A Travel Site for Architects

Bob Borson —  April 15, 2013 — 56 Comments

A travel blog … for architects by architects … sounds pretty good right? If there is one out there, I haven’t found it. I suppose I should be a bit more clear, I’m not talking about a travel blog where the owner of the blog is the only one doing the traveling (seriously, how much travel can one person actually do AND work at the same time?). I’d consider that more of a travel diary.

Kaumalapau Harbor, Lana'i, Hawaii photo by Bob Borson

A few weeks ago I mentioned in the article “Hi, I’m Bob and I am an Architect Blogger” something that has been rolling around in my head for the past few years – a travel site dedicated to architects and people who travel for the sake of looking at architecture. I wrote:

There are other real positives to having a blog site. As a direct result from vastly improving (enlarging?) my digital footprint, I have met other people who I am in awe of … people who inspire me with the things they are doing. I’ve met other writers, creators, bloggers, podcasters, owners, clients, artists, inventors … everything. I barely know my neighbors but I now know (and have meaningfully connected) with real people from almost every conceivable location on this planet. There are times that I think I should start a video travel site where I go and visit all these designers and architects I’ve met from around the world and have them show me where they live, their every day architecture and design. Not just the stuff in the magazines, but the architecture that makes up and defines the neighborhoods where they work and live. That would be an amazing site and I know I could do something like that now.

I’m serious – pretty sure I could get this going but I would need support from all the amazing people who visit this site. Most people have pretty boring travel photos – but architects seem to take different sorts of pictures and of different sorts of things. I think I would like to use this site to share these images. The idea would be that you email me 5 to 10 photos of some place or building you visited, include some personal thoughts and description of what people are looking at, and I load them up here so that people who are doing research on their next vacation can more find them. I will label all the pictures and list who actually took the photo (I’m big on giving credit where it is due). Also, I’m not talking about pictures of places where everyone goes and there are a million photos available online (i.e. the Eiffel Tower) but of something, someplace that would resonate with other designers and architects – things WE like to see.

Maybe this is no more than a half-baked idea, but I would like to see if anyone else would like to play along. Give me your thoughts in the comment section below, I’d like to gauge the interest level.

Here is an example of what I am talking about – this is from my most recent trip to Lana’i, Hawaii.


Kaumalapau Harbor, Lana’i, Hawaii

Located on the southwestern coast, Kaumalapau is the main commercial seaport for Lanai. The original harbor breakwater located here was built in 1920’s but was severely damaged by hurricanes. A new breakwater was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and was dedicated on July 7, 2007 giving Kaumalapau Harbor a one of a kind look. Buttressed by 819, white, 35-ton Core-Loc armor units — the largest of their kind in the world — the harbor appears to be surrounded by giant, jack-like concrete blocks. [information taken from here]

Kaumalapau Harbor Google Map image

Geographical reference so other people can see where these images are from … thanks Google maps!

Kaumalapau Harbor, Lana'i, Hawaii photo by Bob Borson

This was an extremely interesting detour we took one afternoon. There aren’t very many people on the island of Lana’i under most circumstances but there wasn’t ANYBODY here at the harbor when we arrived. Access to the harbor is limited on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays due to security matters and freight activity. Despite the fact that most architects prefer to not have scale figures in their photos, this time I wish I did so that you could understand the scale of these Core-Loc armor units. They are massive and the scene is extremely surreal.


kaumalapau breakwater repair photo by Baird

I grabbed this photo off the website of the construction company who did the breakwater repair work – Baird. Hopefully this image gives a better sense of scale of the size and scope of this project.


Kaumalapau Harbor, Lanai Seawall

Kaumalapau Harbor, Lana'i, Hawaii photo by Bob Borson

Kaumalapau Harbor, Lana'i, Hawaii photo by Bob Borson

Kaumalapau Harbor, Lana'i, Hawaii photo by Bob Borson

Kaumalapau Harbor, Lana'i, Hawaii photo by Bob Borson

Kaumalapau Harbor, Lana'i, Hawaii photo by Bob Borson

Kaumalapau Harbor, Lana'i, Hawaii photo by Bob Borson

Kaumalapau Harbor, Lana'i, Hawaii photo by Bob Borson

Kaumalapau Harbor, Lana'i, Hawaii photo by Bob Borson

All the black and white images are pictures that I took while I was walking around the harbor. I am told that this is a great place to visit and watch the sun set – I believe it.  I would highly recommend this little side trip if you are ever on the island of Lana’i.

