Architects’ websites often are exercises in design bravado and informational opacity. For years, at the top of that maddening heap sat morphosis.net, the firm website of Pritzker Prize–winner Thom Mayne, with its tricky Flash interface, undownloadable images, and meager bits of project data. As Morphosis rapidly grew during the early 2000s, the firm was getting overwhelmingly negative feedback about the site. “We wanted a site that was more accessible,” says Anne Marie Burke, director of business development and communications. “We’re in a different place, and we have a broader, more general interest in our firm.”
Enter Los Angeles interactive and branding firm Use All Five, which offered an unusual solution: Don’t just build a new site, build two of them. The first, morphosis.com, is a somewhat downplayed version of the original morphosis.net, using Flash technology and looking much like a conventional online firm portfolio. The other site is morphopedia.com. A riff on the user-generated Wikipedia model, it will eventually offer deep information on all of the firm’s projects, and each entry features big, downloadable images, including not just final photography, but construction and model photos, detail drawings, and renderings as well.
The two sites link to the same database, but by design, morphopedia.com is structurally transparent and simple to navigate. It adheres to a “more is more,” seemingly free-for-all content strategy that upsets the typical PR conventions of strict control. The site includes a lightbox feature that allows visitors to curate their own Morphosis experience. “Are we hurting ourselves by giving people access?” asks Marty Doscher, director of information technology. “I don’t think that’s the case. We’re not competing with the average firm.” Not every firm will want to install a live office cam on their homepage, as Morphosis has, but morphopedia.com makes transparency look awfully appealing.
Fresh lingo for your design lexicon: “vegitecture”—or, as this blog by Portland, Ore.–based landscape architect Jason King prefers it, “veg.itecture”—a blanket term for the application of vegetable life to manmade structures: green roofs, vertical farms, and so on. Etymologists should note that there’s another version of the word in circulation as well: “vegetecture.”
For the third consecutive year, Michiel van Raaij of Eikongraphia has crunched the numbers to determine the 25 most popular English-language, single-author blogs on architecture. Little on the list has changed in three years: Geoff Manaugh—whose recently published The BLDGBLOG Book is the subject of this month’s Crit (“Fantasy Lands,” page 42)—takes the top slot for the third time, and yet again there are no women to be found. We’re in no way complaining about the quality of current architecture blogs, but c’mon.
The science professors at the University of Nottingham responsible for 118 videos about the periodic table, one for each element (periodicvideos.com), have returned with a site devoted to 60 important symbols in physics and astronomy. Some topics—the speed of light, the solar system, electrons—will be familiar, even if you dozed your way through high school science, while others are decidedly more esoteric (fine structure constant, anyone?). But all are explained simply and effectively, and with a contagious brio that makes us wish these folks had been our instructors back in the day.
How do urban sounds affect the human brain? Discover magazine’s Jennifer Barone spends a day in Manhattan pairing the decibel levels she encounters with medical knowledge of their effects on us. During her sojourn, she visits the recently refurbished Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, which proves quieter than even the New York Public Library’s main reading room. From the July/August issue.