Advertising Architecture

It seems like architecture is taking a more prominent role in advertising these days. Specifically sexy, photogenic architecture by the likes of Frank Gehry, Morphosis, or Rem Koolhaas. And specifically car commercials, where the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Caltrans HQ, or the Seattle Public Library - by these architects, respectively - sit in the background as this year's model zips by in the foreground.

This above print ad for Volkswagen is a good example, especially given that advertisers strive for consistency across different media (TV, print, internet, radio, etc) in their ad campaigns to create an image in the consumer's mind. In terms of print area, the car that's being "sold" takes up less room in the ad than OMA's Public Library in Seattle (in fact, it takes up less area than the pavement or the people's silhouettes, for that matter, showing that these days quantity isn't as important as quality, or more specifically mood). Basically VW is taking a trendy piece of architecture and using it to add appeal to what looks like a run-of-the-mill, four-door sedan. Take the building out and what do you have? A car that looks like many other cars on the market these days. The architecture helps to create an identity for the car with the consumer.

I'm sure this isn't a new thing, but the more I see TV commercials of cars whizzing by the latest curvaceous or jagged building, the more these commercials seem the same, to the point where the distinction or identity that the advertisers are aiming for isn't working anymore.


  1. It is, as you say, interesting how the new architecture is used to give the feeling of style and modernity. What amuses me is how often the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Building (A.C. Martin 1960's) appears in commercials despite it's age. And it has the same impact as the new buildings.

  2. And check out the cover of this week's Time magazine - Ann Coulter in a Barcelona chair!

  3. role of architectural spaces too is very commendable in advertising, as this affects the psychology of the consumer...and in some way acts as a link between the product to be sold and the yes good observation!

  4. Privacy and Publicity: Modern Architecture as Mass Media

    an interesting read

  5. hi, i'm an architecture student and currently starting my dissertation on the above subject involving the use of architecture in comemrcials and media.

    Can any one of you suggest me any reading related to the subject?

    thanks in advance

  6. Francois - The previous comment mentions "Privacy and Publicity", and I would further recommend just about any writing by its author, Beatriz Colomina. Her focus on early Modern architecture clearly paints the ever-present role of media in shaping the way architecture and architects are perceived.

    "Brandscapes" by Barbara Krugman approaches architecture and urban design via an acknowledgment of media, capitalism and branding.

    Diller Scofidio + Renfro incorporate media and technology into their work, whatever form it may take.

    Some of Robin Evans' writing (I'm thinking of an essay on Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Pavilion) acknowledges how photography shapes appreciation of a building. I think Mark Wigley and others pick up on this, especially how the image of Modernism was shaped by representation (getting back to Colomina, too).

    Here's some things from a quick search, though ones I'm not familiar with them:

    "This is Not Architecture: Media Constructions" by Kester Rattenbury

    "Writing the City" sympsium at SU School of Architecture in 2007. Maybe some proceedings were published.

    The writings of Mario Carpo.

    And I'm guessing MIT Media Lab has some references.

  7. thanks alot John,
    this subject intrests me alot and really hope to find enough information to further develop my dissertation on it,


  8. John, wow the wealth of that information is stunning.... my fingers will be busy tuning into all that deals with this subject.

    Francois please update us how the research is going are you posting your process anywhere. I recently saw a film in the Bauhaus Archiv in Berlin from 1928 "WIE WOHNEN WIR GESUND UND WIRTSCHAFTLICH" that really drives home the idea of architecture being the first profession to really use media as a propaganda tool. Keep us tuned in. sincerely RED MIKE

  9. hi guys,
    i wanted to keep you updated with my research. after posting my comment here on this blog, thanks to john and the references he had advised, i found myself wonder round the world of architecture and mass media and decided to focus more on the branding and mostly how architecture is being used as a branding too especially in fashion and automotive industry. the strong communicational power of architecture is being engaged with the branding genious to obtain architectural branding icons such as the BMW Welt, Citroen C42, prada, the Beijing birds nest etc.

    all those of you who want to give me further references about the subject or simply feel that i should include something in particular in my research pls feel free to comment, looking forward for your posts.


  10. Hello John,

    I am researching for my final dissertation for my architecture degree and looking at the relationship between architecture and advertising. I noticed that earlier in this thread you gave some references including "Brandscapes" by Barbara Krugman - As you have described this portrays it as particularly relevant to my subject matter yet i have not been able to find this reference anywhere, do you have any further information that may help me track this down?

    Additionally are you aware of any other authors /publications that may have dealt with the subject matter at hand?

    Many thanks

    WIll - University of Brighton

  11. Will - Here is the book on

    I don't think it's a topic that has been treated at length elsewhere, but see my comment above in response to Francois for some other similar references, mainly on how architecture is presented through media like photography.

    And since the theme of advertising and architecture is of interest to me and has been explored on this page, I've lumped those posts under the arch-advertising label.

  12. yes, Photography and the 'picturesque' seem to be reoccurring themes.

    Thank you for the speedy response.


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