Regular visitors will know it already: the Archis website has been totally renewed. Here’s a brief introduction for those who don’t log on to www.archis.org every day.
Since the re-launch of Archis in 2001 the magazine's makers had been hoping to induce intensive interaction with readers through the website. This spring editor-in-chief Ole Bouman presented the model for the new site in De Balie. In addition to providing the usual subscription details, contents of current and back issues and suchlike, the new site was designed as a portal that offers access to a so-called dynamic archive of Archis content and themes. By encouraging 'associative surfing' among users, encouraging them to browse the Archis digital archive, Archis hoped to open up new perspectives that could perhaps not be achieved as rapidly by a 'linear reading' of the magazine's printed versions.
The new site is primarily structured for searching and roaming the archive in an associative manner. The main component of the site is what's called a data cloud, a graphic representation of data objects (text, image, video and animation from the Archis archive) positioned relative to one another according to metadata (characteristics such as key word, theme, etc.). The arrangement takes the shape of six-sided clusters, each containing a maximum of six objects. The objects are represented by coloured triangles. As soon as the pointer is placed on an object, the title and type are revealed. One click and the object opens to reveal a short summary of the text. The complete text can be opened in a separate window and printed. There are three ways to make and move through a 'cloud': according to a colour-coded theme (it is not clear whether all objects of a requested theme are revealed); according to key word, edition or theme search; and according to associative surfing. As a rule, each search request is 'frozen'. By clicking the 'unfreeze' button, the user alters the composition of the cloud on the basis of the metadata of the object opened. Accordingly, the set of data is continually renewed. By temporarily freezing the configuration, the user can examine the data more closely and open different objects at the same time.
The particulars that determine which objects are selected and positioned relative to one another remains somewhat obscure. The explanatory text makes mention of a three-dimensional set of co-ordinates, but since the representation is 2D the whereabouts of the third dimension is unclear. The same text explains that the Archis editors determine the clustering of objects. Little more is clarified at present. A very large measure of intuition and sense of adventure is therefore required of the user.
Fortunately, the other search and filter functions are fairly self-explanatory, and it's also possible to access the Archis archive in a conventional manner. Also included is a Forum function for discussion, though it's slightly hidden at present. Thankfully, Archis isn't taking any notice of the current scepticism towards online discussions and is encouraging interaction between periodical and public in this way.
When it comes to design and content, Archis has always been willing to push the limits of tolerance among readers. In that sense the new site is more in tune with the Archis approach that the former site was. No doubt there'll be the usual moans of complaint, but that's part and parcel of Archis and the role it adopts – now via the new media too – in the architectural debate. Take a look for yourself, and take the time to let your intuition come face to face with that of Archis. Who knows, it might just open up new perspectives.