Seattle Architects Go Public
Architects Meet the Press
Last month, as a preview of sorts to the upcoming celebrations, Seattle's KCPQ Channel 13 Broadcast Studio, designed by Callison Architecture, played host to a rare gathering of journalists and architects.
Members of the press—including our own editor-in-chief Kevin Matthews—and members of AIA Seattle met to explore areas of mutual interest. The journalists compared notes on "what's news in architecture." And the architects learned about how they can support the journalistic quest while finding an outlet for their own views and projects.
The four editors represented not only a range of media but also a diversity of audience. Each had a very different message for firms interested in spreading the word about their work.
Lawrence Cheek, contributing editor to Architecture, one of the premier American monthly print magazines. Their audience is primarily professional and their coverage, though including all building types, is highly selective and competitive.
Lynn Jacobson, staff editor with the Seattle Times, by contrast, writes for an audience of consumers, and their coverage is strictly residential. "We're not looking for unique architecture statements," she said, "but for beautiful new homes with broad appeal." In order to qualify for coverage, a house must be finished and furnished and have an owner who is open to being named and shown in the article.
Todd Mokhtari, the news director of KCPQ TV, a Fox affiliate, went further to state that a building or a design award in itself is not sufficient to create a news story. Local television news programs require a compelling story that centers on an important person, a trend, a neighborhood impact, or an interesting human-interest angle. But a building can be part of the story.
Unlike the older media technologies, online publishing, said Matthews, enables ArchitectureWeek to "to cover both a broader territory and more narrowly focused articles." He explained: "Because our economics of publication are different—without printing and distribution, and with all articles continuing in our online archives—we can afford to publish articles with smaller initial audiences than the glossy monthlies."
Telling Your Story
Architects are welcome to contact any news organization when they think they have a suitable story to tell, but they need not do this alone. Sometimes they can work with a local freelance writer to frame and present the proposal. This according to freelancer Clair Enlow, who, along with AIA Seattle executive vice president Marga Rose Hancock, acted as moderator of the panel discussion.
Enlow is a contributor to ArchitectureWeek and author of the article on Frank Gehry's Experience Music Project. Her coverage of this landmark building, like that of several other high-profile projects, "scooped" the print publications because digital publications spend days instead of months in production before getting out to readers.
Getting this coverage on the Web has several other advantages, Matthews pointed out. Unlike the print magazines, which generally require exclusivity, ArchitectureWeek will publish stories that other media also cover. This means that its digital archive will, ultimately, contain a larger history of contemporary architecture.
Moreover, this archive will be easier to search than paper documents, a bonus for researchers, students, and professionals seeking built precedents. For firms with Web sites, online publishing will direct traffic their way; for firms without their own Web sites yet, an article in ArchitectureWeek will give them a digital presence.
Although the panel discussion in October was given before an audience of Seattle architects, the message imparted by the journalists is probably applicable anywhere else. The most important lesson for professionals is that the media are always hungry for news about good projects. The criteria that are particular to a medium are intended to cater to their special audiences and are not intended as barriers to publication.
Professionals eager to publish their work should pay attention to what the various cover media—that's the best key to what they are interested in. Then think creatively about how to cast your stories into the format they're looking for.
The KCPQ TV Broadcast Studios building was designed to maintain strong Northwest roots and mingle comfortably with a neighborhood of light industry, marine activities, and multi-family residences.
Photo: Chris Eden
The Maury Island Cabin, by The Miller|Hull Partnership opens to a small meadow through a large double set of tri-fold doors, converting the space to an outdoor room.
Photo: Art Grice
Situated on a ten-acre site on Maury Island, this small cabin serves as a weekend retreat for a family from Seattle, a fifteen-minute ferry ride away.
Photo: Art Grice
The clients were attracted to the simple gable forms of Japanese folk houses. The design features a practical, open plan that reflects the family's casual lifestyle.
Photo: James F. Housel
The cabin is essentially one room for the communal functions of eating, gathering, and sleeping, with a loft at each end of the main space for the children's activities.
Photo: Art Grice
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