[Location and photos submitted by Bob Borson, you can contact him directly at bob@lifeofanarchitect.com]



  • Rafael Gomez

    Great Bob seems like all the world is with you …you are a leader ..architects should be ! look the education we get

  • hollo

    bananas are yummy and so are potatoes

  • Nisha

    Hi Bob,

    Great idea, lovely to see how you’re aiming to involve all the contributors too by way of crediting them. We went to Japan on a uni trip a couple years ago and got to visit things we would never normally see- such as staying in an abandoned school turned hostel in the mountains!! I would like to contribute these places and have friends who would also most likely be interested. Let us know when you are ready for submissions.



    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Hi Nisha,

      I still haven’t taken the time to figure out how to actually structure it but if someone sends in good quality pictures and a write-up that makes sense that can accompany the photos, there isn’t anything stopping me from posting those articles right now.

      I have to confess, I will not post pictures that I think aren’t very good – this typically means fuzzy, out of focus, etc.

  • http://lowlypeasanterrandgirl.com/ Kimberly Tuttle

    It’s funny you mention this, now. I’ve been in the process of launching my own travel blog for months now. I’ve recently returned from my first trip since I’ve decided to test these waters, and I’ll be uploading my photos and interesting discoveries over the next few months. It’s something I’ve been trying to figure out – how to connect architecture with travel and culture. It’s something I’m passionate about, so we’ll see how this turns out!

  • http://designassociatesarchitects.com/ Christopher Lee

    That’s a great idea! Now, if my wife says “do we really have to go there”, I can say “it’s for work”.

  • http://twitter.com/marireut Maria Reut

    That’s a REALLY good idea! I’d love to be in too!

  • Ed

    I’m in.

  • Lizzie

    Fabulous I idea – would Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts (SCVA) in the UK make the grade? It’s a fabulous Norman Foster building where I may have had my wedding. Liz

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      that counts!

  • rob


    not a blog, but it has a lot of the info you mention

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      very similar -

  • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.montgomery.1654 Daniel Montgomery

    Think this is a really great idea Bob, a few friends (Architecture classmates) and I were thinking about planning a few short trips to see projects (other than our scheduled class trip abroad) so this sort of thing would really help finding interesting projects etc. Our class study trip went to Barcelona and Girona (Catalonia, North east of Spain) and I have many images from interesting projects by RCR and Mirales offices. Would love to contribute. Best wishes from Ireland!!!

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      and I would love for you to contribute. Just think, a relatively small paragraph to let people know the who what and where’s followed by a bunch of photos. I have been responding to people individual emails clarifying for them that I would like to make a single building (or space) into a single post.

      Let’s do it!

  • ronel

    This sounds awesome Bob! All the best for this new website! I will look forward to it every time you write, as we do Life of an architect.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Thanks Ronel – I appreciate that.

      • ronel

        You’re welcome, Bob :-)

  • http://twitter.com/ParadigmGallery ParadigmGallery

    Bob…sounds totally awesome, can’t wait to see it up and running…

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      me either!

  • http://profiles.google.com/gcorwith gayle pickering

    Great Idea! I’m definitely in. I love to travel, and take a lot of pictures. Let me sort thru some and see what’s interesting. Thanks for coordinating this – i think you are really onto something and your inbox might explode.. :)

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      I’ll believe it when I see it. If you have some ideas and would like to put something together, send me an email and we can coordinate things further.


