Perhaps the overriding myth is that of the architect as a hero. Serving the same powers that it strives to critique, architecture is condemned to a perpetual conflict of interest. Together, architects, clients, politicians, and consultants make up an embroiled world in which it is forever unclear who calls the shots.- Reinier de Graaf
When it becomes job search time for an architect, in order to get an overview of firms and potential internships, the search starts where most searches these days start, Google. That search may lead to some other websites that specialize in job or internship postings, but something interesting continues to happen when using the keyword ‘architect’. Intermixed with a few listings that meet the generally expected criteria are companies like IBM, Google, and others specializing within the technology sector. Facebook lists ‘Optical Systems Architect’ and ‘Solutions Architect’ on their careers page, Google has an opening for a ‘Cloud Architect’, and Apple is searching for an ‘Imaging and Vision Architect’ along with 600 listed jobs that appear with the keyword ‘architect’. Although the amount of tech jobs, the search for that elusive job goes on, unknowingly witnessing a phenomenon that seems to raise profound questions about architecture and the architect in today’s world and in the future.
Whose systems are dependent on who? Does space in the city have value if it does not have Wi-Fi or other means to activate social media services, regardless of built architecture? Which architects really influence and shape our environments?
Conceptual series exploring the historical evolution of how users engage advertising within the public domain.
The following is an excerpt from the conclusion of my thesis, Digital is Physical: The Future of User Agency and Design Within the Public Domain. Explore more in the "Thesis and Writings" section.
The issue is not private companies participating in the public domain. Disneyland is Disneyland. A shopping mall is a shopping mall. A billboard is a billboard. An Apple store is not a Town Square. A future public domain built on false rhetoric and subversive technology must be critically questioned from the standpoint of architecture urbanism and most importantly by all users of the city. Ultimately, it is crucial that users maintain the agency of choice and freedom within the public domain.
When users experience of the city is controlled, filtered, influenced, or manipulated the chance encounters and serendipity of the public domain are gone. Users are not only isolated, but unable to no longer be exposed to different opinions and diversity. In some ways, that deepens social divides, isolation, and polarization of communities.
Not everything these companies do is bad. There are many examples of these platforms and devices connecting and enabling communities world-wide to have a voice on a global scale. Political engagement that happens in digital space is now playing out in physical space. The same happens with casual social interaction with added connectivity and accessibility for those with the software. For all the good, these technologies clearly come with consequences that must be critically considered before they are given free reign within the public domain.
I firmly stand with the idea that we must as citizens and designers fight to retain agency and control within these spaces within the city. This relationship will continue to change, but as technology redefines the ‘rules of engagement’ within the public domain the fundamental aspects of the public domain cannot be forgotten. A public domain that trades serendipity, freedom, and user agency for control, ubiquity, and isolation that is defined by technology companies must not be the future of the city. There will be ways the digital and physical realms can coexist, but designers, users, and policymakers must critically ask what the function of the public domain is in the future vision of cities.
Martijn De. Waal, The City as Interface: How Digital Media Are Changing the City (Rotterdam: NAI Uitgevers/Publishers Stichting, 2014)