Still a place for the word and reading? Most definitely

I chaired a great discussion at BDP’s offices on Thursday evening, on the subject ‘In the image-driven world of architecture, is there still a place for the word?’ The answer, to mine and most people’s resounding relief, was ‘yes’. It came from two directions – the research that BDP had carried out among its own architects, and the experiences and research of some leading architectural publications.

Hugh Pearman, the editor of the RIBA Journal, explained the work carried out prior to the recent relaunch. Most readers want a hard copy, he said, especially in an institution magazine since it is the hard proof that they are getting something for their membership fee. But in general, they like a hard copy.
And while some said that there were too many words, there was also a hunger for long-form writing, particularly among younger architects. Pearman speculated that this was because they had less work and more time for reading.

Catherine Slessor, the editor of The Architectural Review, which had its own major rethink a couple of years ago, stressed the importance of curation in the days when every image is instantly available on the internet. News sites such as Dezeen and World Architecture News are great ways of seeing what is going on, but then readers appreciate thoughtful writing and a magazine which chooses which elements to discuss – as well as a lovely object that they can keep.

Michael Hammond, the founder of World Architecture News, stressed that he believed his service complemented and would not replace the printed titles.

BDP’s research showed that while users used print magazines and online services equally if they had to choose the most important, they mostly plumped for print. While the majority used LinkedIn professionally, only a third used Twitter, and Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram did not score significantly. The majority said that they would give between five and 15 minutes to something that really interested them.

As if on cue, at the end of the evening a young architect who had been working late at BDP joined us. She was offered a spare copy of RIBA Journal. ‘Yes please,’ she said eagerly, obviously off for some long-form reading.



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