Arcbazar is a crowdsourcing platform for architectural design. From the very beginning our goal was to democratize architecture. However, what does that really mean to us? What lies behind the word ‘democratize’? These are not just feel-good words that we use in our newsletters or social media campaigns. It is the driving force of the platform and the team behind it. So, here is what it comes down to.
Making architectural design affordable
There are two places we spend most of our time at: work/office and home. Whether you live in a house, an apartment or a tiny studio, home is a space you can call your own, where you feel safe and relaxed. It should motivate you when you are feeling down, comfort you when you are feeling lonely. Yet, so many people simply can’t afford to create such a space. Yes, they can make minor adjustments here and there, add another picture frame on the wall or update their curtains. However, most of us don’t have a clue on how to create a cohesive harmonious design. That’s when many would hire an interior designer or an architect. These people are true artists, who create masterpieces, filled with details, colors and textures. Unfortunately, often times the services of an interior designer prove to be too pricey for an average-income person. Arcbazar allows you – a home owner – to source dozens of beautiful designs from creative minds from all over the world for a fraction of the cost. You set the budget, you set the rules, you select the designs.
Breaking the rules of the market
If you are a young professional or a recent graduate, you know first-hand how difficult it is to break into the job market. Employers want to see 10 years of experience for an unpaid internship position, you have to work ridiculous hours and probably end up taking on multiple jobs just to make a living. The world of architecture and interior design is no different. You have to have a portfolio before anyone even agrees to talk to you. Arcbazar allows young talented professionals make a name for themselves through competitions, acquiring paid clients and experience in the process.
Last but not least, Arcbazar’s goal is to improve transparency and increase public involvement when it comes to public projects, be it libraries, train stations, schools or youth centers. As our founder Imdat As puts it, “architecture is a breathing, living medium of documenting our evolution as a society: our challenges, priorities and aspirations. As such, it is integral that its creation is not limited to a selected few, but is a product of communities coming together to create a small piece of history.”
“We now have the technology that allows us to expand architecture outside the circle of the architectural elites,” say Takehiko Nagakura, Arcbazar’s advisor and an Associate
Professor of Design and Computation at MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning. In our recent conversation with Takehiko, the Japan-native uses Tokyo’s preparation for the 2020 Olympics as an example of a public project that has been facing numerous challenges due to the lack of transparency and public involvement. The late Pritzker Prize-winning Zaha Hadid and her team were selected to design the stadium back in 2012. After two years of developing the design the government scrapped the project due to concerns about rising costs and a growing public backlash. Time, resources and efforts were wasted as the government had to start the selection process from scratch. The project was finally awarded to the Japanese architect Kengo Kuma in conjuction with the Taisei Corporation. Yet, even round two of the selection process raised numerous eyebrows as the tender requirements made the submission possible for only two firms.
“This is not to say that every public project has to be opened to the public, but we need to start taking advantage of the possibilities presented by current technologies to both crowdsource architectural ideas and get communities, whose tax money go towards these developments, actively involved in the selection process of the final design,” clarifies Takehiko. “A platform like Arcbazar can be used both for large-scale projects as well as for small ones – a renovation in a local park, for example. Instead of automatically awarding the project to a firm that will put little effort into designing something outstanding on a tiny budget, you can open it up to the public and get creative, inspiring submissions from architects and designers.”
In line with Arcbazar’s belief in democratizing architecture, in partnership with Builtworlds, Dwell on Design, Green Apple Campus, Autodesk, Forum8 and AIA Chicago, we are hosting the Obama Presidential Library competition. In 2014, the Obama Foundation announced its plans to build the Obama Presidential Center with several organizations, including the University of Chicago, the University of Hawaii, and Columbia University submitting proposals to host the institution. The decision was made in favor of the South Side of Chicago. Hundreds of architectural firms from across the globe applied for the tender. At the moment, it is down to seven finalists.
While the Obama Foundation narrows down the search, we are hosting our own competition. The results are non-binding, so it is running in parallel to the work of the Obama Foundation. The prize is $10,000. This is the beginning of a movement, of a transformation in the world of architecture. This year the results are non-binding. We’ll launch a similar competition next year and perhaps even then it will run only in parallel to the actual project. However, we strongly believe that step-by-step we will make our contribution to the global movement of bringing architecture to the people.
Democratizing architecture – not empty words to us.