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Dear World Class Architect: Please Blog

April 10, 2009

I had a roommate in college who was an architecture major as an undergrad.  He was such an insufferable snob — for example, in the entire year we lived together, he never watched any movie that wasn’t by Fellini — that my view of architecture and architects may have been unfairly colored.

Thankfully, I recently learned just how fascinating architects are, especially in the post-Green era.  So I started to dig around just a bit.

And I must ask… why aren’t architects blogging more?

I asked this question on Twitter and LinkedIn and got some interesting responses, but thought to expand on them here.

Seriously Compelling Content

Blogs are, of course, for those who work with the written word.  At the same time, there’s no denying that pictures and graphics liven up what would otherwise be a wall of text.  Architecture is inherently a visual medium, but one that requires quite a bit of explanation (via words) to appreciate it fully.

For example, look at The Visionaire, a new building by the Albanese Organization, designed by Rafael Pelli.

The Visionaire, by Rafael Pelli

The Visionaire, by Rafael Pelli

That’s a beautiful building.  And a beautiful image.  There are more stunning images of gorgeous buildings in the world of architects.  Look at this image from Centerbrook:

Discovery Research Center, Dekalb Plant Genetics Corp.

Discovery Research Center, Dekalb Plant Genetics Corp.

Unlike artists, however, architects have to create buildings that people work in, shop in, play in, and live in.  There are layers upon layers of things going on that I had no idea even existed.

For example, solar path.  It makes perfect sense once it’s explained, but until it is, it’s one of those things that a normal person rarely (if ever) thinks about.

Solar path diagram

Solar path diagram

Architects routinely think about stuff like this, as well as all of the engineering that goes into a project.  I heard Stephan Kieran of KieranTimberlake spend a good 5 minutes talking about a wall.  With cross-section diagrams, showing heatmaps.  I rather think he could have gone on for a good half-hour just about a wall.  Maybe more.

And all of it is fascinating, because so much of it is simply a brilliant exercise of human ingenuity.  Intelligence, applied.

Plus, architects write.  Centerbrook has published a freakin’ book.  And here’s the whole list of their publications.

And last, but not least, non-architects are genuinely interested in architecture.  It is an art form, after all, and one that impacts the average person’s life in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.  Every New Yorker knows that a part of his identity is tied up with the skyline, the buidings, the iconic ones like Empire State, and the forgettable brownstones lining 11th street.  Every homeowner lives every day with the result of decisions made by some architect or three.  People are interested in architecture.

The whole heady mixture says to me, “Blog!”

Thankfully, some architects are starting to get into the blogosphere.

KieranTimberlake has a blog.  Unfortunately, KT seems to use it mostly as a repository for press releases, which makes it basically useless.  I learned through LinkedIn that Modative has a blog, and it’s quite good.  (I’ve linked to it in a new blogroll category.)  Most of the other architecture blogs appear to be written by critics, academics, journalists, and so on, rather than by practicing architects.  If you know of blogs by architects, please send along the link, or post it in the comments.

Effective Marketing?

Turning to the topic as a marketer, rather than a new kid-in-candy-store enthusiast, I confess that I am puzzled why more architects wouldn’t blog.  It strikes me as almost the ideal marketing vehicle for the profession.

Perhaps the bigtime developers who hire architects for the most part grow up in the industry and know all the architects they’ll ever want to know.  Maybe the plethora of design and architecture magazines makes it unnecessary for architects to market themselves.

If you’re Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, maybe blogging just isn’t something you need to do.

But what about all those who aren’t already world-famous architects?  How would a potential client know to hire you?  What does he judge you on?

I ask because I genuinely do not know, never having hired an architect, nor having been one.  But since architecture is still a services-based profession, where one’s intelligence, wisdom, judgement, aesthetics, philosophy, and temperament all come into play, it seems to me that letting people know who you are, how you think, what interests you, and what your design philosophies are would be an excellent way to let like-minded clients find you.

Sharing knowledge, sharing insight, and being a genuine, authentic person are proving to be the most important method of marketing in the post-Cluetrain world.  Architects have knowledge, have insight, and are human beings — get on the cluetrain!  Let the world know your views on things.  Talk about projects as an insider.  Let us see that you’ve put in hours of thought into just how sunlight should strike the window at a precise angle at 3PM on a Friday in April.

Let us behind the curtain.  We may have no idea what you’re talking about, but we will recognize that you do.

So architects of the world, unite in blogging and social media!  You have nothing to lose but your aura of mystery.


4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 11, 2009 1:17 am

    The young architects blog that this post auto linked to (Architects vs. Engineers) seems like it might sort of fit the bill. Big name architects get documentary films made about them and their projects – like you said, they write books or have books written about them. What about engineers? Are they blogging? Wondering if you might find some up and coming architects writing more design oriented blogs where they could express their more creative side?

  2. April 11, 2009 6:55 pm

    I always check out Contemporist, Archpaper, ArchDaily or Weburbanist. Probably not exactly what you are looking for but I hear Guy Kawasaki has a section over on Alltop called Architecture. 😉


  1. Daily Digest for 2009-04-11 | Joe Spake - Memphis Real Estate

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