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The Entablature Web Site

Entablature debuted in February, 2000  Here is what it looked like then:



How did it come about?  The 90's were a time of incredible growth for the internet.  In the early days of Compuserve and America Online, the chirp, chirp, buzz of the modem meant you were connected to the Information Superhighway, where from the comfort of your home you could look up information on what seemed to be an endless number of topics.  But modem connections were slow and not always the most reliable in being able to stay connected.  Images and graphics were also limited, as most users wouldn't wait 10 minutes for pictures with any detail to appear on the screen.  In the late 1990's, broadband subscriptions began to increase in popularity as they became hosted by cable companies that already had wired networks for cable television.  As prices for more direct internet connections dropped, more people switched over to cable, DSL, and eventually fiber connections.  This led to the astronomical growth of internet useage by more and more people.

For architects, use of the internet was fairly limited in the 1990's.  There were a number of Usenet newsgroups, such as alt.architecture, where anybody could post questions related to architecture, answer other people's questions, or simply browse through the discussions.  I was a frequent visitor to these forums and engaged in many "conversations" about a wide variety of architecture-related topics.

Online resources for architects were also fairly limited.  These were the days before Google and Wikipedia.  The most popular search engines were Alta Vista and Yahoo, along with America Online's search engine, added to the AOL software as they found users were dropping AOL and its limited (and controlled) information within AOL's communities and chat rooms in favor of Netscape (which was eventually acquired by America Online). But what were users finding when they searched the net for architecture-related topics?  Not much.  Most of the architecture information could be found on university websites such as Mary Ann Sullivan's pages at Bluffton University and Jeffery Howe's Digital Archive at Boston College.  In 1998, Great Buildings Online started, but there still wasn't much else regarding architects and buildings.

The internet boom of the late '90's was a time of tremendous growth across the world wide web.  Start-up companies with a simple, memorable dot-com name were able to make incredible profits.  At the same time, web portals were also increasingly popular.  Yahoo was the most popular portal at the time, but many smaller subject-specific portals were being created, and in 1999 I got the idea to create an architecture web portal.  Both of my brothers were in the internet business - one was in advertising and search engine optimization, and the other provided internet connections and designed web sites.  And me?  I was living in Las Vegas at the time, had just finished 3 years as a project architect on The Venetian, working for The Stubbins Associates (now KlingStubbins, owned by Jacobs), and was marketing for new projects while providing follow-up support to The Venetian.  So I started by brainstorming names while putting together a business plan, attending conferences about start-up companies, and mapping out how an architecture web portal might work.

What to call the site?  I looked at both successful and unsuccessful dot-com sites and determined I wanted a site with one name, somehow related to architecture, that was still available as a .com.  I remember having a long list of names but can't find my notes from this time.  (I'm sure they're somewhere in the basement . . .).  But Entablature was the one that stuck.  I registered the site in late 1999, and, with my brother, set up a corporation!


I soon mapped out how the main page would look, and then began the process of collecting links.  At the time, search engines did a poor job indexing sites, and since there still weren't a lot of websites associated with architecture-related information, putting together the lists of organizations and resources didn't take too long.  I then decided I wanted to include links to architecture schools and architecture firms, not realizing the huge number of websites that needed to be captured.   Many late hours were spent adding information to our database, and early test-users suggested including both interior design and landscape architecture to catch a bigger audience.  My brother wrote the code while I put together the marketing materials and established the e-commerce associations (Chiasso, Sharper Image, Art.com) as well as the advertising that would appear on the site.

After a couple of months of user testing, entablature.com launched in February of 2000. In just a month, we were averaging about 500 unique visitors a day, and there were many postings on the discussion boards and comments on the early features and projects.  While gathering links, I had also collected e-mail addresses, and upon launch had about 5,000 direct-targeted e-mail addresses with which to send out marketing information about the site.  We also received many e-mails with suggested new links while I traced and corrected broken links.  But after a few months, the website was still not making any money.  Pennies per click on ads plus low percentages of revenue on purchases of direct-linked products ended up not being a good start-up business model.

The excitement of the website soon turned into a nightly chore of checking and updating the site, as I still had my day job as an architect (good thing!) But I kept at it and the site continued to be well-used, but without any profits.  We had talked about getting investors, but had decided we needed to first have a product to show.  At the same time, the dot-com boom was going bust.  Many successful web-based companies went into tailspins; amazon.com had a stock value of over $100 per share in 1999 but $7 per share in 2001, Cisco lost 86% of its market share,  pets.com went bankrupt.

My architecture career also took another turn, as I began two exciting collaborations: with Rem Koolhaas and OMA on the new Las Vegas Hermitage Guggenheim Museum and with Frank O. Gehry Associates on the Art of the Motorcycle Exhibit, the first (and only) exhibit in the Las Vegas Guggenheim Museum.  I was travelling between Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Rotterdam on a monthly basis, and no longer had time for Entablature.  The site soon became stale, no new posts, features or news stories were being added.  Entablature eventually lost all of its users.

With all of the travelling, I had a lot of time on airplanes, so decided to re-design Entablature so that it wouldn't require constant oversight and wouldn't look like it wasn't being used.  That meant getting rid of the discussion boards and any manual uploads of news stories, features or projects.  Widgets for web sites were fairly new at the time, so I added one of these for architecture-related news, but everything else on the website became static.  Here's what version 2 of Entablature looked like:




I would occasionally add some links to the site, but for the most part Entablature was quiet.  During this time I also got married and started a family.  With the premature birth of my son, Leo, I spent a lot of time at home, taking a 3-month leave of absence from work.  Leo slept a lot, so I had lots of time to do projects around the house, but also was on the computer.  I noticed some sites that were hosting awards for website design, so decided to put together a website awards program for architects.  It didn't take long to assemble a project plan and by the summer of 2002, the Architecture Web Site Awards was born!




The first year I received 125 entries, gave out "awards" (which was nothing more than recognition), and included direct links to their websites and marketing materials for their use.  To enter the awards program, firms has to pay $25 per entry, and I also had a student category for $12 per entry.  At last, I had found a way to make some money through Entablature.  Wasn't much, but at least it paid for the site and started to re-establish Entablature on the web.

I repeated the awards program in 2003, received 116 entries - different firms this time, and Entablature got a lot of recognition.  I repeated the program again in 2004 and had about 84 entries.  But after the birth of my 2nd son, Daniel, I no longer had any time to devote to Entablature, so the whole endeavor kind of died.  The Web Marketing Association was doing other website awards and began a Best Architecture Web Sites Awards program in 2006, so mine was officially dead.

I took Entablature down in 2011, no longer thinking it was worthy of even being a website.  But after a few years, I thought about what a great resource Entablature could be, so I started version 3!  Yeah, the links are still there, many of them broken by now, but I had put so much time and energy into creating them in the first place, I kinda hate to see them no longer published anywhere.  Maybe I'll get around to updating them, who knows.  But it's still kind of fun to explore different sites.

The new Entablature site is now modeled more like a magazine-style blog.  This will be a place where I post my thoughts on Architecture on the Internet, along with projects I've worked on and other miscellaneous ramblings.  I hope you enjoy it!





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