Open Architecture describes the opening of the creative designing- and planning-process in architecture. It refers to OpenInnovation, which is the term for opening innovation processes to a crowd to improve the development of products.
If we talk about Open Architecture we have to be careful because there are different levels and ways to practice that term.
In the past architecture has always been a result of the cooperation of one house builder and an architect. In this process the house builder told the architect what he wants and the architect started working on plans. So, in former times the architect had much more impact on the design of a building. Nowadays the position of the investor is on the peak of all participants as the social part in the design process. If we talk about the democratization of architecture it becomes clear, that the big influence of only one party brings the building process to imbalance. In the present many building projects are coordinated by a committee that is elected by the house builder. Also, there is often an alliance of investors which work together with the architects. The next step to Open Architecture is to involve the people who use buildings. Architecture is never anonymous but always for a certain use und people. In comparison to the little group of planners and investors there is such a big crowd of people that use the buildings but in the moment their creativity respective architecture is rarely asked for.
The question is now how the crowd can be involved in the achitectural process and wether it is reasonable to outsource some competences which are traditionally part of the tasks of an architect or a house builder.
The platform is one way to contact people via the internet. Such websites are used to collect knowledge, start discussions and to evaluate opinions about a specific point. In most cases these platforms are open to anybody - professionals and laypersons.
Another level of Open Architecture is often practiced in China. In contrast to the european system, in China competitions are not only judged by a jury but there is also the possibility for every visitor of an exhibition of the results to vote for a favourite design.
The top level of participation is the direct attendance of the crowd in the competition or the process. In many city development projects the organisators interview the residents to get some input. For smaller projects the client defines a task for a competition which can be worked by anyone. In that way also ordinary persons can take part in creative developments.
Nowadays construction projects are complex systems of people, materials and time. Especially time and people expend the budget. So, Open Architecture holds the possibility to collect the creativity and knowledge of much more people than usual in the same time.
Besides the house builder, investors, architects and planners there is the possibility to outsource some competences to laypersons or other experts which are not directly linked with the planning process. Over the Web 2.0 they can work together in a network. In such a network it is even easier to communicate with administrations and the municipality. In this running process of opening architectural processes to the crowd it is still important to define clear borders between the single areas of responsibility. It is obvious that the creative input if the crowd may have a positive influence on the result of the design and the quality of the site but it is also clear that a layperson can not be involved in the work on construction details or logistics.
So, in architecture needs to be some kind of hierarchy but this current mode of operation should become more flexible and open to the people.
There are also some figures in this process which never appear directly. That are the ones which are behind the platforms to cosolidate knwoledge and to promote products. In this way they have a worldwide influence on architecture and improve and speed up the exchange of know-how from one side of the world to the other.
Due to the newness of the architecture discipline in OpenInnovation there are different views on the risks and potentials of this process in the future.
A multitude of architects fear that the opening of the designing process will have a bad influence on the quality of the results. Furthermore the profession if the architect could be limited on the role of the simple coordinator. Indeed the architect is the linking position between the investor, planner and the occupant but the essential part of the design is also in the hands of the processing architecture firm. Another point is the changing of the conventional structures in architecture offices. In other branches of profession, like fashion oder design, where Co-Creating is a fix part of the daily working life, the percentage of permanent employees drops permanently. A development to more and more freelancing and the so called Microtasking is obvious. This structure is no threat for designers but rather a positive aspect for the open innovation precess. But for major projects in arhcitecture it needs a fixed team of people who know how to communicate with each other.
If the process of Open Architecture is regarded from another side, there turn up some potentials. First of all, the creative design-process can be improved with a lot more working heads. A multitude of ideas and wishes can be collected in this way. And even if the crowd is not involved in the designing process directly, so an interview with the people can be a good input at the start of any project. If that is the case, then the chance for the occupants to accept the result and to be happy about it is much higher as if they are presented with a fait accompli. If architects and investors involve the people into the process of planning and the city development there will form a closer connection between the city and the inhabitants. So, this could form a society of people who can identify with each other and the environment they live in. Furthermore the principle of Open Innovation applied in architecture can form a global network of professionals and other people who are interested for the exchange of knowledge. This is also a great chance for young people to get acces to knowledge and to connect with other people in this field.
- is an online, open-source community dedicated to improving living conditions through innovative and sustainable design. It is the brainchild of Architecture for Humanity and the designers who volunteer with us, and through our local chapters. The platform is open to everyone and it enables the user to upload ideas, designs and plans. These can be seen and reviewed by anyone. In this way, it opens up a worldwide discourse about sustainability and makes the exchange of knowledge easier.
- The aim of Innosite is to create and further develop an active innovation environment within the construction industry in Denmark and to promote dialogue across professions and industries. The platform is open for players within and outside the construction industry, allowing property developers and companies to invite tenders for development assignments, share ideas and provide inspiration for new innovation methods.
- is a platform, where clients can post projects of (landscape-) architecture, interior design and art. A worldwide community of creatives has acces to these projects and anyone can take part in the competiton. So, the platform serves fot the connection of client and creative. Most projects are just small and exclusively creative tasks, so the intention of the founders is to support creativity aside from the individual profession.
- Designcontest DeSpar
- Redesign Südtiroler Platz - Vienna
- Ideas for a urban quarter - Sparkassaplatz - Vienna
- Sachsenpark - Vienna
Where to start with the discussion, if and where an open architecture, or an architecture that is by definition open is helpful and solving a problem? Hasn´t architecture always been open as far as our cities and buildings are all build, within a range of common information, data and knowledge? Our environment is the result of an open architecture-in-the-making process since hundred of years. In times before architects and builders, crafts and trades were responsible for the built cultural environment and managed to open their knowledge for everyone interested and willing to learn. Especially the architect is the one that profitated from that collective knowledge of an architecture-in-the-making process.
Do we have to define open architecture? A definition of a possible open process does neither mean their initiation nor the reason for existence. If there is an open way of making architecture within the world of new medias and new ways of public participation, it will define and re-new it self permanently. Every definition will be too late to be valid.
So what can we really, actively do about or for an open architecture? It might be necessary to provide and design a structure that is organising the workflow within a project. It is the first question that evokes when thinking about the start of an open project: What should the interaction within the collaborativ look like? Participators should be able to give input to the discussion and to exchange with other participators. Results need to be captured so that a developement can be generated. Softwaresolutions as known from the fields of open innovation might provide a possible form of organisation here. Though, such tools can work, but dont necessarily have to as the process of open architecture is from case to case dependent on its users and their needs, intentions and backrounds.
So where might open architecture be helpful and where is it demanded? The future users of a building participate in the process of defining programms and structures within buildings but their presence does not seam to make sense when we are talking about designing a building. They define what they consider as necessary and reasonable for them to use in the new environment but it seams to be unlikely that they can contribute to the appearance of a building.
- Open Architecture S. 33