When Linda Donnelly—founder, editor and publisher of year-old startup The Modern Estate—heard that the 47-acre New Canaan, Connecticut home of the late, renowned architect Philip Johnson was set to open to the public, she knew it had to be their story. The magazine covers the luxury home market of New York City and its surrounding affluent communities, and their readership is split equally between home owners and tradespeople (builders, designers, architects, etc.). She campaigned against other regional—and more established—publications and eventually won first exclusive regional rights to the story.

Once they got the guarantee, Donnelly says they “went in with all guns blazing,” planning for an 18-page double-feature—one part on the estate and its fourteen structures, and the other on its artwork. “Our goal was to offer inside access and educate the community about a part of architectural history that’s a mystery to most,” says Donnelly. Until then, the residence, called “The Glass House,” was open for tours on an extremely limited basis.

Fortuitous Progress
As the feature evolved, it grew in fortuitous ways. Ira Grandberg, a well-known architect who studied under Johnson, was working on a piece for a future issue and mentioned a personal experience with him to Donnelly, who immediately asked if he could write it up for a sidebar (called an “inspired addition” by a Folio: Show judge). Other additions included pull quotes with “words of wisdom” from Johnson and a full-page guide to the property.

The leading story did not go as smoothly. The big-name architect wrote the article on time but not on par with the magazine’s tone. The writer was too busy to revise, and Donnelly panicked, after gambling on one author.

However, she had been consulting from the start of the piece with Michael Torre, an architect who studied at Yale. He offered to write the piece, despite his lesser-known name, and Donnelly took the chance.

Torre wrote the piece in a week. “I had no time to write an academic piece,” he says, “so I decided to simplify a really complicated site, hoping that the pictures and my choice of words would help decode the mystery.”

Judges Comments: “The narrative is sharp with a strong, personal lead and a truly resonant ending. In terms of words, visuals, and number of entry points for the reader and voices (all of which harmonize), this is a multi-dimension article of the highest production caliber.”

Thinking Outside the Box in Editorial Management
Check out this related session at The Folio: Show, November 1-2 in NYC!

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