Broadening the audience for architectural magic

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University of Sydney Business School
Architecture and Interiors (Pre-Novation): Woods Bagot
Architecture (Post-Novation): KannFinch
Interiors (Post-Novation): KannFinch/ Carr

Famed Modernist architect Le Corbusier said that “architecture is the learned game, correct and magnificent of forms assembled in the light.”

And architectural photography can be as magnificent as the buildings in the pictures.

Historically, access to architecture magazines was difficult, and conversely it was challenging for editors to source projects outside of their professional network. Inevitably, that restricted the stories to aspirational designs and buildings – think Sydney Opera House rather than the new house in our local suburb.

Enter Nic Granleese. Originally a qualified architect from Queensland, he moved into architecture photography because it excited him. “I’d grown up around buildings – my father was a builder – and I always had a notebook in my hand. But I love the beauty of photographs, and the process of capturing that perfect picture, and what started out as a creative outlet eventually became a profession.”

His challenge, though, was working out how to get his work published. Today, he’s published around the world, but he realized that there was a gap that could be closed that still existed for many photographers and architects, between them and the media.

“Both sides of the equation need the other. There are more and more outlets, many being specialist blogs, seeking great content, and the architects obviously want to publicize and discuss their work.”

Five years ago, Nic started a collaboration with architecture journalist Ben Morgan on a new web portal that would connect media and architect. They launched BowerBird mid-2016.

Writers (who access the portal for free) gain access to stories and, in particular, images, and the architects (who subscribe to the portal) have the means to distribute news about their work, commissions, awards and successes to a global audience.

And although this was never Nic’s original intent, BowerBird reflects a changing media landscape: “As we know, the media world is changing, and it’s no different in the specialist architecture and design media. Magazines that previously did their own photography can no longer afford to retain professional photographers. At the same time, more new outlets – small-circulation magazines or high-circulation blogs – are on the market. Although it’s taken us nearly five years to launch BowerBird, we’ve done so at the right time.”

There are 1,400 users, and 140 practices, on the platform. A large proportion of the Australian Architecture that is published is now being sourced through BowerBird, and they’re aiming to expand into new countries in late 2017.

BowerBird engenders the discussion of a broader range of architecture topics, and opens up the media to more architects, including those with small practices. The result is a wider recognition of original work, new conversations about trends, successes and recently-finished work, and creates showcases for new work and new market entrants.

When we interviewed Nic, he was commissioning his Microsoft Surface Studio. “It’s a wonderfully immersive machine, and I think it’s going to be a game-changing device. It encourages me to work in a different way. Having such a large tablet touch-screen means you can have the keyboard open on the screen and still use your fingers to manipulate photographs or designs, at full-scale. This is a new way of doing this type of creative work, and makes the management and preparation of very-high-quality architectural images a very different proposition. It’s how we instinctively work with photographs – to point at them and to seek to change them to suit our needs.”

Nic sees the Studio as an example of technology being both disruptive and productive. “Because of its size, clarity and processing power, I’m having to consider changing the way I work. That’s disruptive. But it’s those same characteristics that is already making me consider new products, and new ways of working,” he says.

“Technology has to serve user needs – for me, it’s being able to edit, catalogue, and prepare photographs for publication and for use by professional writers around the world. Architects are especially critical of how their works is presented. I have to be able to create world-class images.”

As someone who migrated from one profession to another, and then created a software start-up company, what are his tips for entrepreneurs? “It’s a long journey, with pain on the way. BowerBird has had a gestation of five years. It’s a process of trial and error, and you need to be sure that your business idea will actually solve customers’ pain points. In our case, it was removing the obstacle to sharing your work around the world.

“And it’s important to make decisions and act. Not all of them will work, but if you don’t take action, nothing will happen. For us, it’s been plan, create, deliver, refine, as a continuous process. And you should build your brand whilst you’re doing all of this too!”

To learn more about the Microsoft Surface Studio visit our website.


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