There are few, if any, recent trends that have come on as strong and as fast as that of the gluten free movement. About eight years ago, I had heard of some one being advised by a doctor to cut wheat from her diet, and now it seems like every third or fourth person has taken the proverbial axe to the wheat stalk. We have seen diet trends before, so why has this one become so far reaching and at such a rapid rate?
There are many theories that already exist, so why not add my own: It seems that this trend has spread largely due to social media and the Internet at large. A large majority of people that I have spoken to about the subject first read about the idea of cutting gluten from their diet via a social media platform of some kind. Not only have these vast networks opened up a wide range of information, but they have also made that information instantly available and almost impossible to ignore. After all, they have helped to turn a once simple cooking ingredient into the vilest villain we have seen in years.
This all being said, the root of my point is this: social media and readily available online information has changed the way that our society functions. Ideas are spread more rapidly and come and go faster than ever. The anti-gluten movement is only a small example of how far reaching a simple idea can go once it starts to gain traction.
This spread of ideas has especially manifested itself in the world of architecture. For the most part, many architectural paradigm shifts are slow moving and take place over years, if not decades. Since the early 2000s, though, things are moving faster than ever. It’s a daily occurrence where we reference a project on the other side of the planet by a renowned “starchitect” or scroll through sites like ArchDaily, Archinect, or Pinterest for design ideas and inspiration.
These sorts of practices are not new to the Internet generation. Long before there were smartphones and tablets, there were magazines and books. The difference, however, is that these projects are published across the world almost the instant that they are realized or some one comes up with a spectacular new rendering.
The practice of, more or less, crowd-sourcing ideas and molding them into our own is common and allows for ideas to manifest themselves faster and more clearly than ever before. How quickly would the International Style or Modernism have come to fruition or fizzled out with the rapid information sharing techniques that we all have today? Would these trends have a more concrete staying power or would they be more quickly dismissed as those projects are opened up to a wider audience instantly? Even the most successful design trends may only last a handful of years when they are so widely influential and, at the same time, open for scrutiny. An architect may have lived through two or three design eras in their lifetime a century ago, but it may be entirely possible that we could see half a dozen or more dominant trends within our own lives.
Beyond just being witness to and partaking in these fast moving design trends, I would also say that there is an opportunity to help spread the message of architecture through these media outlets. Recently, Page/ published an article where some one compared making architecture as accessible to the public as cooking has become a la the Food Network and the thousands of food blogs that have sprung up in recently. If anyone has ever worked in a restaurant, or even been on the Internet for that matter, they know that there is no shortage of self-proclaimed experts when it comes to food. Whether or not this is a good thing depends on whom you ask, but there is something to be said for the fact that these people are knowledgeable and take a vested interest in what they are eating (for example: those that subscribe almost religiously to the gluten free diet). Imagine if there was the same amount of interest for architecture that exists for the food industry and how far architecture could be pushed with that sort of enthusiasm. Maybe we don’t need the “Architecture Network” per se, but perhaps the fast paced information trend can set us on a similar path of public intrigue.
If we think about where architecture was just twenty years ago and about the advancement of technology and of the mass amounts of information that are a few keystrokes away, it’s not inconceivable that architectural trends could come and go as quickly as the latest diet trend. It is also feasible that architecture could make strides in furthering the public awareness for the built environment. However, it is essential that we take a step back once in a while to assess if these trends are ones that have real staying power or are simply what is stylish and fashionable for the time being.