Word Screen Park
Kevin McMahon
The SCI-Arc Media Archive

SMA launched September 2012 at http://sma.sciarc.edu. It's the biggest and most complicated project Reza Monahan and I have completed—not that it is completed, or ever will be. Not only are we adding new videos as they are created, but old videos we didn't know about—and better versions of old material—regularly turns up. The response was emphatically enthusiastic, with articles in Blouin ArtInfo, Downtown News, and The Getty Iris. One of our supporters, the NEA, featured us as a model media project in a 2013 design guidelines workshop. The site has become an essential resource for anyone interested in the last 40 years of design.

The SCI-Arc Media Archive is an online showcase of over 600 videos of public events held at SCI-Arc from 1974 to the present, featuring over 700 speakers. From the website, visitors can view all the videos, pause, jump forward and back. Each video is divided into chapters to ease focused searching. Each video is extensively described, speakers identified, and topics and themes tagged. Visitors can search by keyword, year, speaker name or theme.

SMA is not a publication or exhibition; it is an archive. It has no author, editor, or curator. It reflects SCI-Arc, but isn’t about SCI-Arc.

The videos have not been vetted on the basis of content or personality. SMA includes every video that was available, audible and visible. The archive team strongly believes in a SMA that includes something to delight and something to horrify everyone.

In keeping with this archival mission the individual videos have been digitized but not been “modernized.” SMA presents the documents as found, without editing or improvements. The videos are documents produced at different times and places, by means of different technologies, and visitors should be able to see and appreciate those differences.

Besides being an archive of architectural discourse, SMA is also an archive of video technology over the last four decades. Visitors who are familiar only with present-day video will be surprised at discovering the range of visual styles in video represented in SMA: from the silvery black & white images of the mid-1970s, to the saturated hues of the Eighties and Nineties.