6 Ways the Web Can Help Empower Architects

6 Ways the Web Can Help Empower Architects (3)

It is almost a quarter of a century since the first ever website was published by Tim Berners-Lee, the architect of the World Wide Web. Since then, the internet has become almost as integral to our everyday lives as the air we breathe. It is vital to almost every business on the planet, a key pillar of our collective workflow, and used for everything from communication and coordination to marketing and management (in between watching videos of cats, obviously).

The Web is ubiquitous, and architects know this better than anyone. The question is: are we harnessing its full potential? We can now make the internet work for us more powerfully than ever, and the overriding goals are grouped into five broad categories:

  • Self promotion
  • In-house efficiency
  • Research and resources
  • Transparency and trust
  • Education and inspiration

Using these key points as the benchmark, we look at six simple ways the internet can help empower architects in the modern digital age.

6 Ways the Web Can Help Empower Architects

Via Instagram

1. Sell yourself – Viral marketing

Good for: Self promotion; Transparency and trust; Education and Inspiration.

Over the past decade, social media has become synonymous with online promotion, and there is a myriad of ways an architectural firm can use the various platforms to leverage their portfolio and communicate their design ethos to the wider world. Facebook and Twitter have proven to be valuable platforms, both for modest firms such as Studio MM (for whom architect Marica McKeel tweets sketches) all the way up to the goliaths of the profession such as Herzog and de Meuron, owners of a Facebook page with over 186,000 followers.

Bjarke Ingels of BIG is perhaps the best-known architect currently harnessing social media to increase his studio’s reach. A personal Instagram account boasting some 75,000 followers indicates the public truly cares about what the Danish architect has to share, whether it is a work-in-progress shot of Hualien Residences … or his most recent skiing vacation.

6 Ways the Web Can Help Empower Architects

Tokyo National Stadium by ZHA

2. Make your viewpoint heard – Public relations

Good for: Transparency and trust.

The built environment has always been entwined with politics and ethics, but the Internet has made it far easier for architects to share their perspectives on the more thorny issues relating to practice. The more we communicate our opinions and communicate the reasoning behind both our designs and our business decisions, the more the public will understand and trust the profession.

One firm flexing its PR muscles more than most in recent weeks is Zaha Hadid Architects, adopting a mixture of online mediums to defend their design for the Tokyo National Stadium. While the firm’s vociferous protestations have garnered a mixed response from both critics and the general public, it is undeniably refreshing to see a firm being transparent about its processes and encouraging open debate about architecture as a whole.

6 Ways the Web Can Help Empower Architects

Via Forbes

3. Work like a well-oiled machine – Studio communications

Good for: Research and resources; In-house efficiency.

According to The Verge, “Slack is killing email.” If you are an architect and you haven’t yet considered the web’s hottest app for team communications, chances are you will soon. Slack — together with other online tools designed to improve coordination and efficiency across a host of sectors — has the capability to transform the way firms operate day to day and make it more fun in the process.

One such firm to have picked up the “Slack” for their in-house communications is Dash Marshall LLC, designers of “An Apartment for Space-Age Lovers.” Avollio outlined 10 reasons Slack is ideal for improving an architecture studio’s workflow, including the ability to create individual channels for each project in the office, the capacity to share large drawing files, and the ease with which you can synchronize all manner of calendars, schedules, and project timelines.

6 Ways the Web Can Help Empower Architects

Studio Gang’s Aqua Tower, with product spec sheet on the left

4. Perfect your products – Specification tools

Good for: Research and resources; In-house efficiency; Education and inspiration.

Online tools for specifying building components have been around for many years, but few have allowed architects to visualize the quality of materials, detailing, and finish of each individual element in built form. Thanks to the internet, that is now changing as image-driven databases such as Architizer’s Product Catalog link brands with the buildings they are a part of.

A great example of this web-based synthesis is the marriage between Steven Holl Architects and specialist glass manufacturer Bendheim, culminating in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. With spec sheets and high-res photos just a click away, architects can now specify with much greater confidence, as well as having a convenient single point of contact for a wide array of manufacturers as they compile their detailed drawing packages.

6 Ways the Web Can Help Empower Architects

One World Trade Center by SOM, designed using BIM

5. Collaborate like a pro – Building information modeling

Good for: In-house efficiency.

This will be nothing new to most firms: BIM has irrevocably altered the landscape of architectural practice, particularly since Autodesk consolidated and streamlined Revit back in 2013. The ability for architects, engineers, contractors, and other parties to share a single, intelligent project model is fast becoming the industry standard. In fact, the use of BIM will be mandatory for all UK public projects as of next year.

More recently, cloud-based applications have increased the power of BIM beyond recognition: architects are now able to access data on energy performance as the model develops using software such asSefaira. Major firms leading the way include Skidmore Owings and Merrill, which utilized BIM from the conception to the completion of One World Trade Center in New York.

6 Ways the Web Can Help Empower Architects

National Tourist Route Trollstigen by Reiulf Ramstad Architects

6. Tell the world – Articles and interviews

Good for: Self promotion; Transparency and trust; Education and inspiration.

Linking back to the opening point, increasing communication with the public and maximizing transparency across the profession only helps to breed confidence in architects and their value to society. Another way the Web has enhanced our capability to reach out to people is through online forums like Architizer. One such example is Reiulf Ramstad, who gave an in-depth interview that reflected on his design ethos and told the stories behind buildings such as University College Østfold and National Tourist Route Trollstigen.

