The Revolution is Leaking! Postad av: Archileaks, Datum: 2012-12-10

Swedish Museum of Architecture celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2012 and celebrates with producing a celebratory publication: Om femtio år med Arkitekturmuseet/The Swedish Museum of Architecture:  A Fifty Year Perspective . This is the article Archileaks wrote for the book: The Revolution is Leaking!

“We have no need for the outgrown forms of a bygone culture to maintain our self-respect.” Acceptera (1930).

You will certainly be familiar with the above excerpt from the manifesto that turned the Swedish architectural profession upside down 80 years ago. A great deal has happened since then and technological advances have opened up new avenues for further development. With Archileaks, we can create new ways of handling knowledge which is both open source and shareable, as opposed to closed source and proprietary.

Archileaks , an internet-based platform launched in 2011, is founded on the idea of bringing together the accumulated knowledge and experience of actors in the architectural profession, and thereby creating conditions conducive to exchanges of experience, greater efficiency and better architecture. Archileaks users can download files, improve them and re-upload them.

In addition to the database, a space has been provided for questions and knowledge exchange. We believe that architects working together can build a platform where we can share and – with the characteristic energy of a collective – develop new and better solutions.

Much can be said about the premises Archileaks was founded on, and about the social transformations driven by digital technology. But for us, the Archileaks project is about implementation. It’s about testing rather than theorising. We developed the platform, but neither can nor wish to fill it with content. Its subsistence must depend on the participation of men and women in the architectural profession. Unlike Acceptera, which appropriates the manifesto and lays claim to a single truth, we want to use Archileaks to build a platform for the creation and recreation of truth. The fact that a number of different people have had a hand in the present text is an apt analogy.

‘Information wants to be free’ is a catchword long used by internet activists. The free and unfettered dissemination of code and knowledge has led to the development of online social networks, which in the space of a few years have become an integral part of our daily lives. We believe it is time the architectural profession joined that revolution.

Holland House Library, London, september 1940

For Jan Jörnmark, lecturer in economic history, this goes without saying. In his view, Archileaks is a pioneer in an emerging field: “It’s inevitable – it doesn’t fucking matter what anyone thinks; technology is inescapable. In a digital world, everything quickly becomes open system. We continually borrow ideas from one another and adapt them to new contexts.”

Meanwhile, the built environment is growing increasingly regimented and standardised. Fewer and fewer new buildings deviate from standard design practices in terms of architectural elements, and many big construction companies are developing locked-in, as opposed to open, platforms and standards. The question is whether it is these companies or we architects who should be driving architectural development. Together, we should be able to build a platform aimed at raising the quality of what is being built. Our goal with Archileaks is not a single new standard but multiplicity and diversity. As Chris Anderson pointed out in The Long Tail (Hyperion, New York, 2006), digital platforms can host everything; no element is too detailed and no issue too small. This means architects will no longer be tied to their drawing boards; they can raise the level of discussion to embrace the entire architectural profession, and find colleagues – and construction companies – engaged in the same issues.

The material uploaded to Archileaks will be included in the Creative Commons (CC) licence terms, a sort of copyright remix: anyone who has created something gives others a licence though CC to disseminate the work, develop it and find new areas of application. Thus the legal tools on which Archileaks is based are already in place, guaranteeing that any information released will remain free of charge and can be freely shared and modified.

In fact, the core values of the architectural profession are the same as in Vitruvius’ day: the spaces created then are just as valid now as when they were built. What has changed is the way in which the profession has superimposed bureaucratic and administrative procedures on the creative process: regulations, laws, rules, standards and norms. Though of course necessary, these operations divert energy from the profession’s key concerns. Sharing this administrative burden in a collectively maintained knowledge bank affords us more time and opportunity to return to architecture’s essential function: the development of ideas and visions. Archileaks gives anyone who wants it the chance to open up their archives and servers, and share, discuss and further develop their knowledge. 

 

 

Other actors in the business are also turning their attention outwards and seeing the advantages of cooperation. Academics and practitioners in different firms can apply for research grants from the White Research Foundation (ARQ). ARQ chair Ulla Antonsson underlines the benefits of cooperation: “At ARQ, we take the view that we are better when we work together than when we act independently. As the profession at large grows more knowledgeable and commands greater credibility, individual firms will benefit. There is no need to re-invent the wheel every time we design the base of a roof on a brick building. We have internal systems at White which mean we don’t have to do that.”

The purpose of Archileaks is to encourage architects to gather material into a dynamic database where nothing is unalterable or definitive, where everything is in constant transformation. Ulla Antonsson stresses the key importance of this dynamic process:“One thing is clear; when knowledge and material are actually collected, things get interesting. But the moment it’s printed and filed away in a folder it becomes worthless. It’s already out of date.”

With Archileaks there is no requirement to share in order to access other people’s material. The misgivings we do encounter are often to do with risks and competitive advantages between architectural firms. We believe that individual firms have much to gain from sharing solutions. For a broader perspective we turned to Gert Wingardh, who pointed out that the profession already functions openly and transparently; and that it is in any case impossible to copy entire projects. “There aren’t all that many secrets in this business; every project is highly specific. There’s a lot we can collaborate on, and one can learn a great deal if firms are prepared to be open to one another, particularly in a global business where one is often working with partners abroad.”

We are not maintaining that Archileaks is a universal solution; it is a tool and a platform for ideas. We firmly believe that ideas grow stronger when they are disseminated, developed and used. The question is whether the profession is ready to renew its commitment to working and thinking as a collective body.

 

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Artikeln Revolutionen läcker/The Revolution is Leaking är skriven till Arkitekturmuseets jubileumstidskrift Om femtio år med Arkitekturmuseet/The Swedish Museum of Architecture: A Fifty Year Perspective