One of the many things the Web does well, says solo architect Jennifer Magee, is enable reliable communication. As a result, small businesses and individuals that otherwise might not be in touch are able to connect. In the world of construction, there are a number of websites -- such as ServiceMagic.com, Guru.com, and many discussion and directory-listing sites -- that help bring architects, clients, contractors, and others in contact.
These resources are useful, says fellow architect Oisin Clancy, but limited in their ability to create business and make real-world construction happen because the relationships they foster tend to be linear and binary: "I have a job, you have skills. I have product, you need product." They also presume that other aspects of getting something built, such as financing or planning, are already addressed. Which why Clancy and Magee, both 33 and friends of several years' standing, recently launched UPworld.com, a networking site that takes a "whole systems" approach and seeks to connect every part of the building community: real estate, planning, finance, development, design, construction, fabrication, and products. Here, architects and others can sign up (for free) and collaborate with professionals of all stripes from around the globe.
The site itself is an embodiment of its founders' desire to bring together mutually beneficial, if occasionally far-flung, talents: Magee and Clancy are in New York City, the graphic designer is in North Carolina, and the developers are in Serbia, Ukraine, and India. And as befits a web presence that aims to traverse the globe, the English-only UPworld is learning new languages. Magee says French, Spanish, Italian, German, Chinese, and Japanese versions are in the works and could be available by year's end. Clancy's small firm, Field Lines, has already benefited from the site's creation. Soon after UPworld launched, Serbian architect Vid Bogdanovic, a 2-D and 3-D visualization specialist, used it to make contact with Clancy; Field Lines ended up hiring Bogdanovic. Now, because Bogdanovic has ties with engineers and others in Belgrade, Field Lines is designing a soccer stadium for that city. It's a good example of what Magee and Clancy want UPworld to do: not just connect people in a virtual meeting space, but lead to actual construction.
After all, says Clancy, architecture is a physical endeavor, as well as a business. And so UPworld asks: Buildings will be created, but who will help them rise? And whether a structure is in Aberdeen, S.D., or Zwickau, Germany, why shouldn't it be you? "A lot of the architects of my generation are content to work in the digital world," Clancy says. "[Jennifer and I]; want to see stuff get built."