Tuesday, June 08, 2010

AAA: Architecture Advertising Automobiles

Last year I posted about some advertising in Architectural Digest that used architects and architecture to sell cars. Well the other day I was flipping through a travel magazine and was surprised to see an ad for Buick Lacrosse using the America's Cup Building in Valencia, Spain by David Chipperfield Architects. In my previous post I focused on how Lexus used the architect's name (Richard Meier) more than his architecture for their purposes; in effect the architect was promoting the car. But for Buick it is the image of the building that matters; the architect in name or personality is nowhere to be found outside the architecture.

Remembering other advertisements with cars using architecture as a backdrop (I blogged five years ago about VW and OMA's Seattle Public Library), I think the America's Cup Building works similarly here: it does a better job of distinguishing a car from its peers than the car does itself. Given that cars increasingly look like each other and buildings do the opposite and veer greatly in form and image from their contemporaries, this makes sense. In Buick's case, the stacked horizontality of the building and the photo's strong perspective enable the car and its rounded lines to stand out and be seen as something unique. (I'm assuming it's a photograph because the building is complete, but the high level of polish of the images makes me wonder if it's a rendering). It's like a zig-zag with the building "going" one way (to the left) and the car the other way.

But beyond a two-dimensional graphic composition on the page or screen, I'm having a hard time seeing how architecture and automobiles relate in this and other ads. I think, like anything, architecture is seen as just another commodity and buildings are appreciated for its imagery more than its other traits (function, relationship to place, social role, etc.). Chipperfield's building is not a totally uninspired choice, but it does veer from the curvilinear and dynamic shapes of Gehry, OMA, and Morphosis, whose buildings are more in line with the formal characteristic of today's cars.