Series 2

Series 2: Theory and Writing on the border of architecture, performance and installation.

January 2013

Deciphering Advertising Art and Architecture

DECIPHERING ADVERTISING ART AND ARCHITECTURE is a book that looks at the intangible through the prism of architecture and advertising. It suggests, firstly, that the worlds of advertising, architecture and art are, today, intrinsically linked. Each offers a unique strategy to promote, convince, influence and even manipulate an ever more intelligent and cynical public. In the realm of contemporary culture they all enter into the same game; to persuade the sophisticated consumer to buy. It suggests the lastest development s in these fields are defined by the term, hidden advertising. [1]

This book looks at the recent history of the persuasion techniques employed by advertisers and architects and suggests that we have now entered a new age; an age in which the old techniques of persuasion have been superseded by more subtler and perhaps darker ones. It carves out a journey that begins with semiotics but enters the realms of post structuralism and phenomenology. It intends to function as a fundamental reference / source for students and teachers of advertising and retail architecture / interior design. It draws on and explains classic theories from authors such as Roland Barthes[2], Umberto Eco[3], Ferdindad de Saussure. [4]

The ideas of these authors are updated in the context of contemporary retail design and advertising by reference to the works on phenomenology by Maurice Merleau Ponty. [5]  It thus offers a chronological explanation of theory and practice in both retail design and advertising through reference to examples from some of the world’s leading advertising agencies, brands and architects. Central to the explanation of its arguments are the works of: Benetton, Diesel, Olivero Toscani, (advertising); Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaas, Nigel Coates (architecture).

It suggests that commercial architecture today reflects advertising, It thus becomes a ‘visible and physical’ manifestation of advertising, However, it drawing on phenomenology it explains the ‘intangible’ character of both these fields. It suggests that visual advertising has found ways of embedding itself in other medias and formats so that it goes unnoticed and, by extension, it suggests that architecture has done the same.

[1] JOERGENSEN, Hagen. Hidden Advertising. Paper delivered at ICPEN Meeting. Port Douglas. 02 April 2001.

[2] BARTHES, Roland. Mythologies. Vintage Press. London. 1972.

[3] ECO, Umberto. The Role of the Reader. Indiana University Press. Indiana. 1979.

[4] de SAUSSURE, Ferninand. Course in General Linguistics. McGraw Hill Book Company. London. 1966.

[5] MERLEAU PONTY, Maurice. The Phenomenology of Perception. Routledge and Keagan Paul. London 1962.

November 2012


ARCHITECTURE_MEDIA_POLITICS_SOCIETY is new group of academics and writers who have come together to form a journal investigating the morphing of architecture into contemporary culture through its engagement with politics and the media. Taking our interest here in architecture as an intangible phenomenon in itself they describe and examine architecture more as an intangible series of forces that overlap and engage with each other resulting in a definitive blurring between architecture, media, politics and what they term loosely; society. In this context the intangibility of architecture is not a physical intangibility but rather a theoretical one; a phenomenon that becomes impossible to pin down and define in the restricted and exclusive terms once associated with the profession (1).

As with a number of other books and magazines we will cover in this series, AMPS connects architecture with the media in both explicit and implicit ways. In the articles it has published thus far it suggests that the media is often the starting point for architectural design. It investigates the idea that in architecture today the tail wags the dog. Most evident in its hosted research project: Architecture as Political Image, it suggests that the use of architecture as advertising imagery (in the political context) is where we may find the kernel of future politically funded architectural developments. It is in the realm of advertising imagery then that architecture emerges. In this sense the intangibility of architecture is an intangible birth; its conceptualisation as an image for consumption the page of a newspaper or magazine or on the screen of a TV set.

In this sense, it also enters the realm of public relations and the relationship between advertisers and the press. Notably through the work of writers such as Edwin Baker(2) and David Michie (3).  It suggests that not only may certain types of architecture emerge from the media and thus have an intangible character, it argues that the initial use of architectural imagery in the media is also intangible; it is deliberately intended to go unnoticed. The theoretical threads that join architecture and the media in the intangible mode of newspaper photograph or TV image are thus described as complex and multi layered. In this sense it combines architecture, advertising and phenomenology; Maurice Merleau Ponty’s arguments about the ephemeral and inevitably ambiguous nature of “experience” (4) becoming a part and parcel of our engagement with architectural imagery and, by extension and distortion, eventual architectural form.

2 Baker, Edwin, C. Advertising and a Democratic Press. Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1995. p103
3 Michie, David. Invisible Persuaders. Bantam Press, London, 1998. p6
4 Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. The Phenomenology of Perception. Routledge and Keagan Paul, London, 1962, p6

October 2012

Paul Virilio

Over the past thirty years the name Paul Virilio has become synonymous with a line of intellectual inquiry that can, without excessive exaggeration, be defined as kaleidoscopic. The range of topics that fall under his gaze range from the technologies of war, the politics of industry, the social effects of television, the history of architecture, the realm of virtual reality and, what we will focus on here, technologies of vision. His works include Speed and Politics, War and Cinema, Polar Inertia and A Landscape of Events to name but a few. His thoughts not only draw upon the influences of diverse worlds but have, in turn, influenced a plethora of artists, philosophers, social theorists and architects. He himself is an architect.

With regard to technologies of vision, Virilio sees a world in which technologies such as photography and film have radically altered the nature of human perception and consequently, our interaction with our material environment. He argues that these technologies have destroyed our confidence in what we see. He calls it a loss of faith in the eye (1). His is a world in which the certainties of the body are under attack from the omniscience of visual forms of representation; a world in which new technologies of sight have completely eroded physical space. It is a world in which information from all corners of the globe is around us all the time; a world that seems accessible but whose events are presented to us at speed that makes them impossible to analyse (2). It is a world that has been endlessly recorded, condensed and re-packaged for a human eye that now sits before a screen; a world that has mediated
beyond all recognition. It is a world in which the technologies of vision are seen to have replaced the eye (3). It results in
what he calls visual conformism (4).

In this world walking has been replaced by clicking, looking has been superseded by recording, travelling usurped internet connections and even talking has come under siege from a swarm of virtual sign systems. The once active physical body interacting with objects in physical environs has transmogrified into a series of controlling parenthesis navigating between ethereal representations presented through bits and pixels. Within this complex, hybrid and changing world Virilio has traced out numerous theoretical pathways that reveal interconnected, sometimes diffuse but always astute perspectives on how it operates and how it influences human perception and action.

1 Virilio, Paul. Open Sky. Verso. New York. 1997. p91
2 Virilio, Paul. A Landscape of Events. MIT Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts. 2000. p25
3 Virilio, Paul. The Vision Machine. Indiana University Press. 1994. p70
4 Virilio, Paul. Open Sky. Ibid. 1997. p97


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