Recently I enjoyed a Saturday morning coffee with Nic Granleese, an architect, photographer and blogger who is breaking ground and blurring the boundaries of traditional architectural communication. As well as photographing the work of renowned architects such as Andrew Maynard and Six Degrees, Nic has also worked within the Victorian Chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects.
In the broad ranging discussion, what took me most by surprise was Nic’s views on where internet based technologies and social media could take the practice of architecture. As 2012 draws to a close it is the perfect time to look to the future and ponder what might be just around the corner.
R+BA – As someone with a keen interest in social media and its applications, how do you think social media is impacting on the practice of architecture?
NG – I don’t think it is profound yet, but it has the ability to be. One or two architects are using it very well, but compared to other industries like photography, social media is still in it’s infancy for architects, and that’s one of the reasons why it has so much opportunity. I’m guessing we’re 5 to 10 years behind these other industries and if they are anything to go by, online activity will define the next generation of architects.
R+BA – Over the last decade or so we have seen remarkable things happen, such as Wikipedia and Twitter through internet based technologies. What effect are these developments having on the practice of architecture and where do you see the future headed?
NG – I see two really big things happening.
The first is architects being able to better match themselves with clients. This is hugely valuable because the chances of creating a great project lies in having clients who “get you”. In the past potential clients who came to an architect may have been passed on from another client, or found you in the yellow pages and to a large extent knew very little about you. It was a connection of proximity, rather than of relevance.
What the online world does is provide architects with a much larger pool of potential clients, but also a platform to explain who you really are and what you’re passionate about. You can do this slowly with a blog, and you can provide detail, and by the time a potential client walks through your door they have had a relationship with you for months. If you’re truly honest you’ll be able to scare away 90% of the clients you never wanted in the first place, and connect with the other 10% who are just right for you. So my guess is that we’ll see a whole bunch of smaller practices, being highly creative and really crushing it because of the online world. That’s super exciting.
The second is an increased sharing of knowledge, which leads to more access and faster learning cycles. This has already happened with photography, but is yet to gain strong momentum within architecture. My prediction is that it will happen because sharing information online is a social commodity and this gives value to those who create it, not just those who consume it.
R+BA – Do you think architecture could become crowd sourced, rather than architect led?
NG – In some ways it already is. Take competitions for example, which is basically where the design phase of a project is outsourced to a group of separated individuals who each have an opportunity to tackle the design issue. What I haven’t seen though is some form of web based crowdsourced architecture, similar to 99 Designs for graphic design. This may be possible in a theoretical sense, but it’s unclear if this approach is healthy for architects, or architecture.
R+BA – Do you think architects interact well with the media? The recent success of your media kit may suggest that we are self conscious, or is it in fact that we are craving more media exposure and see this tool to achieve it?
NG – We have plenty of architectural media, but as architects we get very little education as to how the media works, or what the effect of media will have on our practices. As an industry we have been very good at talking amongst ourselves, but struggle to communicate outside of architectural circles. On top of this we have the invention of the internet which has changed architectural media from a handful of magazines into literally thousands of blogs, websites and social media users. This is a paradigm shift in how architects publicise their work, share their ideas and ultimately market their skills.
It is also a time of opportunity. Only twenty years ago architects faced a very restrictive media pipeline where only a handful of architects could ever hope to be published. Now everyone has the ability to tell their story and share their knowledge. If nothing else it means that architects have no one else to blame if they are not getting “out there,” but that also means architects can not be passive and wait for the media to come to them. They need to be proactive and use all the self publishing tools that now exist in conjunction with the existing media.
R+BA – In a surprising and concerning announcement, the Architects Registration Board of Victoria is to be merged with other bodies into a new Victorian Building Authority (see earlier post here). This has caused alarm and uncertainty amongst Architects who have been regulated by the ARBV since 1923. What do you make of this change and what do you think are the most likely consequences?
NG – I’m not sure it’s clear that anyone knows what is going on with this change. What is clear however is that there has been a complete lack of consultation with those who will be affected. At this point I’m yet to form an opinion. We all need to see the details.
I would like to sincerely thank Nic for his time and thoughtful responses
To check out some of Nic’s amazing photography, or to read his blog click here
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