During the last decade, architecture and branding have developed an intimate relationship.
At a first glance, architecture and branding have nothing to share in terms of field of work, working environment, and purpose of what they intend to create. However, these two disciplines do share some similarities. Both marketing and architect professionals typically aim to interpret a client’s need and morph that desire into a product. Both fields work to shape and give an identity to a company’s product or service. Architecture and advertising investigate and observe their surrounding space with the aim to summarise, through the symbolism of form, the expression of their own distinctive content.
In our media-saturated global marketplace, advertisers realised that storytelling your brand’s identity is not enough any more. As B.Joseph Pine and James H.Gilmore pointed out, we live in the “experience economy”, where experiences are the cornerstone of our purchasing decisions. In this changing market environment, architecture came to play a crucial rule becoming a “catalyst” towards memorable perceptions and involvement of a brand.
The quintessential example of the game-play between advertising and architecture can be observed on Omotesando Street in Tokyo: the street of Fashion. Omotesando Street represents a unique collection of contemporary architecture buildings, each one designed by different professionals for a specific high-fashion brand. “Omotesando is a place to preen, to study, to practice style solitary, and to shop.” From Dior to Vuitton brands, from Ando to Kurokawa architects, this avenue is one of the perfect examples where culture and consumption merge and blend with each other. Omotesando street throughout decades of collaboration between architecture and advertising has sparked the “lexutecure” movement, where luxury brands use the exterior design of a building to advertise the product within.
Nevertheless, brand’ identity embodiment through architecture is not only expressed through the exterior of a building. The Prada concept store in NY is another great example of how these two subjects operate and communicate through media and interior space simultaneously. The Prada Epicentre in New York was built more than a decade ago (in 2001), already showing the company pursuit of transformation and its forward thinking approach. Indeed, Prada outperformed its “family business” at the end of the 90’s facing a significant growth in visibility and brand consciousness which made them think that it was the right time to strategically renovate their business’s image. The image below shows how the interior of the Prada Epicentre store looks like:
This hybrid environment has been ideated by the architect as a changeable platform that turns the stairs into an auditorium for performance, film projection and lectures, with a simple push of a button.
The unique power of the Prada concept store lies in its ability to engage and leave significant experiences at different point of contact though the brand and architecture identity. The consumer is recognised within this commerce space not only as a buyer but also as a public persona. Through architecture the Prada store increases the capacity for social interaction, personal growth and discovery, in addition to the lucrative purpose of advertising the brand.
You might be interested to see how the Prada store looks like in a Sex and the City episode:
Not only the fashion industry has taken advantage of the architecture embodiment in the brand. The new BBC broadcasting house is also a great example of how architecture played a crucial role in shaping a company identity. The new BBC building took 10 years to be completed costing approximately £1bn in public money. We must remember, that the BBC is a public service broadcaster – the underlying goal for the architect was to project a “common good aura” dedicated building and space. As Jonathan Glancey wrote on the Guardian, the BBC executives hope that this expensive investment “will be a symbol of corporation’s openness and accountability. “
Architecturally speaking, the new room is fully made of glass and shining steel, with a glass ceiling ”vanishing into the crevice-like atrium”.
Thanks to the glass facade, the building is visible from the street and through a large glass window in a BBC Media Café open to the public. The selection of the transparent materials aim to convey a sense of transparency, openness and brightness towards the people who look at the building, towards the people (the public) who invested the money on the building, and also for the people who work within it. “Because the public pays for the BBC, the new Broadcasting House has been made accessible, in no uncertain manner. Visitors will be able to watch newsgathering in action from a glazed gallery above.” By using architecture the BBC was able to physically represent what is its inner and historical ideology.
As Anna Klingmann pointed out in her book Brandscape, “architecture is never isolated but its necessity political. What counts in a building is not so much the looks but how it comes to life for people and forges lasting connections.” I feel sorry for the conservative architects who do not want to see their holy job being instrumentalized and capitalised in our global media marketplace, but architecture’s morality is mutating, consumer’s expectation are evolving and branding’s practice moves minds.