No. 560 . 16 May 2012 

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The American Institute of Architects headquarters building in Washington, D.C., was designed by The Architects Collaborative in 1973. With a fine bookstore open to the public, it's in a great "heart of D.C." location, about two blocks west of the White House, facing toward the National Mall, three blocks to the south. Photo: Artifice Images

Interview with Robert Ivy

by Kevin Matthews

ArchitectureWeek spoke with AIA Chief Executive Officer Robert Ivy as the Institute was in final preparations to host the AIA 2012 National Convention in Washington, D.C.

Kevin Matthews: Coming from a magazine perspective, and now that you're here (at the AIA), how has your perspective on architecture magazines changed — from being steeped in that world for quite a while, to now being next to it?

Robert Ivy: Well, a couple of things have not changed. And those are that I think we still need them now as much as we ever did, in whatever form or format they take.

I think we need the rigor and the critical attitude that they bring, and also the information that they deploy. They allow us an insight into the world of architecture in a way that a blog never can/will, to the extent that they allow, I would say, what is almost the luxury of in-depth journalism where we're able to afford it.

Granted, we have fewer print publications. But I think they're all the more important for doing that and I think that we need them all. I think we need the Architects of the world for what they are doing for us, which is giving an overview of the practice and, let's say, the personal side of what it means to be an architect, as well as the Records of the world, which are really more project-focused. I think we need them both.

Now, having said that, we've had this explosion in digital media that allows us a whole different perspective, and it's a more comprehensive overview, and a broader reach. I can sit at my own home and look at work in Holland without cracking a sweat.

And I can be up to date with architects and work that I'm interested in all over the world, and be in a network and in a community with them. So we're at a very interesting moment, where I still think that we need print journalism to show architecture in the unique way that it shows it. And I think that they are by and large succeeding in doing that, but it's also a very exciting moment from the digital arena, where we've got, basically, the world at your fingertips.

Kevin Matthews: Since we launched ArchitectureWeek in 2000, our agenda has been to be a serious architecture magazine that was online only. And it touches all the issues that you're talking about. The internet is still such a frontier that if you're not reinventing constantly, you're watching from the sidelines. It's one or the other.

Robert Ivy: Sure. And I think that part of the challenge there is about human attention, and also resources. Print journalism has allowed resources to be brought to bear to make something happen, where there are more than one set of eyes that examine something.

There's a dialogue often in the production of a single article among a variety of people to bring this to bear. That's a wonderful thing. It's like the New York Times. We know that when we read something there, it's not just the work of one person. It's also the work of an entire enterprise that is trying to bring this into our consciousness. And part of the beauty, frankly, of the digital world is that it is quicker and that it is more, I think, interpersonal. So you get more of the perspective of an individual writer and the immediacy thereof and the personality that comes through there.

Kevin Matthews: Right. In ArchitectureWeek, most of what we publish has been through three people by the time it gets online. So we're kind of old-fashioned and it's pretty different from an ArchDaily with just the fire hose. And having a bigger investment in the content, and a smaller hose to generate advertising — that's an interesting challenge.

The AIA has a special relationship with Hanley Wood these days, but more generically, what does the AIA, and you as an observer of the profession, think that we need more of from the magazines?

Robert Ivy: We can always use more. There never is enough. And when I say that, I mean that in a variety of ways.

We all want to know more about projects and how they're put together. Architects seek information on what projects consist of. And they want to know the building materials and construction systems and they want to know the process, if it is relevant to the particular project.

And that requires more effort, space, and time than we're ever able to devote in any medium. We'll never have the perfect model. But that relates just to the projects that we cover.

Architects always want a critical perspective. We find it difficult to bring — let's call it "consistent courage" — to the critical analysis of our work. And so we want more of that.   >>>



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