  • http://www.facebook.com/istrate.daniel Daniel-Anca Istrate

    I have a backlog of 14 years of travel that was primarily focused on architecture. I also have a trip coming up next month to China and Japan. Give
    us the green light and a flood of images from all over the world will clog you
    BTW I use this French site (it has an English language setting) when I travel. You can sort by Architects or by cities. It features mostly established architects and well know projects, but there are also a few hidden gems. It’s worth at least glancing at if you are planning to visit one of the cities that are listed on the site.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Hi Daniel-Anca,

      Read my response to Aaron Bunse regarding the process for submitting (I’ll need to find a better way to handle this in the future). I will probably start with one a week if I’m lucky enough to get this level of participation. Feel free to send along your first location/photos.

      One of the items I need to clarify is that this isn’t about a place (like a City) but more about the specifics of a particular place (like a building or park) with the photos detailing things that someone would never be able to find on other travel related sites. That is what will eventually make this work – since architects see things differently than others, they tend to focus on places and things that are frequently over looked.

      Hopefully this makes sense. Once we get a few under our belt, the format of the presentation will be a bit clearer.

      Looking forward to your submissions!

  • http://www.facebook.com/aaron.bunse Aaron Bunse

    Bob, I would love to participate in this new feature. just tell me when and where. Almost all of my trips are based on what architecture can I see on the trip.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      just send me an email with the location(s) and the images along with any supporting text. It would be easiest if you pre-formated the images to size (560pixels wide is the limit and 72 dpi). Also, instead of the pictures being titled (for example) dsc_1022.jpg they were titled nameofplace01.jpg that would be great

      Excellent! Thanks Aaron

  • Mark Mc Swain

    This definitely touches me, although my bent is rural bits of engineering and mechanics; the bridge on a County Road; water towers, rip=rapped embankments and the like. The elegance of “enough = enough” engineering–this often set amid the beauty of “between” spaces that occurs in Texas.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      chance are, if you find it interesting, so will someone else.

      Who doesn’t like a well detailed bridge?? (I reserve judgement on the riprap)


      • Mark Mc Swain

        Oh, and in some fairness, I’ve years of having the don the “Texas Country Reporter’ thing driving around during wildflower season–I may have some photos of scenic places.

  • Ian Salamanca

    I Love This Idea! Is Los Angeles Still Relevant?

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Los Angeles will always be relevant

  • Valentin Gheorghian

    Great idea, Bob! Would love to contribute with material from many european countries

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      bring it on!

  • Jacob

    Great idea. Let us know when you are accepting submissions as I have a few that would be perfect.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      I am accepting submission now. I wrote a response to Aaron Bunse with some of the specifics. Just check them out and send me your email.


  • Amir


    I think this would be a fabulous idea. As an architecture student who’s gotten to do a bit of traveling on my own the past couple of years, I’m always trying to find the interesting architectural stuff in a given place I’m headed.

    Touristy things are all well and good, and a lot of good architecture is also widely toured, but there is a great deal more even, I think which is just places like your example, which are good, even great architecture, but that are off the well beaten trail. I always find it frustrating knowing I’m going to a place with hidden gems like those, knowing they are there somewhere (because these gems are everywhere), but not knowing where or how to get there.

    I would love to find new places to go if your idea takes off, and as a fellow traveller, I would be glad to share photos and places I’ve been to as well.


    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson


      Exactly and well put. There might be some nicely composed photos of a neat infill project that nobody but the people who walk by it know about. Also, think of all the architecture fans out there that have neat photos of amazing places who simply don’t have a way to share there stuff. That’s where I come in.

      Let’s do it!

  • http://www.architangent.com Brinn Miracle

    I have seen a few websites/apps that are on this track (I don’t remember them off-hand but I know I pinned/linked/wrote them somewhere…I hope). They are more photo/map pin oriented, but perhaps integrating a blog post on the location would be a nice add-on feature.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      I am a big believer in adding a personal touch to the photos. Considering that there was a reason you either a) went or b) thought it would make an interesting entry, that is the bit I would like to have accompany the images. It wouldn’t have to be much, just a paragraph.

  • Jyotsna

    That is a great idea, Bob. I have often wondered (on vacation and in Boston, where I live) – that it will be nice to see where other architects have gone ( places that a thousand other people do not go to ) – a lonely planet type guide for architects.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      exactly. Think you would be up for contributing?

