Put a little Mies in your [information] architecture

Last month I went to see Mies in Berlin, one of two shows on Mies van der Rohe in New York this summer at MoMA and the Whitney. Today I watched Charlie Rose as organizers/curators from the two shows and the architecture critic from the New Yorker chatted about Mies. I don't go in for publicly stating my opinion on most matters, but after this reintroduction to Mies, I am feeling like the use of the term architecture to describe what we do is fitting in many more ways than I had considered. I have read (in lurking mode) much of the SIGIA discussion around the meaning of the title IA and have been compelled by the passion of IAs to define and name their domain. I have also been turned on to the idea that IAs, Usability Engineers, and anyone else who works user interfaces and user experiences share many of the same concerns, but may not necessarily be in the same profession (as far as titles go anyway). The thing that compels me to write about the term "architecture" and its use in our title is that the parallels that exist between Architects and Information Architects are meaningful and should be used when communicating that which we do that adds value to the interface, the experience, and the use of information. When we first think of Mies, we think of modernity and the phrase, "Less is more". The decoration in Mies' modernism is spare and stripped of ornament. But the essence of Miesian spaces lies in the connection of the space to the enviornment it lives in, and the connection of the human inhabitants to the environment created by the space. To dismiss Miesian architecture (as many do when discussing Modern building) as simply spare and boxy is to miss the humanist aspect of the artist. Mies' use of space to draw the outside in to the inhabitants (or vice versa) is deliberate. The creation of space with the concern of the people who will use and move through it is what makes a modern building Miesian. The end result in a Miesian architecture is that the connection of the space to the environment and the people to the space is harmonious. And that brings me to the parallel of the architect side of the Information Architect, the goal of creating a harmonious environment to be used by people. That is the value that we bring to creating an information-use environment -- harmonizing the user experience (the movement through) with the interface (the space or environment). That's what I've taken away from Mies. Maybe you agree that we do more than just create interface widgets? We design an ongoing experience.