somewhere else."

The publishers ceased trading on 5 January 2018 with the loss of all 22 jobs after struggling with debts of £784,445.

Building Stories by Design Engine, published by Artifice
Design Engine's book Building Stories has been affected by the problems at Artifice and Black Dog

Contract publisher St James's House Media has since bought the assets of both companies, paying £35,000 for Black Dog and £15,000 for Artifice, according to The Bookseller.

However, architects said they were waiting to hear whether their publishing projects would go ahead as planned, with some making alternative arrangements.

Problems at Artifice surfaced a year ago

Black Dog, a contemporary arts and culture publisher, was founded by Duncan McCorquodale in 1993. Artifice, which specialised in architecture, urbanism, and design, was established in 2011 and has published titles for studios including Eric Parry Architects, Feilden Clegg Bradley and Bernard Tschumi.

Richard Jobson, founding director of British studio Design Engine, said problems at Artifice first become apparent a year ago, while working on a monograph called Building Stories.

"Deadlines were repeatedly missed," Jobson told Dezeen. "It became clear that there were major problems at Artifice. However we had been pressurised into paying the majority of the project costs in advance and had no choice but to try to push on."

Jobson was able to buy the stock directly from the French printer and Design Engine is now managing distribution itself.

"They produced hundreds of often brilliant books"

Lynch Architects had just completed its second title with Artifice when the company folded. Director Patrick Lynch said he had managed to rescue several hundred copies of Mimesis, published in 2016, but that around 1,000 copies of were still unaccounted for. The launch and distribution of his latest book Civic Ground had also been affected.

"It's difficult to imagine who will fill this void in British architectural publishing," said Lynch. "Black Dog and Artifice produced hundreds of memorable and often brilliant books, and the loss of their voice is a terrible blow to architectural culture."

Two other studios affected, Morris Adjmi of New York and HHF of Basel, said they were looking for alternative publishers for their book projects.

Others planned to enter into negotiations. Australian architect Nic Goldsmith of FTL Studio said he was in discussion with lawyers representing Artifice while Simon Conder of Simon Conder Associates is due to meet with the new owners of the publisher.

Conder described his experience of working with Artifice as "the the worst and costliest experience of my long career".