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Crowdsourcing architecture


Throughout history, architects have often been chosen by setting up an architectural competition and awarding the commission on the basis of the most favoured design. With the advent of the internet, a similar process has been set up by a number of businesses offering small-scale competitions for mainly domestic projects. Like an architectural competition, contributors must register but their designs are judged anonymously, and only the winning design is paid a fee.

An unprecedented business model for crowdsourcing architectural design was launched by Cambridge, MA based high-tech company Arcbazar in 2010. It builds on traditional architectural competitions and provides an online competition platform for small-to-medium scale architecture, landscape, interior design and remodeling projects; and, builds on the triumvirate of clients, designers and contractors. It connects clients with designers through architectural competitions, and links contractors with construction projects.

There are also a growing number of architectural crowdsourcing platforms that direct their call openly to members of the public, facilitating mass-participation and self-organized collaboration to build upon and improve architectural design solutions. This follows from Jeff Howe's original definition of the term crowdsourcing, which emphasises the idea of an open call to an undefined group of people, because "the person who you think would be best qualified to perform the job, isn't always the best person to do it."

Crowdsourcing architecture has been heavily criticized by professional architects and architectural guilds. Dwell, America's leading home and architecture magazine, called the launch of arcbazar "the worst thing to happen to architecture since the internet started." This statement caused many heated debates among architectural bloggers worldwide. The Architects' Journal Great Britain's leading professional architecture magazine wrote an article on the disruptive business model: "Architecture crowd-sourcing website criticized: Architects have slammed a threatening new crowd-sourcing website in the US which promises to reduce clients' costs."



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