After many different forms of work, travelling and the autodidacts curiosity for myriad fields of everything, Lowenstein finally felt it was time to get serious with his small independent magazine venture. And in summer 1996, albeit tentatively, Fourth Door Review 1 was published.
Since that time Fourth Door Review has grown gradually, and organically, although given Lowenstein’s desire to maintain Fourth Door’s independence, it’s rate of publication has been intermittent – what he refers to as ‘the blue moon theory of publishing.’ In 2002, Fourth Door Review 5 won the US Utne Independent Press award for best independent new culture magazine. However the review remained stubbornly marginal in the international magazine culture it had almost become part of, leading to Lowenstein to pretty much close the whole project down after issue 7 in 2005. However the itch of magazining has again got the better of him, and this spring Lowenstein is launching this new edition - no 8; making the total number of printed published editions to have made it into the physical ether.
With Fourth Door Review underway – even if in occasional form – Lowenstein also began writing on many of the themes featured in the review. This focus has been principally on ecological art, architecture, new media and music as well as design and contemporary craft practice. His contributions to the art press, include Modern Painters, Art Review, Resurgence, and Sculpture magazine. He has also written for these, and other, magazines on fusions between art and craft futures and art and new media. In architecture part of Lowenstein’s focus is on contemporary timber architecture, and he has written for a number of magazines and newspapers on the subject, including the Financial Times, the Independent, THES, Blueprint, Architectural Journal and Metropolis as well as regular feature pieces for the sustainable architecture and building magazine Building for a Future (recently re-titled Green Building.)
In addition to these core subjects Lowenstein has interviewed and written features on many individuals and projects related to diverse aspects of green and related thinking; ranging from contemporary science, consciousness studies and engineering, new media and video, craft and embodiment, through to cyberpunk and the national trust. The primary interest originates in an unbrokered curiosity across the reach of subjects, though also how different apparently unrelated subjects are in reality all too connected. Some of this relational way of thinking has migrated into essay contributions to various books, catalogues and academic journals.
In the late 90’s Lowenstein began, almost by accident, developing Fourth Door Research, which also in time turned into a focused research network. Its primary research and activity focus has been the Cycle Station project, ecologically designed overnight stay facilities designed for the National Cycle Network. In 2005, the Cycle Station Project was awarded a £700 000 EU Interreg grant in a group application led by the University of Brighton. Since then Fourth Door Research has been developing a range of variants of the Cycle Stations concept in collaboration with various practice partners. This research has fed into Riding on Empty: Designing our travel infrastructure for the end of oil, a touring exhibition detailing this research. Other research activities cover a variety of new media concerns, specifically related to environmental education, with a focus on sensor technology and mapping. A long time ago, one proposal, Bioregional Multimedia, won an award for innovation from the Institute of Social Inventions. Other work includes consultancy, research, writing, curatorial work, talks and occasional tutoring on courses, generally related to the activities of Fourth Door. In autumn 2008 he co-curated the Building Biographies exhibition at the Lighthouse, Scotland.Lowenstein lives in Lewes, Sussex, and is considered irrevocably has-been by his teenage son, a perspective which is not without its supporters.
Having completed the gridshell, he opened The Architecture Ensemble in 2002 to specialise in timber construction. During this period Johnson became involved in the Cycle Station Project, developing a lo-tech timber designed prototype going under the name Rura. This has become the starting point for much of the subsequent design thinking, and was used for the University of Brighton Interreg student research. Johnson has subsequently given talks on the project and has become a Fourth Door Research mainstay in the Cycle Stations ongoing development.
Alongside the Cycle Stations Project, Johnson has been involved in several private and community projects both in London and the Southeast. including a series of industrial projects at the Woodland Enterprise Centre at Flimwell, East Sussex. The Architecture Ensemble was one of several founding members of the Timberbuild Network based at Flimwell. The network was established to re-establish communications between timber suppliers, processors, fabricators, designers and builders with the principle aim of making use of more local timber within the construction industry. The Architecture Ensemble is also architect for the both phase one and two of eight new business start-up industrial units totalling 720m2 aimed at providing premises for new timber-based companies such as furniture makers, carpenters, and foresters. Located in ancient woodland at the Woodland Enterprise Centre at Flimwell, East Sussex the project is intended to demonstrate how development can enhance rural landscapes. The buildings will be built from local timber and show how this material can compete with other materials even within the low-cost market of industrial sheds.
Other projects include working towards the development of a prototype rural community. Once running, the programme would offer up far-reaching proposals for how people can be re-introduced to the countryside in a manner that would serve to profoundly enhance the environment with their presence. Agro-forestry and associated architectural development would form the cornerstone of a completely new form of development capable of achieving broad and long-term sustainability. The idea is to reverse much of the current damage being done to the countryside through conventional commercial agricultural and development practises. In collaboration with the Copenhagen-based engineering firm, Cenergia, the concept has already been given an award in Denmark for a sustainable new town proposal. In collaboration with the Architecture Ensemble Fourth Door Research has been researching ways of integrating the Cycle Stations concept into this work.
His research focus is best characterised by his own PhD thesis entitled ‘A Social Dimension to Digital Architectural Practice’ which presented a critical opportunity for Digital Architecture to develop new forms of practice that embrace social computing principles within a cultural geographical model of space. Chris has been involved in both the hands-on development of the web-based dimension of Fourth Door Research and the Cycle Stations Project and also from a theoretical perspective, working with how a physical network of Cycle Stations can complement the network character of National Cycle Network. Chris is also deeply involved in the conceptual and practical development of a series of applied digital architectural projects including: Arch-OS - Operating Systems for Architecture (wwwarch-os.com) at the University of Plymouth, a infrastructure to stream social, network and environmental data to the internet, and the Centre for Sustainable Futures Green Screen (2007-08), a 50m2 LED matrix located within an atria window of a large urban building. Aspects of this work are also being applied in Fourth Door Research’s Luminous Forest new media project, with Chris as a critical research participant.
Chris has sustained a critical enquiry into how digital technology can engage with the field of architecture through shows, publications and events including: V01D exhibition and edited book 2001, Catalogue exhibition and Arts Council digital teachers pack 2002, IBEAM Fonts by Architects exhibition 2003 and CD-Rom, and Out of Scale exhibition 2004. As part of this critical enquiry Chris has also contributed to various editions of Fourth Door Review.
Chris’ works have been published in international books and journals, presented at conferences across the world and has had projects commissioned and distributed in a variety of mediums.