I joined Clubhouse – so should you

26 February, 2021

An app that has no pictures is unlikely to appeal to architects. But such is the hype surrounding Clubhouse  I thought I’d check it out.

So what is so new about Clubhouse?

Fundamentally, it has taken the idea of a live radio chat show and allowed anyone to host or join as a guest. When you think of the times you’ve stood in the kitchen shouting at the at the radio, this is clever.

And so far the stats are impressive, including two million active users and a valuation at over $1bn (£0.7bn), according to the Financial Times despite having no visible way of making money.

Clubhouse’s meteoric rise has been helped in part by some famous names. Both Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg  and Tesla’s Elon Musk have taken part in conversations on the app as well as rappers Drake and Kayne West.

But will architects follow?

Director of Studio Octopi, Chris Romer-Lee, cites lack of images and says he has “reservations as to whether the format of Clubhouse works for the visual arts” adding he “found the format terribly dry”.

“There’s nothing to look at and I can’t work on other things with a conversation going on in my ear so it’s setting aside time to listen and participate”, he said.

An innovation is that you can ‘see’ the other people in the room simply by tapping on their picture, bio, Twitter and Instagram handles. This makes connecting with speakers and anyone in the room easier than on LinkedIn, for example. Only time will tell if people are making valuable contacts outside of the app.

However, there are some downsides.

Although I only ticked topics I’m interested in, like architecture and London, Clubhouse’s algorithm didn’t seem to recognise this and I immediately received a flurry of notifications on subjects ranging from bitcoin to ‘secrets for successful leadership’.

One of the topics I ticked was ‘property’, which is huge on Clubhouse. Property Coffee Meet at 7am every morning has become a regular fix for a few architects, including Kristofer Adelaide of London-based studio KAA.

“It’s worth listening to for their tips which I can then offer my clients”, adding “it’s a good exposé of the developer mindset”, by which he means the daily show is almost exclusively about how to make money.

Founding director of Mae Alex Ely, says:

“I do tune into rooms over breakfast quite regularly and feel it’s a bit like listening to a radio call-in show …. I’ve joined a few conversations but they seem a bit random and perhaps I need to find or initiate rooms that are a bit more curated and with a targeted group”.

He’s right and in some ways Clubhouse reminds me of events like MIPIM where there are hundreds of talks taking place but you’ve ended up in one given by drainage consultants. In other words the quality content can be elusive unless you know how to find it.

Another problem is because conversations are deleted after the sessions, you can’t play back or fast forward over the boring bits, of which there are many.

But there’s something interesting about Clubhouse and most architects I’ve spoken to agree. First, because it’s offering a space to talk about a broad range of topics from fees (a recent conversation on the app) to career progression, in a more intimate way than being on a real platform.

And second is that it has a serendipitous quality because you never know quite who you’re going to meet – something we crave in a world where no one can travel.

And in this sense I welcome Clubhouse. It’s a bit raw around the edges but like TikTok (which I wrote about here,) it’s challenging architects to think and talk about themselves differently – and who knows, even win some work.