Interview 04.06.2010 with Jeroen van Oostveen and Martijn Postmus by Mark Studholme

The History of Archello

Archello is the website doing it all; social and business networking, publishing, informing and sharing. What makes it different to the Linked Ins, Googles and Wikipedias of the net is that Archello is made for a group of people with a shared interest.
Everyone with an enthusiasm for the built world from famous architects to the backpacker who saw the Sydney Opera House for the first time are invited to contribute to this open platform. I speak to the founders Martijn Postmus and Jeroen Van Oostveen about their new venture.

MS: You both have a real passion for architecture and buildings, where does it come from?

JO: My roots are in architecture, I talk the language, good architecture has a strong concept which can be read and translated, a project cannot be done alone, it is a team effort.
MP: I am particularly interested not only in the creative, design side but also the construction materials. I love a new material which has arrived at which is soft then when you punch it, it contracts and becomes hard. I would love to see this being used in a building someday, a school or something.
JO: Personally I wanted to be an inventor, a good building is a new invention, a solution and a creative outlet. All good architects are inventors. My favourite Ben van Berkel from UNStudio has great solutions but also after meeting him I realised he was very down to earth.

MS: Archello seems to be a combination of open source, blogging, networking and publishing all in one package, what are the 3 main objectives of Archello?

MP: To inspire everyone to share stories of great buildings, increase business and personal networking and to be a source of information.
JO: To allow not just architects but contractors and other industries to share knowledge on a project, to give the complete story and to be transparent.

MS: As a publishing company you have the architect website, AWM the architect magazine and Materia the building material publisher, it seems you have taken ideas from all three and brought them together to create Archello. How do they contribute to Archello?

MP: All three complement the architect, AWM as a paper format is a professional journal, for news and discussions and Materia as a material knowledge centre. Materia uses the Archello engine and is incorporated into the site.
JO: Employees from AWM, and Materia all contribute to Archello’s content, Archello will have input from all three publishers. Martijn has a commercial background and I have a background in the architectural world.

MS: is online and accepting members, when and how was the concept developed?

MP: Three years ago Jeroen and I went on a boat trip in Friesland, a northern province in the Netherlands.
JO: It was in October 2007.
MP: I caught my first pike!
JO: I think it is better if we start at the beginning, was started ten years ago, we realised there was no platform to find an architect and see their projects. We were a start up and therefore emptied our pockets, begged family and friends and worked for 2 years to make Architectenweb successful and profitable.
MP: I nearly had to sell my house.
JO: We started to receive interest from building product suppliers they wanted to use our platform to target architects. This was an eye opener, we started a products guide, money started coming in and now the platform is high quality. We were careful, the first question we always ask, does it add value to the architects?

“the first question we always ask, does it add value to the architects?”

MP: 5 years ago we started AWM an architect magazine and aimed to become a more complete publisher. We offered adverts for less and every dollar we made went straight into the magazine, we had no directors to answer to.
JO: AWM is now one of the top 3 architecture magazines in the Netherlands, had 200,000 visitors per month just in the Netherlands, the site was receiving interest from abroad, it was also the time of social networking. So in October 2007 the Archello idea was developed, lots of money and time was put into it, companies were sourced and then the recession hit, the project was put on hold. It was not until June 2009 that the project was restarted after I met Martijn Arts. He is the guru of social media and we got on well. We brought him on board and things went very quickly from there.

MS: What input did Martijn Arts provide?

MP: He suggested the building project should be made the heart of the site, bringing together all sites like Youtube, Linked In, Facebook and combine them with the project. He encouraged Archello to become more open source using an interface platform and to include more open technology. Following his strategy led to less time and less cost.
JO: He introduced us to Lucius web systems the programmers behind Archello who were capable of doing what we wanted.

MS: I assume like with any new website, let alone one which is as big as Archello there were major obstacles to overcome, what were these?

MP: The greatest challenge was how to make it successful in terms of making it accessible for everybody but also try and help improve architecture. The aim was to get everyone learning from each other, to even help make better buildings. The challenge was to think worldwide, act local. We wanted a project in the Netherlands to be a project in Spain.

“think worldwide, act local”

JO: We wanted to create the worldwide story.

MS: What will the site offer users which will keep them coming back for more?

MP: As well as the current in house team of editors writing about architectural news, styles, trends, developments etc. we are looking to team up with other publishers to work together and provide different aspects to Archello.
JO: Augmented reality is very exciting this will allow products and projects to be viewed from different angles.

MS: The site has something called a ‘Connection Badge’ what does it do?

JO: This is the most important feature of the site, it is the heart, it shows all the connections to a project, in a graphic format.
MP: It is the meeting place of a project and encourages the project to keep growing, the more connections a project has the richer it becomes and the more exposure it gets. Each project has a rating according to how rich its connection badge is.

“the more connections a project has the richer it becomes”

MS: The web and the architectural world are both evolving, the web in terms of networking and architecture in terms of globalisation, what does the future hold for Archello?

JO: Were looking at allowing users to personalise Archello to their interests for example by location or style of architecture. Offline events like building conferences and competitions, we also want to use Archello to market industry jobs.
MP: The site will show live interviews with architects, we want a flash dance hype but about exciting projects.-