Architecture as a Platform

The world lives on platforms. Our devices communicate to social media, maps, Amazon, location services, Apple, Google and other apps. We interact with the built environment around us in unprecedented ways. The gaping hole in the world of platforms is architecture.

As architects, we have the desire to serve society, make a safer and more sustainable future, and use great design to change the world. We have the knowledge and problem solving skills to lead complex teams of stakeholders and consultants who weigh in on countless decisions. We understand the needs of facility managers who take stewardship of our creations and maintain its sound existence for generations to come. We painfully understand the need to better communicate the building design and construction information with people involved in the project. Yet we are stuck operating as if all decisions are unilaterally made by the single, heroic, visionary architect.

What we do not have is “Architecture as a Platform©” to cut through current stovepipes. Our projects are very inwardly focused, single use, document centric, little BIM centered masterpieces that have a very hard time plugging into each other and the world. Once we finish the design and the construction is complete, others move in to scan and catalogue the end result of our creations to harvest the data and help them plug into the world’s platforms. This can and must change.

Although technologies exist to make this happen, it is not only about the technology but a process change and the will and courage to make this happen. Our current contracting language and stance of “owning” our designs and document as the secret sauce of the buildings we design is seriously flawed and damaging to the profession and society. It is time to flip this around and enable a platform for architecture. Competing on how much time it takes to produce a set of documents is not a formula for the digital age and an architecture platform.

Platform for civilization

Classical Greece built a civilization on a platform of architecture, arts, humanities, and politics that supported and changed society forever. They were limited to the medium they had at the time, and excelled. Today we have amazing technologies just waiting to be applied to architecture but not much has really changed for over 2,000 years. The status quo is to wait for others to do it. This is dangerous for the profession. Ancient Greeks built platforms. So should we.

It isn’t necessary to start from scratch. The Internet is ready to be used as the platform for architecture. The profession needs to step forward and create the platform for architecture to extend to engineers, owners, operators, emergency responders, cities and citizens.

Yes, we will need to share more information and knowledge. Yes, this could be threatening. But it is not an all or nothing proposition. The concept of radical transparency can be combined with protection of intellectual property and increasing business opportunities. Once off an isolated island, the chances of connecting to business opportunities dramatically increases while helping civilization to move forward.

Kimon Onuma, FAIA

Greeks stored data on marble and pottery. Data of Kimon being ostracized from Athens in 461 BC.

Next posts: Owner platforms that share data with the industry: How you can use platforms.