In 2005, Michael Hammond founded WorldArchitectureNews.com (WAN), which has become a reliable source of global architecture news and project reports. With major job growth in design and architecture projected globally in the coming decade, the field of possibilities is expanding beyond the Middle East and China for U.S.-based architects. As local markets evolve, Hammond has pinned his site’s coverage to individual buildings as barometers for growth. “The project,” he says, “remains the common denominator.”
WAN was set up in 2005 to respond to a growing internationalism in architecture, since most news outlets were nationally focused. But a building is a building everywhere, and everyone understands that. That’s how we communicate architecture. And we have the most wonderfully diverse readership.
Architectural practice and an architectural product are all about scale. Firms like RTKL or Gensler have offices all over the world and adjust their focuses accordingly. As you look at smaller firms, you see a range of different focuses at the local or national scale. There’s a huge amount of work being carried out in the Philippines, Turkey, Thailand, Poland, Sri Lanka, and Nigeria, but you have to look at it in terms of risk—what kinds of firms can bear it, what’s involved, and so on. It’s riskier to work in Nigeria than in, say, China. Nigeria’s opportunities are expanding, but it’s whether or not you, as a practitioner, can limit your risk exposure.
The Middle East is, of course, hard to categorize—it’s a very diverse place. Dubai’s market matured very quickly, but places like Abu Dhabi were slower burns, so to speak. Dubai just shows what can happen and how volatile things can be. Think back to September 2008 when the property market crashed within the span of a week. Abu Dhabi weathered the storm—but that gets into a discussion of who’s in power in those countries. I do notice, though, that the AIA and RIBA are expanding more and more beyond their stated geographical bounds. It’s a good thing, I think—and it gets to a level of cooperation that can only be good for architecture.
To cover all of this, WAN delivers project news, and we have a very simple, objective model of reporting. Where we get more involved is with our awards program. I sit on a lot of its panels and when you’re comparing two schools—one in London, let’s say, and one in Nairobi—the judges get really taxed because the two markets and circumstances are so different. But, in the end, quality of design usually surfaces, and I think good design is something that allows all of us to share a discussion about architecture in spite of geography.?—As told to William Richards