High-Impact Entrepreneurship

Endeavor Entrepreneur David Assael on building the largest architectural community online

Endeavor Entrepreneur David Assael, founder of Plataforma Networks, started and continues to expand what has become the most popular architecture site on the web. With fresh content and relevance, an innovative and profitable business model and thousands of daily readers, the site has put Assael on the map – and literally has helped put new architecture on the map of cities around the world. The following article from the Chilean news source La Tercera (translated from Spanish) details the history and growth of the Plataforma Networks.

In five years, Platforma Arquitectura has become an online phenomenon with 50 thousand daily visitors.

An anecdote speaks to this success: One year ago, David Assael was invited to a conference in Israel. “One of the architects asked me if by any chance I knew of Archdaily.com. Clearly, I told him, I am one of the creators and I’m also a founder of Plataforma Arquitectura. He looked at me amazed. He couldn’t believe that these sites came from Chile and not Silicon Valley,” the founder of the two most visited architecture sites in the world recalled.

It all started in 2005 with Católica University grads David Assael and David Basulto’s first web project, Platforma Urbana, a site that brings together information on urban building and style and that after a year expanded to Platforma Architectura.

In a matter of months, the website that tried to put Chilean and Latin American architecture on the map became one of the most visited sites: from 14 daily visits to 50 thousand. Soon they decided to replicate their model, but in English, under the name of ArchDaily. The phenomenon continued, growing today to 200 thousands daily visits mostly among U.S. users. The company also expanded and now employs about 40 people in three offices in Providence.

“Since the beginning we had to be clear that the principle actors were neither the people who built the site nor the state that regulates it, but rather the people with the purchasing power who decide where they want to live. The idea is to inform and generate discussion about the problems of a city and the existing architecture,” said Assael. “Suddenly, we realized that we had become the source for architecture publications, students, professors and the general public.”

The site isn’t just about Assael’s taste and perceptions. After being published on the site, foreign and local architects and firms like Polidura, Talhouk and Drn Architects, have become known in the industry. David Barragan, an Ecuadorian, spoke to this: “There is a before and after Casa Pentimento on Plataforma Architectura. It was overwhelming. Publications started calling us, we were invited to conferences and workshops and we were even invited to participate in an architectural showcase in Abu Dahbi.”

The Role of Heritage
With the success of Plataforma Urbana, the site space Plataforma Patrimonio emerged as a place for people to discuss news and themes about how to rehab traditional neighborhoods and classic architecture. “Heritage is one area in which we don’t do very well in Chile. European countries didn’t give due weight to for a long time but then they realized that it’s vital to preserve their own culture and roots,” says the architect.
“The major problem today is that we don’t have the institutional framework required to regulate historic property. You can’t freeze the houses, so the idea is to identify, protect, invest in and improve heritage properties. Today, a person who has a home declared a heritage site must maintain it. He can’t sell it or improve it. The state should become more responsible,” said Assael.

So, as its first initiative, the site provided extensive coverage of Heritage Day, in addition to publishing articles related to preserving architectural heritage. The idea is to continue this conversation in a familiar language. For Assael, this has been the great contribution of his online projects and it will continue to be so: “We are not interested in passing the role on to someone else. We don’t want to become a fetish but rather a source of utility. We like to be an everyday tool.”

The architectural world appreciates this mentality. “We check it often, above all to be up on major themes and controversies. I like the definition they give: ‘The best architecture in the world, as soon as possible’,” says the architect Sebastian Gray. Meanwhile, Albert Tidy, Director of the Architecture School of San Sebastian University, highlights above all the “magnitude and freedom” of the medium: “It has become an essential reference for architects.”

To make the company sustainable, Assael and Basulto invented a profitable business model in which some 20 companies in the construction field pay to advertise their products on the web. “The architects need to know what the appropriate brick or cement for their work is. Now we are the intermediary between suppliers and architects,” Assael said.

For now, the goal of the architectural techs is to continue positioning their websites across diverse landscapes. So far, they haven’t done bad. In the last three years they’ve met with the king if Spain, Saudi Arabia and the president of Israel. In March, they gave a lecture at Harvard, and two weeks ago they were invited to the annual of the American Institute of Architects in New York. “More than creativity, the key to everything has been perseverance. There are many projects that start, last six months, and fall apart. We were focused for five years on starting and building this and now we will persist,” concludes Assael.

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