twenty-two years and five months of architectural imagination from a point of view

from August 2000 to December 2022

Isaac Mathew
8 min readOct 16, 2023

I have sat on this list for a while now. Several note piles from the past are rummaged, at this draft there seems nothing else to add. This outline is about digital technology and how it has shaped the way I make and consume architecture as a discipline. Everyone will have a different version of this list and it will also begin at different times, with distinct access to tools and events. This perspective changes quite drastically depending on how technology in all forms are understood while having a view of what architectural making is. Architecture as such is a discourse about spatial strategies and how it translates into the provision of architectural services. The broad list is broken down into three phases where I had different access to architecture’s sub-disciplines of urbanism and planning. The urbanism perspective on architecture is very specific to Bombay/Mumbai and is influenced mostly by Correa and his practice. This largely points towards the notion that architecture as understood from a place is distinct and not necessarily the same as elsewhere. Foundational imagination of architecture too stems from books in an institutional library catalogued as architecture and its extended reading lists. So how much of architecture one has access to when learning about it is specific to material accessed firstly from books and then from extended resources the institution has. This is how it was from my point of view in the early 2000s. Technology is also very American so, how it shifts is subject to the four year election cycles. Mumbai architectural discourse and American technology via an Indian internet access has made this timeline in the form it is in. How much someone knows what architecture is theoretically located on this timeline. Architecture to anyone before the internet is limited to the library they have access to and the limits of their practice.

designboom after logo update in 2002 & < rest of the results from the time >

I Architecture

2000/ architects, architecture colleges, architectural library, dial-up internet, browsers, surfing, search engines, websites, designboom, printing a4, design options, architectural models, architectural sketching, architectural drawing, photocopying, collage, binding, slide projectors, lateral thinking, connected sheets, design crits, floppy disks, cd encyclopedia

2001. | George W. Bush

Microsoft Office, 2D CAD, furniture blocks, AudioGalaxy, file sharing, printing a0, printing custom sizes, competitions, work for passion, newspaper clippings, concept books, IAB 361, architecture public lectures, inside-outside, architecture tours, cameras, CD writer

2002/ architectural theory, architectural conservation, architectural documentation, critical thinking, case-study buildings, master architects, Charles Correa Gold Medal, ArchiPrix, Pritzker prize, urbanism, constructivism, dada, deconstruction, minimalism, critical regionalism, low-cost architecture, blobitecture, bioclimatic skyscraper, parametric architecture, art deco, architectural research, architectural analysis

2003/ star architects, staritecture, desktop publishing, publishing, cool-hunter, architectural documentaries, architecture public lectures, café-coffee days, projectors, adobe creative suite, sociology, development control regulations, USB pen-drives

2004/ 3d CAD (3DS Max + Rhino), V-Ray, satellite images, Google Earth, design collectives, digital photography, architectural quiz, kinetic city, tactical city

2005. | George W. Bush

Wikipedia, Gmail, internet chat, research collectives, portable hard drives, 361-degree conference, architecture dictionaries, IsoHunt

2006/ na.

2007/ blogs, corporate practices, material vendors, interior design, handicraft fairs, building materials expo, space syntax, city guide maps, architectural guidebooks, creative industries, cultural policies, architecture policies, readers, journals, papers

II Urbanism

2008/ credit wars, ArchDaily, Dezeen, microblogging, BIM/ Revit, virtual reality, community participation, animal farm, invisible cities, fountainhead, architectural history, architectural criticism, design news feeds, ecology, brutalism, modernist socialism, cultural studies, policy review, building sciences workshops, planning, regional planning, development planning, a5 booklet printing, broadband internet, aaaaarg, Twitter

2009. | Barack Obama

LinkedIn, content management systems, MindMapper, ESRI, spatial intelligence, topographic mapping, systems design, Pecha Kucha, Dubai, China, GATE architecture, housing

2010/ Facebook pages, mobile apps, boutique practices, craft practices, global practices, curatorial aesthetics, Auroville, poetry, frothing urbanism, big data, artificial intelligence, architect’s archive, gendered spaces

2011/ opensource, QGIS, design databases, open access content, social design, cloud storage, architectural educators, diversity, TED talks, internet influencers, letters to young architects, Domus India, cinema city, narrative structure, information sciences, laser cutting

2012/ Minecraft, Sim City, Spore, YouTube channels, art & architecture biennales, trends, skype calls, Charles Correa Foundation

2013. | Barack Obama

international tours, architecture comics, graphic novels, paid architectural competitions, women architects, medium writing

2014/ Rem School, demolished architecture, creative coding, population explosion, design specialization, design fairs, design exhibitions, architecture exhibitions, social commentary, space travel, robotics, art & science, social media architectural influencers, Indian architecture, unbuilt architecture, modern architecture, NYTimes journalism report

2015/ na.

