Architects like to picture themselves at the top of the design pyramid – the all-rounders who can design anything from a city to an earring. So why can’t they design their own websites?

I spend a great deal of time negotiating architects’ websites and, at the risk of biting the hand that feeds me, I’m amazed how bad most of them are. If their buildings were designed like their websites, people would forever be getting lost in mazes of corridors or opening doors to find a 10-storey drop on the other side or, like me, banging their heads against brick walls.

Take Renzo Piano. One of the world’s greatest architects, no doubt, but try to use his website and you’ll see what I mean. See how long it takes you to find the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas (one of his lesser known projects). It took me a good 10 minutes to work out there was any info at all. Only by dragging your cursor over the “Renzo Piano Building Workshop” logo do you fleetingly access the secret portal. Then you have to negotiate a succession of moving maps, mystifying symbols and surprise pop-up menus to find anything. It’s like a highbrow version of Tomb Raider. And be careful not to press the back button on your browser or you’re ejected from the whole site and back to square one. Renzo Piano has designed an airport in the middle of the sea for God’s sake – why should a website be beyond him? You’d be better off simply calling them up – but just you try finding the phone number.

It’s unfair to single out Piano – there are countless British architects whose sites are equally poor. Perhaps architects seriously imagine we want to spend half an hour watching Flash animations or maybe it’s a blind spot in their otherwise impregnable design armoury?

I’ll name and shame a few to give you an idea (all fine architects, I hasten to add):

· Zaha Hadid – “Look at a nice picture of me, then good luck finding what you’re after.”

· Will Alsop – A classic architect conceit: organise your work under pretentious titles like “moving”, “healing”, “playing” – as in, “I don’t design mere tube stations and hospitals, you know.”

· David Chipperfield – Tiny, light grey text on a white background is an architects’ favourite for some reason (not legibility). Poorly sighted clients apply elsewhere.

· Heneghan Peng – So minimal, it’s practically a blank screen.

· AHMM – Click the link, go and make a cup of tea, come back and it’ll still be loading (at least on my tired old machine).

· WHAT_architecture – A radical, graphic reinvention of the art of information display which you’ll need a degree in advanced cartography to work out.

· Herzog & De Meuron, Peter Zumthor etc – Of course, if you’re a super-elite practice you don’t have a website at all. If you need to look on the internet, you’re really not worthy to hire them.


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