Today the Autodesk-sponsored public voting for the second annual Architizer A+ Awards opens, and it gave me a moment to reflect back on why this is so important. Two years ago a wise group of architecture critics looked at the about-to-open New Amsterdam Plein Pavilion by UN Studio and opined:
It looks like a bird… a white bird.
It looks like an ice cream place we have back home called the igloo.
Yo, I want to skate that.
These honest and visceral reactions did not come from the familiar cadre of professional architecture critics who dominate architectural theory and discourse. Rather, the speakers were ordinary people that Architizer found sitting around the building on a sunny Manhattan summer day. And we loved hearing what they had to say.
For too long the field of architecture has insulated itself from real-world criticism by subsisting on a constant stream of inward-facing and self-referential critics. At Architizer, we call this the "echo chamber." We launched the A+ Awards to break architecture out of the echo chamber, and with a jury of nearly 300 experts from diverse fields we have gone a long way to bringing outside opinions to our noble field.
Architecture isn't about creating monuments; it is about creating the places and spaces where people spend their lives. That is why, in addition to our esteemed jury, the A+ Awards also has a public voting component.
Since Architizer launched four years ago there has been a seismic shift in the way the public connects to buildings. Have you been on Instagram lately? You can't browse for more than a few seconds without seeing snapshots of architecture—ranging from young enthusiasts eager to capture their favorite spaces, to famous architects taking selfies in front of a recently completed project. Architizer itself has 1.5 million Facebook friends: proof that the public wants to love what architects design. Now through digital media we have the perfect outlet to let their voices be heard.
There has also been a huge change in the way architects speak to the public. Last year we held an event called Pitch the City in collaboration with the New Museum and the Municipal Art Society. 1,000 people showed up to hear architects pitch concepts for a better city. The winner was Plus Pool, who went on to raise $250,000 on Kickstarter to fund their floating pool in the East River. Architects are learning that they don't need a client to create projects; they can create their own client by connecting to the public.
Heydar Aliyev Center by Zaha Hadid Architects
Professional critics are still wrestling with the issue of how architectural communication has shifted from a one-way street to a multi directional conversation. In fact it is cute to see them struggle with how social media has completely changed the game.
"Tools for Life" by OMA for Knoll, a product finalist
Architizer is not going to wait until critics invent a theory to invite the public to be a part of architecture. We are throwing the gates open today, opening public voting for our A+ Award finalists. Here is where you come in.
Vote for your favorite buildings.
Tell your friends.
Tell your parents.
Tell the world.
Good buildings are for everyone, so we all have a stake in rewarding the best design. It's not about reading long descriptions or being able to decipher a plan and section. Vote like you walk around a city—follow your eyes. And enjoy: architecture is fun!
PUBLIC VOTING FOR THE SECOND ANNUAL ARCHITIZER A+ AWARDS IS SPONSORED BY AUTODESK.