The writers’ end: the new practice of the self-proclaimed architect


The writers’ end: the new practice of the self-proclaimed architect

When the Great Recession of 2008 destroyed advertising revenue for publishing as a whole and limited the money available to architects for PR and photographers, the established way to promote architects and architecture was brutally cut. compromised. That same moment saw the instant availability of smartphones, with incredibly good cameras, huge memory, and soon 5G transmission. These technological revolutions have transformed graphic designers into artists. Now anyone can photograph, film and narrate any perception anywhere, instantly, for free – and share universally. The cliché that the Internet “everything has changed” holds true in the way the world sees architecture.

This double blow of fiscal devastation and technological revolution has achieved a New Practice; the Self-Promotional Architect, independent of the Machine of Defining Cool in Architecture.

Cover of architectural record May 1961. Image courtesy of Architectural Record
Cover of architectural record May 1961. Image courtesy of Architectural Record

In the age of paper, architects kept some of the firm’s artwork, tweaked descriptive words, tweaked “public relations drawings” and obsessed with professionally-taken photographs – all in the picture. aim to appeal to a magazine publisher, design jury, or call for entries for a gallery exhibition. Officials reviewed the work, judged it, and determined if the work deserved recognition. Larger companies (or wealthier architects) could afford publicists who “knew people” to gain access to those who controlled the exhibition of work in the “Rolodex” era.


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Courtesy of Medium
Courtesy of Medium

The old system had no explicit criteria for being “in”, no desire to represent the overall state of an entire profession. In other words, there was no aesthetic diversity beyond elaborations on what the Guardians thought was legitimate.

Architecture May 1996. Image courtesy of Architecture
Architecture May 1996. Image courtesy of Architecture

The future way for architects to promote their work is in contrast to the methods of control imposed by editorial or cultural elites. This new practice allows architects to be their own advocates, exposing their work directly to everyone. Open websites like Houzz, The Entre Architect Community, and Modernism expose work to millions of people beyond individual websites. Plus, Constant Contact, Zoom podcasts, blogs, and forums are inexpensive or free and available to everyone, free of charge.

The direct and personal apprehension of intimate exposure to the Internet will change our perception of architecture. Judging the journalistic, institutional and academic worlds will make less sense. The “style” will be left to describe the veneer of the buildings because the Internet puts all the architecture on a common plane, without editing, judging or describing beyond the Rorschach, the test of visual interest.

The Titanic, 1978 Credit: Stanley Tigerman SR Crown Hall at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.  Image courtesy of Claire Zimmerman
The Titanic, 1978 Credit: Stanley Tigerman SR Crown Hall at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. Image courtesy of Claire Zimmerman

I think this radical change in the way we can perceive architecture has a precedent. The way our culture viewed architecture changed completely at the start of the 20e century of adoption of new photography technology which has created an irresistible and distilled clarity of the detached image. These images of buildings often removed the context, scale and humanity that helped create the “style” of Modernism. I think internet and virtual reality technologies will similarly reinvent the delivery system that shares the architecture. Its infinite availability, variety and vitality will link the essential perception of beauty without the application of a defining “Style”, rendering those who edit what we see unnecessary.

    Modern Architecture: International Exhibition, New York, February 10 to March 23, 1932, Museum of Modern Art 1932. Image courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art
Modern Architecture: International Exhibition, New York, February 10 to March 23, 1932, Museum of Modern Art 1932. Image courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art

Rather than reinforcing or creating any “style” in religious fanaticism, the new universal technology will bypass the system that was created to sort, categorize, judge and edit architecture far from our immediate experience.

This development means that the “churches” of the academy – the professional institutions, and their Canon will be in full Intellectual Reform. Before the Protestant Christian Reformation 500 years ago, the church was the publisher of Western civilization’s relationship with God. Martin Luther showed that humans are just that, humans, and that connection to something beyond our humanity is not limited by this humanity. The direct relationship transforms understanding – into Faith and Architecture. Like the Reformation, the power of orthodoxy has been made irrelevant. The Internet of personal architectural experience bypasses intellectual interpretation and elite control. There will be fewer High Priests of Taste – replaced by a New Practice of how architects can communicate, without being filtered through the prism of the judgments of others.

How architecture is transmitted to the world now.  Websites and blogs can now contain dozens of links to other active architecture aggregators with universal accessibility, creating a new practice of the self-promoted architect.  .  Image courtesy of the Dickinson duo
How architecture is transmitted to the world now. Websites and blogs can now contain dozens of links to other active architecture aggregators with universal accessibility, creating a new practice of the self-promoted architect. . Image courtesy of the Dickinson duo



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