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November 14, 2007


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Naming conventions are always so interesting. Thanks for this post and your expansion on the Slate article.

Naming is an expression of ownership it seems to me and thus identity.

I agree .nl and .net suggest "we're different", but in what ways?

If Morphosis expressed "we're cutting edge" what does "Office for Metropolitan Architecture" suggest?

I have to admit "Office for Metropolitan Architecture" made me think of a Monty Python skit or two.

Remember "Ministry of Silly Walks"?

Keep creating,

As Nancy noted, most design firms go through an evolution of names with ownership transition. A good example is today's "Gensler," which was originally "M. Arthur Gensler & Associates" and later "Gensler & Associates." However, the root of the naming tradition lay in the licensing laws of many states, which mandated that ownership of architectural firms be limited to licensed architects, and the name of the firm be limited to the names of those architects.

Gradually, the licensing laws have become more expansive, and we have seen the rise of non-architect owners, as well as new types of names.

One of the most notable naming exceptions was The Architects Collaborative in Cambridge, which was known in the profession as "TAC." The firm was founded by Walter Gropius in 1945, who had been the Director of the Bauhaus in Berlin prior to WWII. According to www.greatbuildings.com, the name "embodied his belief in the value of teamwork." TAC became one of the most well-known and respected architectural firms in the USA, but after years of minimal profitability, it went bankrupt in 1995.

Three additional sidebars --

1. I worked at SOM in the early 70's. Although "SOM" was commonly used within the profession, the firm's manual of style required the use of "Skidmore, Owings & Merrill." However, this changed after the publication of its first monograph.

2. I did a quick WHOIS search of morphosis.com and morphosis.net. The former was acquired in 1996, the latter in 1997.So I suspect that the .net suffix was convenient, rather than planned.

3. When Rem Koolhaas opened an office in NYC, it was called "AMO" (OMA backwards). That entity was not originally engaged in architecture, however, having a contract with Conde Nast to reconceptualize several magazines.

Mike--Good question about non-.com domains. To me, .nl clearly says "we're Dutch and proud." As EV Vance points out, .net may sometimes be the runner-up choice, but because it was originally set aside for communications companies (att.net, comcast.net, etc.), architecture firms that choose .net may be attempting to emphasize that they're communicators, too.

EV Vance: Thank you for your excellent observations ... and for the WHOIS research, which I confess I didn't take the time to do myself.

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