Living within the digital age means being hyper-aware of the image you present online and actively curating one. Social media has allowed us to present a version of ourselves that doesn’t always exist in the real world. It told us that life is only worth living if you are documenting it. The digital age has ushered in so many wonderful innovations. In the last five years, we have experienced a boom in social media and this has permeated across disciplines and lives of many and has changed the way we communicate with the world. Among other disciplines this has also affected the way an architect communicates with the world, to keep up with the growing needs of communication through social media platforms.
The power of social media in business is no longer debated and is a tool that naturally lends itself to the role of the architect. Connecting creative professionals with shared interests can provide insight into worldwide trends, developments in architecture, and the opportunity to gather valuable research. While some of the celebrity architects prefer to avoid social media appearances, many exploit it to connect to their audiences, to share their thought processes, or to engage in collective interdisciplinary discussions. Social media also provides a forum for academic debate among individuals with a passion for the built environment and an insight into creative thinking processes. It can become an intrinsic part of the planning process also as studio activities. Social media creates an entire network of interactions and its transference into physical reality.
It is up to architects to reinterpret and make full use of the available media tools to create our future cities in concordance with the emerging virtual reality. How people interact with their surroundings online and offline, both are going to be as important in the future as successful businesses need to have a website today. We have reached a point where social media can change the functionality of a space instantly – a café can turn into an office with the simple act of opening a laptop, connecting to the internet, and communicating with the clients, for example.
As with many aspects of technology, caution must also be exerted in the use of social media. Firms may be poorly represented, the reality of images exaggerated, and mistakes made in a very public manner which could be damaging. The balance must also be exercised between the amount of time spent on social media opportunities and other aspects of the architect’s work. Maintaining an online presence requires regular updates and posted material may be announced, praised, or criticized in a matter of minutes while the public watches intently. We are coming to a point where to correctly and responsibly make use of all online media resources, a ‘Schematic Blueprint’ will be required. As an example of how this could be achieved Andrew Hawkins of Hawkins Architecture, organizes the uses and goals of some platforms, and divides them into several main categories seen in the image.
Architecture has become a field, where the display of work philosophy and projects, attract the right kind of client. Nowadays, design media has a lot to offer, just one needs to be creative and should be smart enough about content; crisp, detailed and one must display true values of the firm or studio, after all, work resonates with one’s personality. There are many methods of having dynamic content such as YouTube videos, fabricating travel journals, perceptions and conversations, and start documenting it.
Digital Platforms need content that requires a critic. Websites are the best landing points for clients which help them know about previous project descriptions and how the work was taken ahead. Although website branding is less important compared to Facebook, Instagram, and Linked In, which is more in trend. Also curating Architectural journalists is the best way to have the required unique content, and a small PR Team would help get the sustained visibility amongst the masses. Communication is driven by content, so social media will assist one to shape communities and identify the USP’s and approaches. A PR team helps to prepare a marketing plan, expertise list, and niche.
Along with the sharing that social media brings, it can also be used to help inform architecture. Social media information could be used to make an architectural space better, space which could gather data, making the most of “everywhere information”, and it could use that data to attune its architectural features to help current building occupants. The real potential behind social media is this concept of “everywhere information”, and with it, new ways to experience architecture can emerge.
As an architect, you must keep an eye out for advancements in mobile devices that allow for information to be everywhere. “Architects have always designed spaces to be seen in specific ways: it’s only now that everybody has the power to prevent and take the right shot.” she explains, adding, “There are Instagram-famous places that are deep and Instagram-famous places that are shallow.” To be sure, the discussion of architects “embracing the idea of designing for Instagram” has been a popular and contentious question in design circles for years. Yet, rather than asking if architects should embrace Instagram, perhaps, the real question is if social media is providing the public with a way to take ownership, and perhaps pride, over the built environment in a way that wasn’t available before?