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One score

First, let’s synchronize our calendars. The debut issue of ArchitectureBoston was published in June 1998, so purists might argue the magazine’s 20th birthday isn’t for nine months yet. But we are already deep into the 20th year of publication: The issue you hold in your hands is Volume 20, number 3. So we’re breaking out the birthday cake now.

From its first issue, ArchitectureBoston has been one of a kind — not a commercial “shelter” magazine, not a membership newsletter, not a trade journal, but a true publication of ideas about design and society. Our themes have run the gamut from the tangible (housing, preservation, materials) to the abstract (memory, time, night). As some of the magazine’s founders recall in “Present at the creation” (page 24), we have provoked and deepened a community conversation about issues global (climate change) and local (City Hall Plaza). We have published commentary by Pulitzer Prize–winning critics and aia Gold Medal recipients, former governors, and current mayors. And we’ve only just begun.

Fixing the lens on a single year may seem arbitrary, but it allows us to see how far the design field has come in a short time. Among other firsts in 1997: The American Institute of Architects held its first conference on universal design and accessibility. Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Bilbao opened, demonstrating the sculptural innovations made possible by the computer. Norman Foster designed one of the first “green” skyscrapers, a bank tower in Frankfurt with an operable façade that allowed tenants to control light, ventilation, and temperature. The design philosophy of New Urbanism began its evangelizing; the planned community of Celebration, Florida, observed its first anniversary.

We can also see the outsized influence of Boston on the world. The Moakley federal courthouse, designed by Harry Cobb, neared completion in 1997, prompting Architect magazine to proclaim “a golden age of federal architecture.” Ted Landsmark became president of the National Organization of Minority Architects. The Boston Globe’s critic Robert Campbell was named architect-in-residence at the American Academy in Rome. Moshe Safdie started work on the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem.

Of course, these select events don’t begin to capture the special community that is Greater Boston, a place big enough to matter and small enough for an individual to make a difference. Sure, we have our share of the boxy and the banal, and not always friendly competition for the best commissions. But only in a city like Boston — brainy, compact, resourceful, committed to the wider world — would a magazine like this even be possible.

When the great New York Times critic Ada Louise Huxtable died four years ago, one tribute described her writing about architecture as “a mix of aesthetics and public policy, art and advocacy, technology and politics.” At the risk of grandiose comparison, that’s the way I think about this magazine. Huxtable’s accessible, informed commentary helped shape the city she loved. So, too, do we at ArchitectureBoston call out the best ideas in a city teeming with them. And we go further, layering on the views of practitioners, allied professionals, journalists, activists, and just lovers of good design — all packaged in a singular, beautiful object to be savored slowly or consumed in one delicious binge.

Birthdays are a time for wishes, and mine envision a robust future for ArchitectureBoston, both in print and online, with a rich, broadly viewed selection of articles, videos, discussions, and all the other as-yet-unimagined ways we can tell architecture’s story. We will be distributed not just in New England but nationwide, our ideas debated by an even more influential audience. We may not have the resources for all of those dreams quite yet. But with your support, ArchitectureBoston will continue to be a rare and valuable gift — this year, and every year. ■