Designed to Connect: Architects as App Developers

Architects have an amazing array of skills. They have management, marketing,
technical, and esthetic skills, and they have vision. These skills are necessary when
producing construction projects. But why not apply these skills to the challenges
associated with producing applications for handheld devices?

Architects not only have the skills, they have the IT departments that can do the programming, the artists that can produce the graphics, and the management teams that can identify the opportunities, coordinate the work, test the product, and get it to the marketplace. Applications development could be an additional service that helps firms diversify, develop new sources of revenue, and be players in a new and exciting global industry.

What are applications? Applications are often games used for entertainment, but they can also be useful tools that someone has fashioned to deal with a problem. Isn’t that what architects do – fashion solutions that address the problems of their clients? Clients, most of the time, have a wealth of experience behind their desire to take the risks associated with producing a building. They know the issues and need a facility that deals with these issues in an efficient and economical way. Why don’t architects offer to “bottle” – in the form of applications— the techniques their clients have developed after many years in their respective industries? School administrators have developed systems for managing students and teachers, brick companies have developed techniques for producing and marketing brick, museum directors have developed techniques for keeping track of the contents of displays, and oil companies have developed systems for moving their products to market. There is no substitute for experience, and there is a demand for this experience in the form of useful applications not only in this country but in the developing world.

There is a distribution channel already in place for moving applications to consumers all over the world. It’s called Apple’s App Store, Android’s Market, or Microsoft’s Marketplace. There have been billions of downloads primarily by young people who many times just want to have fun with games. But soon these young people will become employees, and they will bring skills with the Internet, applications, and handheld devices with them. However, they are going to need the experience of individuals that have dealt with the challenges of managing people in schools, producing and marketing brick, keeping track of the contents of displays, and moving natural resources from one point to another. And they are going to embrace the savings in resources that can be realized when they use the Internet to transmit videos and electronic images of drawings rather than on vast amounts of paper. If architects can visualize how a multimillion-dollar building goes together for a client, they can visualize how to repurpose their skills and “bottle” the experience of their clients in applications for a global marketplace.

Gordon B. Arnold, AIA, owner of , produces iPhone and iPad applications for design and construction professionals. He has been an architect for 35 years and has been associated with a number of different projects and firms in Texas. He recently completed a book titled “Drawings in the Palm of Your Hand” now on and a website for it and his applications located at Copies of the book are also available at the AIA Fort Worth Center for Architecture. Gordon Arnold serves on the Texas Architects New Media Committee.

Read here about the series “Designed to Connect.”