Last night, dozens packed into the Center for Architecture to join the conversation among some of the most influential in our field. With the energy levels high, panelists Bjarke Ingels of BIG, Toru Hasegawa and Mark Collins of Morpholio and Cloud Lab Columbia University GSAPP, and ArchDaily founders David Basulto and David Assael, shared insight into the impact social media and technology have on our profession and the way in which we design. While the panelists all share a background in design, their differences in applying technology to their particular niche – whether to aid the design process, to collect and redistribute data, or to share information and bring awareness - fueled a dynamic dialogue that kept the crowd engaged and informed way past the closing hours of the Center for Architecture. Read on for the story behind ArchDaily, and, if you happened to catch the event, let us know in the comments below.
As the third in a series of AIANY Global Dialogues, Going Viral was dedicated to “uncovered connections” with the intention to investigate issues that are similarly impacting multiple regions, cultures and individuals. To begin the evening, Ned Cramer, editor-in-chief of the AIA’s Architect magazine, expressed the powerful impact the panelists of “media moguls” have on the profession of architecture, as their work not only responds to, but also embraces, the fast-paced speed at which the technology of our profession is moving.
First up was Bjarke Ingels of BIG who spoke about the topic of communication with regards to making ideas public as a way to proactively engage people’s participation. In an honest and humorous way, Ingels walked us through several projects – many of which met unfortunate obstacles which hindered their realization – as the young firm began their quest to make better urban spaces and address macro social and environmental issues. Ingels emphasized the importance of the creation of the firm’s website as a design tool to showcase the potential of the firm. Rather quickly, the site gained international recognition for its content and breadth of innovative ideas, and still remains a popular destination for browsers when architectural inspiration is needed.
Our favorite part of Ingels’ talk was his closing project about the alpine ski slope/Waste-to-Energy Plant as it blends technological advancement with contextual concerns, and, of course, provides a dynamic spatial experience. For the project, BIG will re-brand the factory typology as he transforms an industrial power plant into an urban environmental icon complete with an educational touch. While the elaborate roofscape will offer great recreational opportunities, the building includes a modified smoke stack that will “puff” a large smoke ring of C02 once the storage chamber fills. Ingels explained, “People’s behavior will only change with knowledge…If people don’t know, they cannot act. So, in 2016, from anywhere in Copenhagen, you will be able to see the rings of CO2 rising across the sky and after 5 pass, you will know and understand what 1 ton of CO2 is.” We greatly enjoyed Ingels’ talk and admire his ability to produce a steady stream of innovative ideas and design a platform to share them to increase public awareness and enhance public participation in the urban realm.
Next, Toru Hasegawa and Mark Collins explained their data collection research strategies that respond to the growing exponential data accumulation we are experiencing, with the intention of harnessing such information for design feedback. With the Cloud Lab, Hasegawa shared a series of feedback processes our bodies supply, such as feedback from our eyes (eye-time) and our multi-touch finger behaviors (such as clicking and zooming with our technological devices), using technology as a means to amplify and understand such human behavior. At one point, Hasegawa shared a digital simulation model coded to show where people’s eyes lingered longest, and what parts of the model were being viewed first. The intention of such studies will allow that information to then be given back to the designer in an effort to understand which environments are most appealing to users. Similar to this study, we were interested in Hasegawa’s mentioning of the “A-Ha” moment and the experiments of trying to see what kinds of spaces can supply this feeling. It is an exciting research exploration with much potential to provide feedback to designers, and a path so fast-paced that it seems to be evolving just as quickly as we can process and record it. Collins followed Hasegawa with an in-depth look at Morpholio, a portfolio project that “mirrors yourself and how the world sees you.” The project allows users to post their work and then monitors browsing habits, plus, Morpholio allows users to benefit from both public and private input. We liked how Collins saw Morpholio as a transition from academia to the professional world as the site allows for a prolonged dialogue about the work and creates a design community to offer feedback. Recently, Collins put the behavioral implicit statistics to the test by creating a student design competition that would be judged by the standings of the implicit indices – such as the amount of “eye-time” one spent looking at a project, or the numbers of clicks and zooms, etc. When the results were in, the top 16 projects chosen did represent a high caliber of work which urged Collins to continue along this path of harnessing our bodies’ signals as a method of design feedback. If you are not familiar with Morpholio, check out the video below, and be sure to look into the latest Morpholio app (iTunes download link).
ArchDaily has grown to become the most widely read architecture website in the world, a feat largely accomplished by our founders’ clear goals in creating a large platform to expand opportunities available to all architects, and our founders’ understanding of the power social media has in influencing those in our profession. During the 2000s, Basulto recognized a “circle of opportunity” that was forming for several architects who continually graced the glossy spreads of traditional architectural magazines. As a kind of critique of this exclusive network, and after noticing the talent of lesser known architects making great architecture, Basulto and Assael launched their first architecture website – Plataforma Arquitectura – as a way to expand the existing traditional network to provide opportunities to all architects. And, it worked! As Plataforma began to grow and show different architects’ work, soon, those architects were being contacted not only traditional publications, but also by clients and even other architects inquring about the projects. In essence, Basulto and Assael crafted a system that showed what could happen outside the traditional network, because now, architects, clients, readers, etc. could interact with one another and form a hub of opportunities.
From Plataforma, the Davids realized the magnitude of their influence when the website was ranked the fourth most widely read architecture website– a remarkable accomplishment as the site was all in Spanish and actually out ranked many major English websites. The success marked a turning point for our founders as the Davids now realized that to reach more of the world, the website would have to appeal to English speakers. And, so, ArchDaily was created. In a time of so many architecture websites and publications, it is hard to stand out. But, what separates ArchDaily and gives us our identity is our mission to educate and inspire readers by showing the range of the profession. For the ArchDaily team, it is not just about bringing the most well known projects to you, but it is about sharing the local projects and introducing new firms to you, and projects with interesting clients, or programs, or constraints. And, as widely read as ArchDaily is (thanks to all of you!), the Davids focused on a huge mission the site must accomplish in the years ahead during their talk.
By 2050, 75% of the world’s population will live in cities – that’s about 6.6 billion people! But, the cities experiencing such growth will not be New York or London or Madrid, but rather cities in developing countries where the percentage of architects are low, and the number who will need housing and infrastructure are high. ArchDaily will need to function as the source of inspiration, knowledge and opportunity to reach architects in all these countries, and to show what can be done or what has been done in similar situations as a way to help people have better lives. The ArchDaily team truly supports such a mission, and as the Davids exclaimed last night, we can accomplish this with your help. We need your projects, and your comments, and your dreams, so we can share them with those across the world and bring an awareness and expand opportunities for all.
We hope you enjoy reading ArchDaily as much as we enjoying sharing information with you. And, we are always looking forward to hearing from you! Happy reading! Event Organized and Curated by: Global Dialogue Chairs: Jeffrey A. Kenoff AIA and Bruce E. Fisher AIA Event Co-Chairs: Elie Gamburg, Diane Chehab Design and Curatorial Team: James Kehl, Rebecca Pasternack, Ciara Seymour, Sarah E. Smith, Andy Vann