Inside Archinect, A Precursor to Social Media

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Interview with Archinect’s founder and creative director Paul Petrunia Bernard Tschumi Architects interview with Archinect’s founder and creative director Paul Petrunia

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The economy? “I definitely have noticed an improvement in the last few months.”

Why drop in an interview with Archinect’s founder and creative director Paul Petrunia on the MDC blog?

Archinectis, well. . .bustling with architects, designers and firms who drop by the site’s highly trafficked job boards and community forums. The latter have become the net’s sweet-spot for architects Well, on any given day, looking for advice on topics ranging from the most mundane to the most ephemeral. The former recently posted available positions in OMA, Bernard Tschumi Architects and Gensler. So, we wanted to give AIA members an inside look at the site they often use and visit.

Launched in 1997, by Paul Petrunia, a SCI-Arc graduate who’d picked up web development skills as he worked his way through school, Archinect recently expanded conversation capabilities via news and feature briefs. But when we corralled him for this interview about his site the first thing we had to ask him was:

Is the economy improving for architects? And what part of the country was it picking up?
I definitely have noticed an improvement in the last few months. The majority of the work is still in the major urban centers. With Archinect, it’s especially picking up in New York and Los Angeles—probably more so New York.

That doesn’t necessarily represent the entire country because the majority of Archinect’s users are [in those cities]. And, I don’t know if that’s necessarily representative of positive signs for architecture’s growth because in the last couple of years a lot of firms have shut down or merged with larger firms. So, that the fact that firms are hiring doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s more work [in a larger sense].

But we have noticed an uptick in the last few months—for sure.

Print publications such as Architectural Record and The Architect’s Newspaper now have a strong and dynamic digital presence, but you started on the web—was the approach different?
Good question. I started with Archinect with the plan of creating a model for not only publication but interaction. My goal from the beginning was mostly based on creating a platform on which the community could be directly involved and interact with the content. That type of thing would not be possible at all in print.

What did you use to drive that interaction? What content?
There were a number of features that I released back in the beginning that helped elevate traffic. I invited very prominent designers from other industries to create and design splash pages reflecting their ideas of architecture. Those other industries started spreading news of Archinect around. It became viral outside of the architecture world, which was one of my original intentions—to make architecture more open to the masses.

Another thing was the development of the discussion forums that created a lot of interactivity between the users and also with me.

To go beyond the forums, we had a series of online live discussions with prominent members of the architecture [field] and other related design industries. Specific events that would bring people in and [allow] them to interact with designers that they had only read about prior to that.

It was a pioneering time on the web—all of these types of activities were brand new. There weren’t other forums at the time to discuss these issues within a young, progressive-minded architecture community.

What’s interesting is—so much of this was before social media tools became available. You were building a digital community with, well, rocks.
A lot of websites—that do similar [activities] to what Archinect does—rely a lot on the social networking sites for interactivity and community building effect.

“We jumped the gun on some of the services social networking sites offer.”

What the social media sites provide—we do internally. So, we kind of jumped the gun on some of the services social networking sites offer. But, I really had to push to get the word out—myself —back in the beginning, using similar strategies that social networking sites do.

Have you chatted with Jeanne Gang, FAIA? She’s looking forward to speaking at the MDC. You’ll find an exclusive AIACC preview with her here.

Why are so many architects privately giving kudos to Mark Mack for his critique of critics?

Check out the video interview we grabbed with conference chair Lawrence Scarpa, FAIA, on the roof of his home, the Solar Umbrella, here.

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The AIACC represents the interests of more than 11,000 architects and allied professionals in California. Founded in 1944, The AIACC's mission supports architects in their endeavors to improve the quality of life for all Californians by creating more livable communities, sustainable designs and quality work environments.

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