When marketing architecture, there are many different features we can focus on, depending on who is the market.
If you are marketing an amazing Zaha Hadid feat of architecture, you might focus on the appearance, or the engineering challenges which have been met.
Take one example of her jaw dropping buildings, the Jockey Club Innovation Tower, the first permanent Hong Kong building by Zaha Hadid. In describing this lovely fluid form, you might take the approach of the website skyscrapercenter.com.
The website reports: “The Jockey Club Innovation Tower is a new school of design building for the Hong Kong Polytechnic University which offers a creative and multidisciplinary environment. The building is located on a very tight and irregular site on the north side of the campus. It creates an accessible urban space which transforms how Hong Kong Polytechnic University is perceived and the way it uses its campus. The building projects a vision of possibilities for its future, as well as reflecting on the history of the university by encapsulating in its architecture the process of change.”
You might focus on how the spaces work, such as: “The fluid character of the Jockey Club Innovation Tower is generated through an intrinsic composition of its landscape, floor plates and louvers, dissolving the classic typology of the tower and podium into a seamless composition. Internal and external courtyards create new spaces of an intimate scale, which complement the large open exhibition forums and outdoor recreational facilities to promote a diversity of civic spaces, integrated with the university campus.”
Marketing minimalist architecture
On the other hand, if you are talking about minimalist architecture, you will be highlighting different features. www.designingbuildings.co.uk defines minimalist architecture as something that “involves the use of simple design elements, without ornamentation or decoration. Proponents of minimalism believe that condensing the content and form of a design to its bare essentials, reveals the true ‘essence of architecture‘.”
We built a prototype passive house on the Bass Coast. Using a fast build prefab modular system. Architecture which won a “Good Design Award”, which was designed for comfort, and which had a certain look.
This is a minimalist or a “base line” building. Getting the Superpod® (now patented) passive house system right.
In a truly modernist way: form follows function.
The designer Anna Bartoli has described our first Superpod® as an “artefact”.
We knew that people would be able to dress up a Superpod building inside and out to whatever their taste.
Some people love the unadorned look. Others don’t.
Personally, I like a certain kind of architecture. I like plain, streamlined, unadorned. Many iconic examples exist: Le Corbusier, Mies Van der Rohe, Eames. To me, simplicity can be beautiful. My son wants to live in a concrete box. Just ‘cos it looks cool to him.
Take, for example, a local architecture team Garner Davis. Jill Garner is the Victorian Government Architect. It is great that another female architect has such public recognition. She and Lindsay Davis designed my parents’ home over 12 years ago. We chose them because we love their style. Simple, clean, and understated. Having said that, in this blog’s feature photo, with the light and shadows, the facade is looking quite complex!
Check out some more Garner Davis examples.
A couple of years ago I was talking to Lindsay about the idea of changing the “look” of a building. He described this as “facadism”. He didn’t like it. I see his point. But what does it mean?
And how does the average person (such that they exist) respond to a facade of a building?
We have a bit of a problem, Houston. A tendency to judge based on looks alone. If something looks gorgeous, shiny, and colourful – we assume it is beautiful.
Take people. Some people are models. Some people could be models. They might be soooo popular because of their beauty. (One look? Says Derek in “Zoolander“. Is there more to life than being really really ridiculously good looking?)
Only when we get to know that person, who looked so fine at the start, do we discover that their character might be flawed. They might be an empty person, even dishonest, promising something exciting that just doesn’t exist. Jesus Christ called hypocrites “white washed sepulchres“, which is a nice, graphic analogy.
Authenticity, whether you are talking about people or buildings, is the same concept. We might look at the pretty pictures and say, oh, wow, I want that house, that apartment, that office building. It looks so awesome, so architectural, so well designed. So pretty.
Then we get inside, and the allure might just fade. The building does not deliver what its looks promised.
The building fails to deliver
Inside many buildings it is too cold, hot, drafty, mouldy, moist, or too dry. Many buildings are hard to heat, hard to cool, full of contaminants, and productive of high power bills.
Do you really want a relationship with that building?
The building is only full of empty promises. It is dishonest. It promised beauty and gave us illness and discomfort.
The problem is, when you buy a building, you are not buying a picture of a building that sits on the wall. You are not buying architectural photography or magazine covers.
You are buying a space to live in – a space that should be comfortable, healthy, and low on energy consumption. A space that should protect, nurture, and inspire. That should be part of its beauty.
A focus on aesthetics alone can result in failure
Check this out, especially 2.10-2.50. Beautiful, inspiring, intelligent.
“Concentration on aesthetics is reverse engineering. Which usually fails…. It’s similar to a nose that is not meant for breathing… Of course it has a price. And you end up empty, you end up sick… You’re pursuing just the looks of it. Just the aesthetics.” – Ido Portal.
He’s talking about body building vs body movement. I can’t help seeing the connection with houses, that is homes, ie buildings people live in.
It’s like the story about the Emperor’s New Clothes.
A vain Emperor who cares about nothing except wearing and displaying clothes hires two swindlers who promise him the finest, best suit of clothes. They claim to use a fabric invisible to anyone who is “hopelessly stupid”. The Emperor’s ministers cannot see the clothing themselves, but pretend that they can.
They fear appearing stupid, and the Emperor does the same. Finally the swindlers report that the suit is finished. They pretend to dress the Emperor, and the Emperor marches in procession before his subjects.
The townsfolk play along with the pretence, not wanting to appear stupid. Then, a child in the crowd, too young to understand the pretence, blurts out that the Emperor is wearing nothing at all.
The cry is taken up by others. The Emperor cringes, realises the assertion is true, but continues the procession.
When we are advertising architecture, we do not tend to focus on performance. What do we advertise when we develop new buildings?
When we are marketing architecture, we advertise looks. Photoshop, 3D imaging, capturing the imagination about status, aspiring wealth, and beauty.
The reality is that we do respond to looks.
Architectural looks vs performance
Marketing architecture does tend to focus on looks. But looks aren’t everything.
Our passive house Bass Coast Superpod® is one look, but it’s not the only look. Derek Zoolander moved on from his “one look” to “Magnum”. He was versatile and clever.
But there’s more to life than being really really seriously good looking, Derek.
It’s performance and authenticity that really count.