Not too long ago, architecture theorists would define books, travel, and sketch as the guiding light to being a successful architect. But today with the world in our palms, Social Media’s Facebook likes as a metric system and carefully curated Instagram profiles to enhance a sense of identity, what is the forefront of our profession – Architecture?

Social Media and Architecture: Trend jacking or Clickbait ?

In the day and age of GenX, where everyone has an online presence, the field of architecture has taken a giant leap. While the avant-garde struggled to make its place prior to the presence of media; post television, Frank Lloyd Wright had an easy time, with critiques celebrating the NYC Guggenheim Museum, allowing people to understand the parti of his process. Today there’s an added effortlessness to the scenario. With social media as ammo, validation of an idea even before it’s been executed, seems to be a regular occurrence. Concept technicalities are easier understood through basic illustrations, visually rich architectural essays and video snippets, encouraging people to empathize with the project; digest them before they are brought to life.

Social Media and Architecture: Trend jacking or Clickbait ?

Digital illustration showing Ingels’ Danish pavilion design process

Social Media and Architecture: Trend jacking or Clickbait ?Content strategist, Gary Vaynerchuk claims ‘micro content’ produced on a daily basis is the ideal way to grow and distribute your brand on social media. This is no novel concept for BIG Architects. Bjarke Ingels, founder of BIG is known as the avid Instagram-er with a notorious reputation for self-promotion. From his Frida Kahlo socks to him laying on Lego blocks, you can see it all! He uses media as a sales and marketing tool, informing swarms of how successful his personal and professional life is. His ‘jab, jab and right hook’ method gives out information to portray the firm as honest and caring. While the audience is engaged, his company appears to them as a friend. Although Alexandra Lange of Dezeen magazine retaliates to say that social media could do more for architecture than show pretty faces and soundbites. But hey! works for him and Norman Foster as well. Foster takes the digital stage to get rid of the uptight, stern reputation architects hold. Unfurling what’s behind the scenes, gives him a sort of congenial quality. Lange, on the other hand, advocates for architect profiles that have a ‘visual dialogue’ between the popular and their followers. She suggests for either an archival angle or a digital curation that shares a meaningful log of their discoveries.

Another example would be of HPD architects.

A marketing forum that goes by the name Hinge, highlights a case study of a three-person, Texan architecture firm, HPD. The brand made its mark on building battleground by means of their social media presence; using it as a networking tool replacing the orthodox handshake with clients. But unlike Ingels and Foster, they focussed more on brand awareness. Employing diverse modes – twitter, Facebook, blogs and podcasts, HDP is known to spew out large amounts of content in order to build trust.

Instead of focusing on themselves, they shed light on educational resources, articles, and notable websites. A crucial step they took was establishing an audio podcast called The Architecture Happy Hour, which spoke about a multitude of topics ranging from tips for homeowners to gays in architecture. Gradually building credibility by awareness of the firm in the community and industry. In this way, they became local stars.

The realm of architecture isn’t just confined to large scale, commercial projects such as malls and museums, but also inclusive of petite residential spaces and everyday public spheres – peas of the same pod. Architects similarly can be seen through the lens as students, theorists, teachers, authors or journalists, and even developers. For each, social media is capable of translating personal skill sets to potential opportunities by compiling information; allowing for graphical, organized representation with just one click. For instance, once upon a time, fresh graduates would have to compile ancient hand-drafted portfolios, follow the door-to-door process looking for a mentor. It was a tiresome and risky process – we all know the misery of a rainy day while carrying sheets to the studio. Social media savvy architects now have their work compiled digitally. With every media platform having a different interface- Instagram dominates for students with high rendering skills, twitter for those woke designers with opinions to voice- “Off with Gehry’s head!” to which he gladly raises his finger. Whereas, Pinterest for those who look to influence or feel inspired. LinkedIn encourages the mentor-mentee relationship search while a hyperlink to the issue, an online publishing platform, showcases years of their hard work.

Social Media and Architecture: Trend jacking or Clickbait ?

We’ve all heard of Autodesk. Since, the early 80s to date, it is the most common software hub found in spaces occupied by designers. In the market today we also find McNeel’s grasshopper, Rhino3D, the Adobe suite. But, ever wonder how many architects may be behind designing architectural software? Technology has led to efficiency. It’s the age of speed. Time is money. And by saying that, softwares automatically elevate to a prerequisite in the business of architecture. What does social media transmute for the software domain?

Aurora Meneghello, director of marketing for Novedge, an architecture software retailer explains while in conversation with ‘The business of Architecture’ vlog how social media has become indispensable for them. So much so, those hours together are put in by alternating employees to update their media accounts. They use it to push their brand in a similar way to HDP. They keep an eye on the competition, stay in touch with clients and fish for prospective clients. Furthermore, for architects turned developers Dan Tsui, an architectural engineer turned software developer at Uber reinforces how services, technology, and requirements are constantly changing, which isn’t too different from the field of architecture. And what better way to quickly collect morphing data of your abundant client base than the swift social media?

Social Media and Architecture: Trend jacking or Clickbait ?

Finally, to prove the robust penetration of the industry by social media its important to acknowledge that awards have had to make space for it :

Archiboo Web Awards will be celebrating its fourth anniversary this year. Inclined to celebrate the communication of architecture, an important category to be awarded is ‘Best Use of Social Media’. With UNStudio, Mae (London) and Ben Adams Architects as previous winners; nominations such as make: good, Butcher Bayley Architects, White Arkiterkter, Justico + Whiles followed by Norman Foster foundation, it is undoubtedly a pensive award; commemorating an arena, now, central to architecture.

Illustration retrieved from kreatifmimarlik.com

Author

Currently a student of Architecture at the University of Sydney, Shristi Sainani is an artist and a certified interior designer. She is an absolute enthusiast for learning - an avid traveller, reader of anything non-fiction, a lifter! Yes, she could be your typical gym bro or even you local potter. But her all time favourite job is the one she’s doing now, for RTF— writing about architecture!

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