Thoughts

Consumerism of architecture – image

It is undeniable that the way we view architecture has become superficial.


The availability and prevalence of everyday technology such as smartphones have been empowering people to capture what they see and share among billions of people on the internet. However, as the act of snap-and-share starts is now integrated into everyday lives, the behaviour itself becomes the focus, rather than the contents themselves. A sheer quantity of images available online means that the new photos must be eye-catching and visually attractive to be featured online.

This is problematic in several respects. Firstly, this unwelcoming trend, often perceived as ‘what the society is interested in’, upholds visually impressive architecture. Of course, there are amazing architectural works that are visually stimulating; however not all visually intriguing works are great. Questions should be raised when the society decides to consider a project worth the attention only because ‘it looks pretty’ or ‘good’. This phenomenon influences the design process, knowing the visual depiction of the works affects how society makes a judgement on it. It is true that the visual communication of architecture, including the unbuilt works, is crucial for the work to be understood. But if architecture is all about its looks, then the purpose of architecture seems to have vanished.


The glorification of the imagery based communication limits the experience of architecture to two-dimensional grids of pixels. What is shown in images can be artificially composed to show what creators want the audience to see. Photographs are an excellent means of communication, but there is a risk of deceiving viewers when methods of manipulation, such as Photoshop, are used to create a false impression of architecture. Furthermore, the reliance on photographs results in the appreciation of architecture in only the fixed views in the stopped moment. The recognition of works through a single image requires a tremendous effort of imagination, which our minds tend to avoid altogether. However, it would be a completely different story if orthogonal drawings such as plans, sections and elevations are provided for the viewers to configure both objective and subjective point of view on the work and imagine the three-dimensional space. In this instance, images or perspective views do not only aid viewers imagine the space, but also clarify how what architects drew on paper works in real life. Vision is undoubtedly a critical sensory factor when we appreciate something. However, too much dependence on it rather than mind would not do justice to architects who consider every aspect of their works.


The reliance on imagery also ignores the importance of educating the general public why some architectural works are more worth appreciating than others. Encouraging people to make a judgement on a work based on a single image can be misleading them to believe that externally beautiful buildings are better than dull looking building. When the society’s lack of appreciation towards architects is on a table for discussion, it is ever necessary to accept a level of ignorance about architecture that the general public shouldn’t be blamed for. As much as designing space for people is a significant part of the architecture, communicating/educating people what makes architecture great should be taken seriously.

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