Reviewed December 2019
Rose Orcutt, Architecture & Planning Librarian, University at Buffalo
urbanNext is a website created in partnership with ACSA (the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture), Architect’s Newspaper, the Architectural Review, Architzer, and the Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism. The goal of the multi-formatted website, which is being promoted by Actar Publishers, is to unite academics, practitioners, students, politicians, geographers, designers, artists, and anyone associated with architecture and city planning, through the creation of a hub for design thinking. The site is a platform for users to provide authorial commentary, interact with peers, and analyze projects and topics. The bulk of the content comes from twenty years of Actar publications. Designed as a global collaborative platform, the website provides a way to express views through the wide lens of political, economic, social, architecture, and urban issues in a social context.
Parts of the website are viewable without creating a free account. However, one is unable to leave comments, bookmark articles, or obtain access to certain articles without registering. After registering for an account, the user will receive weekly curated emails highlighting thematic topics. Professionals can set up an associate account with the ability to create a professional profile at an individual or institutional level to engage in conversations and promote personal works or products. The site suggests that payment is required for an associate membership but no costs are given.
The urbanNext platform covers a wide range of media formats including articles, audiovisuals, projects, photographs, and lectures. The site is visually busy, with an array of image thumbnails that repopulate the screen as one scrolls down the page. The website’s main navigation consists of four dropdown menus titled Associates, Journals, Topics, and Formats. The site’s content includes photographic surveys of buildings, concept reports, and videos of architects discussing their own work or other topics, among other resources. The Selfthink and Statements tabs are platforms where subscribers can express their views and advertise their products. Some site areas such as forums are not yet populated with content.
The site provides extensive international coverage, with essays and articles that include color images, sections, and plans, as well as detailed descriptions of concepts, topics, or buildings. Numerous tags serve as subject headings linking to other articles. The Journal tab lists six journals in a non-traditional format, organized by topic: Responsive Technologies, Detroiters' Spatial Imagination, Expanding Design Practices, Photographic Atlas of the Cities, Southern Coexistences, and Urban Paradigms. An additional item under the Journal tab, entitled “Imminent Commons,” includes presentations from the 2017 Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism. Under the Topics tab, concepts are grouped together: Energy & Sustainability, Technology & Fabrication, Territory & Mobility, Politics & Economics, and the africanCities institute.
A few of the articles offer a bibliography but almost all provide the architect(s), location, surface area, year, photo credits at the top of the article and additional names of those affiliated with the project. However, the authorship of the articles is unclear with only an indication that they were taken from Actar publications; a few essays link directly to an Actar book publication. An ISSN number is supplied but urbanNext is not listed in Ulrichsweb. The essays and projects are similar to DETAIL: Inspiration’s format, although a number of the topical essays and interviews in urbanNext extend beyond the project-based format found in DETAIL: Inspiration. urbanNext is also comparable to Archinect or ArchDaily, but has a more scholarly and noncommercial tone. The site lists an editorial board comprised of professionals from academic architecture faculty to independent architects, filmmakers, and researchers.
Professionally, urbanNext provides an innovative way for architecture firms and early career architects to collaborate and showcase their research and work. It also brings together a multitude of other professionals, with a list of subscribed professionals and studios accessible for social visibility and communication. From an academic viewpoint, urbanNext is a good place to get basic information and images relating to a building, topic, or project, and the interviews with architects provide solid primary research. urbanNext would a useful resource for both undergraduate and graduate architecture and planning students.