Rule-based design, books, and internal tooling for OMA

40 years of The Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) history was converted into structured data and used to create websites, books, and internal tooling.

Project owner

Office for Metropolitan Architecture

    Key benefits

    Multi-channel

    Easily integrate content into both digital and analog channels such as books.

    Improve searchability across projects

    The team could more easily build different modes of navigation with projects as structured content.

    Reduce data duplication

    Entries of structured content could be reused with setting references between documents, vastly reducing overhead.

    Use cases

    • Landing page builder

      All content on oma.eu is powered by structured content. It also enables the frontpage to be algorithmically generated based on certain rules.

    • Data and document archives

      OMA business development use Sanity to more efficiently develop RFPs using faceted search tools and print on demand.

    • Omnichannel experiences

      With structured content as the single source of truth, OMA can reuse content about projects for generating automatically typeset prints for their in-house book press.

    Description

    Founded by Rem Koolhaas in the mid 1970s the OMA has since grown into a diverse partnership. Its architectural catalogue runs to hundreds of buildings and masterplans, yet the organization is as much defined by their work in media, politics, renewable energy, technology, publishing and fashion.

    Through a competition the Oslo agency Bengler was selected to redesign and relaunch the OMA project catalogue. Bengler were in the process of building the first iteration of what was to become Sanity.io and decided to finish the minimally viable product while working on the project.

    A Single Source of Truth

    Bengler typically did not build portfolio sites, but rather made database backed websites for media conglomerates. They therefore thought a CMS should be able to treat content as data.

    For the OMA this meant that content rework could start at once the patterns in their data was found. Bengler wrote webscrapers to turn the old website into spreadsheets and OMA corrected transcription errors and factual mistakes.

    The result of this process was an archive that correctly portrayed the projects in terms of their phases,  team members and programs. It’s important to note that this work in itself is of high value with or without the website. It is a reusable database that contains facts about the organisation that are true irrespective of media form.

    Structured content allows for better navigation.

    Let the algorithms figure it out

    For digital designers, thinking like an archivist in the beginning of a project gives you a lot of freedom later in the process. When your content is stored in a proper database you can let design alogrithms to do you work for you.

    In the OMA website this is clear a couple of places: every 30 minutes the entire content graph is unspooled and reassembled according to an editorial strategy that prioritizes new content, keeps content on the same topic close together (but only up to a point) and attempts to have the right mix of content.

    An algorithmcally generated frontpage

    Every project in the database also has a geographic coordinate and a map position. This lets OMA search instagram for images close to the buildings and to curate them as part of the project presentation. The tools for this is integrated into the CMS itself as a simple React component.