Lessons from Radical Architects

Session Title

Lessons from Radical Architects


Christina Wodtke

Session Type: Presentation

While Information Architecture took its name from architecture, it took very little else. This is not surprising, as the early days of the web were about making sites that supported the interaction between people and data. The obvious model back then was a library; a library is a space for humans to receive knowledge. But with the rise of social networks, and the integration of community into almost all online experiences, more architecture practices are directly transferable to design. Online spaces are no longer just about findability, but about falling in love, getting your work done, goofing around, reconnecting with old friends, staving off loneliness… humans doing human things.

As an early Information Architect who had been working in the search field, I found very little but entertainment from phenomenology’s Gaston Bachelard or innovator Frank Gehry. But once I began working on social spaces, it all changed. We all know Christopher Alexander from his pattern-language approach to codifying design solutions, but if you go beyond the mere structure you find that in those patterns lies the answers to tricky privacy issues and the cold-start problem. Architects of buildings can help us form a new approach to the architecture of human spaces online. Poetics will go down easy with plenty of real world examples from current websites, shanty villages, air apps and cityscapes.


Christina has been bringing products to market on the web for 12 years now, in a variety of roles from design to entrepreneur to product manager. Her specialty is taking a product from Concept to Reality. At LinkedIn, she leads the team that took LinkedIn Events from idea to launch. Before that she founded Cucina Media and created a (perhaps too) innovative CMS; founded the IA Institute, a thriving nonprofit, as well as Boxes and Arrows, an independent publication on design. As a partner at MIG, she helped clients like The New York Times reinvent search and Rodale concept new Digital products, and at Yahoo she lead the design teams who reinvented Yahoo Seach, Shopping and Local.

In her spare time she gives talks on human behavior in digital spaces, and wrote a book on Information Architecture.


  1. Posted September 16, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    I saw the tweets about this presentation at IDEA 09 and would love to see it in person!

  2. Posted September 17, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    Saw first pass at IDEA09, was really intrigued. I found that revisiting Vitruvius to be really helpful and left with lots of good questions to try and answer. Would love to see Christina expand on it.

  3. Posted September 18, 2009 at 11:13 am

    This will definitely be a different version– i had a ton of stuff I hadn’t synthesized yet, and of course the great feedback I received at IDEA and will get here will be incorporated. The field of architecture has so much knowledge to give us. I have found this a rich body of knowledge to mine.

  4. Posted September 25, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    I also followed the IDEA 09 tweets for this presentation, and was sorry to have missed seeing it in person. Sounds like I may have another shot at it.

    BTW I’m glad to see architecture finally being formally acknowledged as an important source of ideas for our profession. Some of us (those who come from architecture backgrounds) have long been aware of the relevance and clear parallels that exist between the two fields. I’d love to hear Christina’s take on this!