In the 21st century, an age where the world is completely perceived through a screen that is about the size of an individual’s palm, image, and mass media have become an integral source of information. The medium has now taken over as the primary supplier of knowledge and current affairs.

The globalization of architecture is often credited to Imagery and media. It laid out a platform on which cities and nations were able to market themselves to consumers around the world, creating a positive atmosphere in the economic situation by the means of design. In the years that followed the crisis that led more than 30% of the world population into poverty and homelessness, Architecture had become a medium where investments could be made with an expectation of profits due to mass media allowing high consumption rates.

The Influence of Mass Media

Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, was completed in 1997. Due to this masterpiece by Gehry, a city seen as a dying industrial city with high unemployment rates was able to recreate its image perceived by the world. Mass media highlighted the museum through pictures and even movies, which led to a boom in tourism. It was also noted that the number of people who took pride in their city had increased after the creation of this icon of the city.

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Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao: a fashion statement to the industrial city.©www.archdaily.com

Smith (2006) described the Sydney opera house as an ‘attractor architecture’, designed with the primary purpose being to stand as an iconic image. According to Sydney Tourism Statistics by Camper Champ, due to media exposure, more than 10.9 million people visit the architectural monument each year, with the total number of tourists in Sydney being 16.1 million. 

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Sydney Opera House: The form is inspired by the skin of an orange. Is it an honest reflection of the city? ©www.flickr.com

Economically, the media has brought about a great benefit to the city, and architecture has been set as a focal point to attract consumers. But has the platform led to the decline of the inherent values in architecture?

The Backlash

It is important to note that the designs discussed represent neither the culture nor the traditions of the cities they come from. The Guggenheim museum does not absorb any of the city’s traditional style, and the Sydney Opera house does not reflect on the identity of the city. Rather than traditional practices, both designs are well known to have been approached with new technologies for their construction. They do not magnify the existing life of the cities which accumulated over the years but provide a new foreign identity.

Rem Koolhas puts to question the influence that the media has on architecture. The subject, before the period of global consumption, created spaces perceived as places of experiences and worship, holding a high standard in society. But in today’s world, it seems that architecture only has the role to create a visually appealing and unorthodox dress for a structure to bring about income through tourism. Mass media has led to architects being perceived as designers with no philosophical background and knowledge of culture and traditions. 

Often, through media, architecture creates a false social gap, representing certain nations to have the most comfortable lifestyle, while other nations not well-known to be poor with not enough resources. In movies, countries with a great cultural and traditional background with countless iconic structures such as India are negatively portrayed through the lens as backward and poor.

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Extraction (Jason Boland): Dhaka is represented as if it is forever engulfed in turmoil. There is backlash over this portrayal. ©dankanator.com
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Extraction ©dankanator.com

While the western world is portrayed to be on a constant upward curve of growth and development, eastern nations are represented as hubs of evil and terrorism. It is unfortunate, but an inevitable consequence that we see the effects and backlash of these stereotypes in the world today, with racism at its peak, and false fear dictating poor judgment of character.

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Olympus has Fallen movie shot: Koreans attack the White House. ©www.agonybooth.com
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Justice League of America (Brad Meltzer): Do even children’s books provide such an agenda? ©www.penguin.com.au

Images and mass media cannot entirely be blamed for the inaccurate portrayal of nations and cities. It is an accepted fact that it only serves as a medium. It has been incorrectly used by narrators to highlight illusions and agendas, which exist purely in the world of profit being the end goal. 

We do not live in an ideal utopian world, and flaws in architecture are inevitable. It is not plausible to separate architecture from its economic connections. But we must be well aware of the harm the media is causing with its blurred lens dedicated to its agendas and investors. As the media today demands beauty in every image it captures, individuals find it necessary to put on a veil over honest moments.  

The media is a revolutionary platform that connects the world and allows information to be accessible with a click of a button. It should be used, not to portray silent shells of beauty or provide false perceptions of divisions between society, but to represent honest experiences of a place through an individual’s eye. Photographs capture moments and facts in time. It should not be set to a scene, even the ones to experience those moments consider it fiction.

Bibliography

Author

Final year student inBachelor’s in Design (Architecture)at Deakin University, Australia. Hails from Kathmandu, Nepal. Passionate about the different styles of Architecture and understanding how these styles have been interpreted through the generations. Aims to use architecture as a medium to positively influence the built environment.

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