When the 2008 Great Recession destroyed advertising revenue for all of publishing and limited the cash that architects had for PR and photographers, the established way of promoting architects and architecture was brutally compromised. That same moment saw the instant availability of smartphones, with insanely good cameras, huge memory, and soon 5G transmission. Those technological revolutions turned graphic duffers into artists. Anyone can now photo, video, and narrate any perception anywhere, instantly, free - and share universally. The cliché of saying that the internet “everything changed” is true in how the world sees architecture.
This one-two punch of fiscal devastation and technological revolution has realized a New Practice; the Self-Promoting Architect, independent of the Machine of Defining Cool in architecture.
In the Era of Paper, architects would curate a piece of the firm’s oeuvre, polishing words of description, refining “PR drawings”, and obsessing over photographs taken by a professional - all in the effort to please a magazine editor, a design jury, or a call for submissions for a gallery show. Those in charge reviewed the work, judged it, and determined whether the work deserved recognition. Bigger firms (or wealthier architects) could afford publicists who “knew people" to gain access to those who controlled the exposure of work in the era of the "Rolodex".
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The old system had no explicit criteria for being “in”, no desire for representation of the whole state of an entire profession. In other words, there was no aesthetic diversity beyond elaborations on what the gatekeepers thought was legitimate.
The coming way architects promote their work is the opposite of the methods of control imposed by the editorial or cultural elites. This New Practice empowers architects to be their own advocates, directly exposing their work to any and all. Open websites like Houzz, The Entre Architect Community, and Modernism expose work to millions beyond individual websites. Additionally, Constant Contact, podcasts, blogs, and Zoom forums are low or no cost and accessible to anyone, for free.
The direct, personal apprehension of intimate internet exposure will change how we perceive architecture. The judgment of the journalistic, institutional, and academic worlds will mean less. “Style” will be left to describe the veneer of buildings because the Internet puts all architecture on a common plane, without editing, judging, or description beyond the Rorschach the test of visual interest.
I think that this sea change of how we can perceive architecture has a precedent. The way our culture perceived architecture was fully changed by the early 20th century’s embrace of the new technology of photography that created a compelling, distilled clarity of detached image. Those images of buildings often removed context, scale and humanity which helped create the “Style” of Modernism. I think that the internet and virtual reality technologies will similarly re-invent the delivery system that shares architecture. Its infinite availability, variety, and vitality will connect the essential perception of beauty without the application of a defining “Style” making those who edit what we see unneeded.
Rather than reinforce or create any “Style” in religious zealotry, the new universal technology will bypass the system that was created to sort, categorize, judge, and edit architecture away from our immediate experience.
This evolution means that the “churches” of the academy - the professional institutions, and their Canon will be in full Intellectual Reformation. Before the Christian Protestant Reformation 500 years ago The church was the editor of western civilization’s relationship with God. Martin Luther showed that humans are just that, human, and connection to something beyond our humanity is not limited by that humanity. Direct relationship transforms understanding - to Faith and Architecture. Like the Reformation, the power of orthodoxy has been made irrelevant. The internet of personal experience in architecture bypasses intellectual interpretation and elite control. There will be fewer High Priests of Taste – replaced by a New Practice of the way architects can communicate, without being filtered through the lens of others’ judgments.