Google: A Window to Architectural Public Opinion?

by Tim Alatorre

Just out of curiosity yesterday I did a few generic Google searches to see what kinds of results would come up.  First, I searched for “Architecture”.  I was rather surprised by how uninspiring the links were.  Do Google’s search results give us some insight into how the public perceives architecture?  Does is show us where we as architecture professionals need change or improve how we present architecture to others?

On my Google search last night the first link, as is typical with Google results, was a link to the Wikipedia entry on Architecture.  Next we had the Architectural Record, the AIA, Architecture Magazine, and About.com’s architecture page.   Not until the sixth link on the page did we start to see something that might jump out to a non architectural professional, GreatBuildings.com.  The only news item highlighted on the page was about computer programing architecture.

Architecture - Aug 5th Google Search

Architecture - Aug 5th Google Search

As I was watching So You Think You Can Dance, I next searched for the word “Dance”.  What a contrast!  There were ads for dance lessons and then the first links were for Wikipedia, the hit dance television show “So You Think You Can Dance”, Dance.net, image, video, and news results, and then a map to local dance studios.

Dance -  Aug 5th Google search

Dance - Aug 5th Google Search

I then performed similar searches for “fashion”, “art”, and “music”.

Fashion - Aug 5th Google Search

Fashion - Google Search

Art - Aug 5th Google Search

Art - Google Search

Music - Aug 5th Google Search

Music - Google Search

These three searches returned consumer focused links and varying degrees of multimedia and news results.  Fashion was surprisingly lacking some of the multimedia, but the links were still consumer based and not industry organizations.

Also surprising were the number of results for each search:

  • Music: 1.81 billion pages
  • Art: 1.28 billion pages
  • Fashion: 413 million pages
  • Architecture: only 213 million pages!  11% of the pages that music returned.

In contrast to dance, fashion, art, and music, I found the Google results for Architecture so uninspiring because without digging deeper the first results were for stuffy industry organizations and magazines,  there were no news results about the exciting things happening in architecture, and there were NO pictures of amazing buildings.  A Google search for “Buildings” returns more multi-media, but the first link is for the USGBC; while it’s a great organization, their web page is… boring.

So what does this tell us?  To me it’s a perfect reflection of how the public perceives architecture.  While movies often glamorize the Architect as the artist working late into the night building models and drawing pretty pictures, most people think that Architects and architecture are out of reach and are only accessible to the rich and famous.  HGTV has brought interior and landscape design to the masses, but Architects are rarely featured.

So what’s the difference between dance, music and art and architecture?  Well, a lot of things, but these are things that I think we should work on:

  • Most people think an Architect can’t help them, they can do it themselves.  Most people also think they can sing and dance, but they appreciate talent when they see it.  It’s much more difficult to identify a talented Architect.
  • Architecture is looked at as being a profession for mathematicians and engineers, not artists.  Architecture in reality, is for artists, scientists, mathematicians and engineers.
  • Architecture is only recognized when it is extravagant, expensive, or over the top.  Pop culture celebrates bad dancers and singers and amazing dancers and singers… and everyone in between.  Really well designed average cost buildings are rarely recognized.
  • Architects are rarely associate with their work.  People have amazing abilities to recognize a song by name and artist but people rarely think about who designed their favorite buildings.  That awesome library downtown, that slick looking pedestrian bridge, who designed them?

So, why do I care what people think about architecture?  Well, that will have to be a topic for another day.


About the Author


Tim Alatorre