It is important to remember that architectural journalism need not be left to journalists; architects themselves can provide extraordinary insight into the profession and might just win over a few critics along the way. So get writing, get talking, and, most importantly of all, get sharing: the online world is your oyster …

10 Summer Retreats For Architects

10 Summer Retreats For Architects

Tight deadlines, public presentations, keeping up with countless clients, consultants, and contractors … as an architect, one can get pretty burnt out during the heat of summer — I for one could do with taking off into the wilderness once in a while! Of course, when it comes down to it, I’m still a sucker for great architecture, even in the most remote of locations, so these 10 retreats are the kinds of places that I’d love to unwind.

No doubt I’ve missed a few gems, so if you have any hideaways you feel should have made the list, make it known in the usual place: facebook.

10 Summer Retreats For Architects

False Bay Writer’s Cabin by Olson Kundig Architects

Oslon Kundig Architects – get used to this name, because you’ll be seeing more of it during the course of this article. Why? Because Tom Kundig is the undisputed king of cabins in the woods. His firm’s expertise combine refined, modern detailing with rugged, reclaimed materials to spectacular effect, and the writer’s cabin at False Bay on San Juan Island is a perfect example. The timber deck on three sides folds up using one of Kundig’s famed lo-tech mechanisms, allowing the cabin to be secured when not in use – and adding a playful aspect to this secluded glass box.

10 Summer Retreats For Architects

Forest Retreat by Uhlik Architekti

Enormous boulders are usually viewed as a major site constraint by your average architect – but the work ofUhlik Architekti is far from average. Their jaunty cabin rests gently upon a stone, with stepped seating built into a raised portion to utilize the structure’s idiosyncratic internal geometry. Situated deep in a Bohemian wood, the cabin’s external walls are clad with charred timber to create a protective layer, and shutters conceal the glazing when not in use – this is architecture as object, perfected.

10 Summer Retreats For Architects

Therme Vals by Peter Zumthor

Situated in Graubünden, Switzerland, Zumthor’s acclaimed spa resort is tucked away in the Alps, allowing for immense relaxation and an architectural geek-out session to boot. More akin to a piece of archaeology than a work of contemporary architecture, the baths form a cave-like structure hewn directly from the mountain, becoming one with the surrounding land — Vals has that rare quality of timelessness, acquired the moment it was created.

10 Summer Retreats For Architects

Wild Reindeer Center Pavilion by Snøhetta

In Hjerkinn, Norway, Snøhetta showed how parametrics can be utilized without compromising on texture, warmth, and a building’s incredible connection with the surrounding landscape. The raw steel frame protects wildlife observers from the elements, while the sculpted timber seating was formed using a combination of traditional building techniques and cutting-edge 3D modeling. Truly beautiful in its simplicity: a modern classic.

10 Summer Retreats For Architects

The Exbury Egg by PAD Studio Architects

Last year, PAD Studio created this splendid wooden vessel for the artist Stephen Turner to spend a year cogitating on the River Beaulieu in Hampshire, England. One should imagine architects would get a kick out of this retreat too though, as the timber engineering is a delight to behold – the construction details took inspiration from techniques used over centuries of British boat-building.

 10 Summer Retreats For Architects

Rolling Huts by Olson Kundig Architects

Olson Kundig Architects return to this list with one of their most well-known projects – the Rolling Huts of Mazama in Washington State appear like a herd of animals in the long grass, allowing for simple cabin living in both summer and winter. As he often does, Tom Kundig adopted a modern form (a plethora of I-beams and a cantilevered roof that even Mies Van Der Rohe might be proud of), but the materials used have a muted, textured patina that allows each cabin to blend into the surrounding landscape.

10 Summer Retreats For Architects


Found in Harads, about 50 kilometers outside of the city of Lulea in northern Sweden, Treehotel is composed of five individually designed “tree rooms,” each of which was created in collaboration with leading Scandinavian architects.

Rooms include “The UFO,” resembling a flyer-saucer caught in the trees, “The Bird’s Nest,” a veritable explosion of twigs, and “The Mirrorcube,” which reflects the surrounding landscape in its elevations so perfectly that it appears virtually invisible … the perfect retreat for those who feel the need to disappear completely. Check out the project by Dass here.

10 Summer Retreats For Architects

A Room For London by David Kohn Architects and Fiona Banner

What about escaping from the city … right in the center of the city? David Kohn Architects made this possible with the creation of their temporary art installation “A Room For London” – this hotel for two takes the whimsical form of a boat, stranded on the roof of Queen Elizabeth Hall. The lightweight structure contrasts beautifully with the brutalist concrete building upon which it rests, and it’s even possible to do your best Titanic impression from the building’s prow – “I’m king of the wooorld!”

Delta Shelter by Olson Kundig Architects

Delta Shelter by Olson Kundig Architects

Strictly speaking, the final Olson Kundig creation to make my list is a full-on house rather than a retreat. However, its remote location and compact form means it shares many qualities of the aforementioned structures, with the addition of some beautifully crafted mechanics for good measure. Cranking the wheel in the center of the house allows the enormous, double-height Corten shutters to slide open, transforming a metal cube into a modernist gem – full-height glazing and cantilevered metal balconies allow inhabitants to connect with the stunning surrounding landscape.

Treehouse Solling by Baumraum

Treehouse Solling by Baumraum

Like the Treehotel structures of Sweden, Baumraum’s elevated structures provide a luxury, modernist take on the treehouse genre. Situated in Uslar, Germany, Treehouse Solling is elevated above a secluded pond on steel stilts, connected to the land via a timber gantry. Ok, so the firm takes liberties with the definition of “treehouse”, with each of their cabins being firmly anchored to the earth – but whatever you want to call it, the Treehouse Solling must be an ideal place to get away from it all.

Yours meditatively,

The Angry Architect