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Smith Journal

Smith Journal

Summer 2019
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Smith Journal is a quarterly publication for discerning gents (and ladies who like reading about discerning gents). It’s heads-up and hands-on. A friendly guide to all things creative, intriguing, genuine and funny – full of stories, people, adventures, interesting conversations and gentlemanly style. The people behind Smith wanted to create something they’d be happy to read themselves. That smart, creative guys could peruse without shame, slap down on the coffee table, whack in their favourite old satchel or display proudly on the toilet reading rack. Something that looked good, but had substance, wit and inspiration. At a time when everything seems like it’s speeding up, Smith is a call to slow down. It’s about remembering, reviving and revamping forgotten traditions, skills and technologies. And backpedalling just enough to appreciate the good stuff in life. Like our readers, we’re not particularly obsessed with being the coolest, the biggest or the first in line. But we are interested in making things that last.

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in this issue

2 min.
“this is the end. beautiful friend. this is the end.”

So sang Jim Morrison. About what, I’m not sure – The Doors are bad and I refuse to google their lyrics – but those 10 words nevertheless came to mind while I was putting the final touches on this here magazine. Why? Well this, beautiful friend, is the end of Smith Journal.* That’s right: after eight years, a small forest’s worth of paper and 792 (I counted) articles about people doing things “the old way”, we’re hanging up our leather aprons. Resheathing our lumberjacks’ axes. Disassembling our typewriters and hurling them into the Mariana Trench. What I mean to say is, we’re not making any more Smith Journals. The inkwells have run dry. The nibs have fallen off our fountain pens. The printing presses have, figuratively and literally, ground to a halt. I’ll…

18 min.
smith stuff

BUNKER DOWN With a long history of political neutrality and an army knife that features (among its more deadly devices) a small nail file and dedicated fish scaler, Switzerland’s military probably doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Case in point: did you know Switzerland’s mountain valleys are littered with more than 10,000 heavily fortified and occasionally well-camouflaged bunkers? Photographer Leo Fabrizio knows all too well. He spent four years hiking the country’s Alps and cataloguing its defences for his photo series, Bunkers. “These bunkers tell a lot about our identity,” Fabrizio says. “Switzerland is an island. It’s surrounded by mountains rather than seas, but the impact on our mentality is the same. We protect our country with ‘coastal’ defences. We dig into our sacred mountains to protect ourselves.” When you think about it, the…

6 min.
designing in the dark

CHRIS DOWNEY HAS DESIGNED BUILDINGS FOR MANY FASCINATING CHARACTERS THROUGHOUT HIS 30-YEARLONG ARCHITECTURE CAREER, BUT HIS MEMORY OF WORKING ON FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA’S WINERY IS PARTICULARLY VIVID. When the job first came in, Downey was hesitant. He couldn’t help but wonder if his architectural vision would gel with the famous director. “I thought he might approach the building like a cinematographer,” Downey remembers, “and it would end up feeling like a stage set.” But all concerns about Coppola were quickly extinguished. From the outset, the filmmaker spent hours poetically describing how he wanted the property to feel. Imagine, he said during one meeting, sitting on the terrace at midday while eating a late breakfast. As he continued he got only more detailed. The table feels hot in the sun. The sound of…

6 min.
things i believe

KIDS CAN MAKE YOU MORE PRODUCTIVE I had a slightly neurotic work ethic as a younger man, and I don’t think it was completely healthy. I didn’t really know when to switch off, but I wasn’t necessarily productive either. Often I was just working for the sake of working, to alleviate the guilt or the anxiety that went with not working. As I got older, having the ballast of a family life has meant that when I’m working, I’m genuinely working. It’s made me more focused, and more aware of the idea of just being ‘on the job’ without faffing around. LEAVE IT UNTIL TOMORROW I don’t really have morning habits or rituals – getting the work done has always been instinctive. And I’ve never been one of those people to get up…

3 min.
bottoms up

WHEN ALBERT EINSTEIN AND HIS WIFE ELSA VISITED SHANGHAI IN 1922, THEY CAME ACROSS A PECULIAR CHINESE TOY CALLED THE ‘INSATIABLE BIRDIE’. Einstein had already discovered general relativity and changed mankind’s understanding of the universe, but try as he might he couldn’t figure out how this daffy-looking toy worked. And he really did try. Without taking it apart (that would have been cheating), the Nobel Prize-winning scientist analysed the Insatiable Birdie for three months straight. Eventually he just gave up. Einstein should take some solace: the toy, sometimes referred to as ‘Duncan’, has baffled children and middle managers for over 70 years. Don’t let the vacant stare and tiny top hat fool you – this is a finely calibrated piece of scientific wizardry. President Herbert Hoover was supposedly a big fan. And…

4 min.
left on the side of the road

A GARGANTUAN DOUGHNUT. A FISH THE SIZE OF A DINER. A WHALE THE SIZE OF A GARAGE. UNCLE SAM AND BOB’S BIG BOY RENDERED IN FIBREGLASS AT TITANIC SCALE, LIKE GODS. These were some of the subjects of the photographer and architecture critic John Margolies, who roamed the United States taking pictures on yearly trips from 1969 until 2008. Over the course of those 39 years, Margolies covered each of the 48 contiguous states. A giant milk bottle in Oklahoma. A looming Viking in Minnesota. A platoon of outsized Paul Bunyans deployed nationwide. This was John Margolies’ America. Margolies became enamoured with roadside attractions while taking road trips with his parents – who did not share his interest. “My parents’ generation thought it was the ugliest stuff in the world,” he told…