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    Credit: Jesse Lefkowitz


reconnaissance mission

In the research-and-curate realm, architects have become opportunists: These days, product inspiration can come from a blog, a company rep, a local construction site, or, like it or not, an Internet ad. “I’m a surfer, and occasionally I notice product placement ads for architecture popping up when I look at surfing websites,” Eerkes says. “The ads follow you wherever you go; it’s like the movie Minority Report.”

Without those anachronistic binders, albeit neatly organized and within arm’s reach, the trick is creating order from the cacophony of windows, weather barriers, and boutique paints. BNIM’s Sarah Hirsch, LEED AP, spec writer and a recent winner of the Construction Specifications Institute Specifications Writer Award, maintains the office’s master specs list but also is exploring the use of GreenWizard as an online library for manufacturer information.

Social media adds another search-and-sort overlay. “We’re struggling with how to grab and organize Twitter information,” Hirsch says. “Most of it is in our heads.” She also uses Bo.lt, a storage and sharing site similar to Pinterest.

In some ways, spec-writing has come full circle, mixing powerful technologies with personal contact. To be a 21st-century architect is to embrace the knowledge that the pursuit of the perfect product often means crowd-sourcing, both globally and close to home. As much as we dutifully try to keep up with everything on offer these days, we continue to rely on institutional memory, trusted reps, and the colleague at the next desk.

“We use a lot of old-fashioned communication,” Nagle says. “The best way to transfer this information is to make sure we’re talking face-to-face. We’re always researching together at various scales. You see what everyone else is doing.”