Community. Building community. Those buzzwords are flowing through the halls of corporate America with the ubiquity of the latest flavor of Starbucks. Architects seem to have already forged the bond: By virtually any standard, we form a tight-knit community. We have a language in common (who continually refers to “space” the way we do?). Our education bears striking similarities, including the design laboratory and the juried system of critique. As we progress in our careers, our bank of experiences may vary in scope or scale, yet the commonalities outweigh the differences. We even dress alike. So why do we need or want to build community even further?
The ways we already share this common culture seem well established: Hardly a week passes without another professional panel or symposium, whether held formally through the local chapter of the AIA or as sponsored by the universities or the civic arts organizations. We drink in the latest ideas, and share means and methods with remarkable freedom. Publications like this one expand the dialogue, offering points of view on the best books to read or the exhibitions not to miss. If you want to be a real architect, down to the round glasses, the opportunities for development surround you wherever you live.
Enter the digital age. While the architectural culture has remained fairly intact for more than one hundred years, the advent of cyberspace and the free flow of electronic systems has radicalized our world, cracking it open like an egg. No longer bound by place, we are expanding our practices literally around the globe, at the same time that opportunities for sharing information have exploded. In parallel with the development of new software tools and the rolling out of the digital highway has come the concomitant need for information—we have become learners, whatever our age or station within the practice, as well as talkers to clients and to each other.
Even the language is changing. In the past, the individual experts and consultants we worked with, including our partnering engineers and other consultants, spoke their own lingo; now the nature of design demands a lingua franca, in which every team member can point to the same basic data, perform its own calculations, and bring its own experience to the evolving project, while contributing to a cohesive, comprehensive whole. Organizations such as the International Alliance for Interoperability have reached out to all those who are engaged in the construction process, seeking common ground. Today, building information modeling carries this idea to a kind of logical conclusion, in which all attributes of a project are represented in three-dimensions. Powerful software is bringing this expectation to reality.
Such a global explosion, and such a need for knowledge, demands more intense communication. In the next months, architectural record and McGraw-Hill Construction will be introducing tools that will allow our communities of architects and others in the professional design world to reach out to each other through the Web. Initially, you should look for two forums—one concerned with building information modeling, and the second with sustainability. Everyone should have an opinion or a lesson to share. Following these early opportunities, we will offer places for you to reach out more effectively than you have in the past, when you were limited to the occasional letter to the editor, or a rant at a chapter meeting. Instead, you will find ways to contribute to the body of knowledge, share best practices, give your opinions on works of architecture, and establish your own design persona more effectively in a new digital space. Look for the announcements as they roll out throughout the year.
Ultimately, you will become as vital a contributor to architectural record, and to the community of architecture, as our professional writers (whom we trust you will continue to read). Now the medium will be in everyone’s hands. And this publication, rather than responding to our community, will be connecting the world of architects by giving it the spark to grow.