2016/ Slack, material culture, multidisciplinary collaborations, network consumption, forensic architecture, art practices, unreal architecture, regional architectural aesthetics, desk sharing/ co-working spaces, architecture job portals, material repositories, private practices, smart city, solar city, photoshop humans, viral architecture

III Planning

2017. | Donald Trump

top ten design lists, politics, digital content streams, Instagram, Pinterest, work for marks, PDF architecture libraries, bad architectural educators, CoA minimum architectural education guidelines, architecture booksellers, wall painting, face painting, painting in general other than on canvas, sketching, faculty training programs, social media practices, virtual reality, Scopus journals, predatory journals, journal editors, statistics, Charles Correa Chair, architecture memes, campus planning

2018/ adobe creative cloud, government jobs, recommendations, architectural journalism, architectural research journals, architecture PhD, blender, grasshopper, Lumion, natural calamities, architectural photography, travel photography, van life, cabin porn, go pro, drones, copy-paste architecture, likes, industry surveys, diversity, Indian woman architects, CEPT essay writing, disaster management, VPN, Tor browser

2019/ climate change, climatic modelling, design canon, material and structural technology, rural hinterland, newspaper subscriptions, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney +, Korean wave, Japanese architects, Chinese architecture, emojis, go, artificial intelligence, spatial products, good design, CoA Social, fiber internet connection, give me some space, riba plan of work, business planning, knowledge diagrams

2020/ Twitch, discord, YouTube Live, Facebook Live, Vimeo documentaries, Miro, Zoom, South Asia, herd immunity, social distancing, BIM 360, Charles Correa Memorial Lecture, Leewardists school, virtual conferences, internet experts, cancel culture, architectural education policy, slum structures documentation, mentorship accounts, drone photography, CEPT undergraduate design programs, OMA hinterland, Virgil Abloh, Calibre

2021. | Joe Biden

blockchain, NFT, metaverse, CoA urban design, #toolsforthought (.md notetaking tools), SpaceX missions, climate change, daily sentences, Christopher Alexander Twitter communities, #productivitypatterns, information floods, digital archives, internet histories, spatial journalism, it Indian knowledge systems, 75 years Independence Day celebrations

2022/ #socialmedia as a research tool, Facebook translate, Ukraine war, vernacular architecture, SketchUp mobile, e-book workflows, notion micro-sites, GitHub repositories, algorithms, generative ai/ GPT3 (Dalle2 + MidJourney), VS Code + Tabnine, architectural discourse graphs, Hindu Rashtra conventions, real estate, CoA manual of architectural practice, archive.org architecture, local architecture MOOCs, floating cities

The amount of material sets available on the Internet on architecture until 2017 is limited. I have based this on an e-book library, compiled from found print-quality PDFs of around 1000 architectural e-books. This is after distilling documents from torrents and other shadow libraries. Since 2019 there has been an exponential increase. Social media before that is also not all that pronounced as it is a driver for projects now. The timeline locates a period from when I joined architecture to the first month of the generative AI hype. Virtual services-driven hype is very post-2019, first starting with video chat, then note-taking tools, blockchain, and generative AI of 2023. All these have added diverse types of material layers to navigate and make sense of. Though it starts with social media, zoom et al. make transnational communication accessible. Eases anxiety. Dividing the list as architecture, urbanism, and planning, is subject to my broader influences thereby narrowing positions for the specific periods. A cleaner approach is to address only digital tools, but I for now leave it for a discussion later. The influence of digital tools, services and extended technology is not considered important in regional practices since their adoption is very informal, no one really buys any of the early software they install on their systems. As a result, BIM, or computational design are never considered. Most discussions that make up architectural discourse are from conservation and ways to find ways to intervene in the making of Mumbai’s urbanism. Architectural services tend to blur broader theoretical mandates of architecture. This further confuses what architecture means to a practice and the discourse it creates. If search in the past used to bring up web links containing the terms searched for, on social media you get posts containing different media types. Owing to the volume of influences it is not always possible to keep track of and implement every tool in the marketplace, restricting contemporary imaginations.

where are we now?

Though I started this list without any extended references, two books published in 2023 help extend the ideas. Extremely Online by Taylor Lorenz and Generations: The Real Differences Between Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Boomers, and Silents — and What They Mean for America’s Future by Jean M. Twenge. Titles summarise broadly a direction specific to architecture and how technology is applied differently across different generations that use them. An architect operates in isolation within a network, the knowledge which is understood as architectural is limited by the material available within this information space. My larger work is in the context of Indian Architecture, which is a distinct narrative guiding a collective discourse on regional building culture. There are two points in time when this framework is discussed, the first at its early inception in 1984 then in 2016. These for obvious reasons, do not account for the architectural virtual knowledge landscape emerging, discussions about architecture by architects from India and others practising in India. The virtual as a reality does not exist, as a result, architectural conversations online are not recognised. It is a brand-new landscape, where anyone can assemble an audience and find recognition for their work. To map how this space evolves, it is essential to know who drawing what kind of attention under any spaces associated with regional professional discussion. Unlike in the past when there was a limited number of works to analyse, the methodology applied is reflective. To better imagine the emerging new landscape intelligence is mandatory. Specifically in data science, thus requiring new skills. Generations and how they are using digital technologies is a lens to document who is saying what as architecture, in a space where everything is augmented. Rules guiding in the older reality do not exist and the assembled digital self generates practice mandates directed by the algorithms that curate the narrative. As a hypothesis for now the timeline is a guide to point thinking in that order.

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Isaac Mathew

i think #architecture #art #planning #design #engineering