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Browser: Sutherland Lyall continues to explore world architecture, cutting his way through the tangled electronic undergrowth. (View).

All out for paytime

It may be the residual hippy in this columnist but I can't help the odd twinge of tristesse at the way the internet is moving into its next phase. There is still an enormous quantity of information freely available, and quite a lot of it is provided by people who simply want to run a website, those who believe information should be free, librarians, people obsessed by a single topic, dog breeding club secretaries or people who love architecture. That probably won't change because, happily, there seems to be an endless supply of enthusiasts, some for topics you didn't even know existed. But plainly something is happening on the Web when the signs start kicking you in the ankle. One is the small and increasing number of abandoned websites, some of them architectural. The other is the small but growing number of sites turning part-subscription, some of them architectural too. It is not always a well understood proposition that anything more than a hiya-guys website is going to take a certain amount of money or t ime to keep it browse-worthy. Could it be that for a critical mass of webmasters this particular penny has finally dropped?

Clear a space

But how do they get visitors to pay for information? Some newspapers have begun charging for stories, following the rough old capitalist traditions: can't pay, won't read. Another way is to keep the basic site as a free operation and lure subscribers by fencing off quite big and overtly tasty bits. This is what the Danish, US-trained architect, Kirsten Kiser, has done with Arcspace at www.arcspace.com. You want access to the site, you can have it - for a limited time. After that? For the whole thing? You pay $32 a year in quarterly instalments. I quizzed Kiser about this and she emailed back: 'We just started the membership and it is our only way to survive.' The site has been going for a couple of years and features a lot of Kiser's first-rate photography. Given this history and the terrific content you are not disposed to doubt her. Some of her visual material comes from the architects but much is her own, shot as she buzzes around the world curating exhibitions. Her site is beautifully simple, has concise and informative text, has rather too many pix of its ebullient proprietor and a nice big archive of really well shot photos - and drawings - by both the established and up-and-coming around the Western architectural world. Why you might subscribe is because Kiser has an impressive nose for new talent and buildings.

Peace treaty

For most of the year 2000 Kiser was also editor of DesignArchitecture at www.designarchitecture.com - (Browsed in July 2001). It sends out a daily newsletter of links to news sources. One such recent item was a BBC report on the opening of a new Irish architectural website. For all you political correctors out there, this is the name the site people have given it, not me: it's PADDI This stands for Planning Architecture Design Database Ireland and is a collaboration between Queen's University Belfast and University College Dublin. It's a bibliographic database run by the two schools' librarians, covering material from around 1865 to the present about built environment and planning in Ireland. Searching (a tad unfairly) for 'Ictinus and Callicrates' involved long waits and no results. 'Troubles' produced 75 results and 'Richard Murphy' four. Both after the same long wait. The latter was a trick question because Murphy is an award-winning Edinburgh architect. The four articles in the database were about a house Murphy's office had done in Eire in 1999. There is also an images page - sans any more information than the name of the building. And there are the obligatory links. And a very long list of journals mined for the database. This is doubtless important for academic completeness but since it is no more than a list it's hardly worth giving the same weighting as the other major sections. So a bit more work here, especially on the slowww search engine and on hiring a graphic designer - maybe whoever did Arcspace's elegant site.

First aid

Amid all this fun there is the exemplary site, Architecture for Humanity, at www.architectureforhumanity.org. Its first, very successful, venture was a competition to design five-year transitional housing for Kosovo. Founded by Cameron Sinclair, an ex-Westminster and Bartlett architect now in Manhattan, Architecture for Humanity has Frank Gehry and Shigeru Ban on the board. Earlier this year Sinclair won Dwell Magazine's Nice Modernist prize. Now the organization is running a competition for ideas for a mobile AIDS unit to be used by medics in Africa. Details and brief are at the site and the deadline is November 1. Go for it.

sutherland Lyall is at sutherland.lyall@btinternet.com
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Publication:The Architectural Review
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 1, 2002
Words:807
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