  • Liz Minchew

    Great idea. The site needs an app to pair with it which includes a map feature blending what yelp does with restaurants or airbnb does with apartments…whats nearby, information if known on who did it & when, photos accessible from geo-tag or descriptors (interiors, landscape, adaptive re-use etc).

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      that would be cool … and definitely something that might be worked on down the road. I’m pretty sure there are some apps that are out that do just this – they just aren’t well known. I need to go back through my notes and find the ones I’ve previously identified.


  • Kevin O’Brien

    Bob, I think you are on to something big time! Yes architects do see things differently, just look at their vacation pics, IF people are in the photos it’s generally only for “scale”!! I’m all over this! Great idea!

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Great – can I count on you to participate?

  • http://www.facebook.com/trulyunruhly Chris Unruh

    Fascinating; from a layman/design-lovers perspective these appear to be giant gorgeous concrete crystals. Question: I understand why they wouldn’t use rocks or coral to create a breakwater in Lana’i. But concrete is so expensive and had to be shipped in from far away. Wonder if that was the only choice/alternative?

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      That I wouldn’t know. If you spend any time on the site of the company that makes them, there is serious engineering at work here. I would imagine that the lifespan of these concrete units is the major consideration to installing them, negating some of the up front installation costs.

  • Raymond Bowman

    I like the idea, count this as an “aye”. I did a write-up of Washington, D.C. last year on my blog (when I was there for the AIA Convention). I think the section on Dumbarton Oaks would be more or less what you’re looking for, although maybe Dumbarton Oaks counts as a place with millions of pictures online.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      It depends on the sort of photo documentation you have. Since architects tend to look at things a bit differently, I’m sure there is something original you could share.

  • http://twitter.com/EmuArchitects Mariana Pickering

    Yes! We’ve got Italy covered.

    I think I already commented on your other post, but we are also interested in doing exchanges with other architects… not just travel but the sharing of professional experience as well… from country to country. I’ve got some contacts in Australia that would probably be interested as well. I already started working on a page for our site proposing just that.

    So, yes, as far as a travel site for architects – we are 100% interested and willing to contribute Italian destinations (as well as a bunch of other places we’ve visited – 2 years ago we did an architectural tour of India)

    Keep us posted!
    -Emu Architetti (Reggio Emilia, Italy)

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson


      Just pick a place where you have the photos, write up a few tidbits and send it my way. Send me an email and I can give you some details on how we can make this process really easy for both of us.


  • Will C

    Is this what Christo and Jeanne-Claude would design if they were civil engineers-very surreal.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      probably right. It was like being on a different planet since I had never seen anything like it before … and that doesn’t happen too often.

  • zane muntz [design]CREW

    A few years ago while I was getting my MBA in Entrepreneurship I had a somewhat similar idea I presented for my class project called: modernGUIDE. The concept was to tie into the design community and present places to eat, sleep, drink and play within cities you were visiting. The goal was to create “modern” guides within cities, that could help immediately plug you [the visitor] into the city from a design oriented perspective without having to do all that research on your own. It was planned as a subscription service business model and also would have relationships with certain “design-ish” vendors to help coordinate travel..consider it also a modern travel agency. The idea stemmed from my travel as an architect all across the country and always searching for places I wanted to see and go…a lot of time spent doing so and sometimes hard to get/know what is current. Loved the idea [still do] and have always wanted to take it to the next level, but alas…i traveled too much to find the time. Now that I have my own practice and possibly more time is available to me I should do my best to “ship it”…??? cheers! [z]

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      The guys over at Build llc do something called the “Modern List” and it does the same thing you are describing. They tend to focus on places they are about to go as part of their research on what to do once they arrive. That’s where this idea begins. Rather than grabbing screen images for places you haven’t been yet, let’s submit real photos with an architectural slant once you’ve already been. There is an added level of insight one gets after you’ve spent time in a place.

      Plus, I don’t have to worry about copyright issues since I would only be using pictures that the person who submitted them took.


  • http://twitter.com/ArchOfTheEnemy Chris Cormier

    I am intrigued Bob, as soon as I get through (aka survive) my final reviews I will see if I have any photos for you!

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Thanks Chris, looking forward to it.

      Good luck on your reviews.