Thanks to the Internet, I often take for granted having a quick and easy source of information at my fingertips. But I have found that some research, particularly architectural research, is difficult or impossible to do on the Internet. Even relatively simple questions can be hard to answer.
Before you jump to conclusions, I should point out that my teachers and professors went to great lengths to encourage non-Internet research throughout my education, and I’m reasonably competent at it. But information in libraries can be out of date or irrelevant, and databases and journal articles can be hard to access outside of a university. By comparison, the Internet excels at providing up-to-date information about products, news, projects, and research in many areas. Just not, as far as I can tell, in architecture.
Perhaps it’s simply the nature of the beast — architecture deals with physical, three dimensional things, things that cannot simple be scanned like a book, but must be photographed, drawn, or otherwise represented. Perhaps the depth and complexity of information about architectural products and materials is too great to be compiled even in large databases like Sweets or ToolBase. There is a great deal about architecture that can only be learned through many years and decades of experience. But certainly the Internet could be more useful in many ways:
- More firms, non-profits, and independent architects could share some “open-source” design ideas (for examples, see the Open Architecture Network)
- Manufacturers and independent research laboratories could do a better job of sharing product and material data in a way that facilitates meaningful comparisons between products (a ‘Consumer Reports’ for building materials)
- More information could be shared at a regional level (as I previously discussed in this post)
Of course, no tool will ever replace the education, training, and field experience necessary to become a building professional. Yet there are some types of information that can, and should, be made more useful and accessible to all.