Sunday, July 29, 2012

When is Architecture a Gift?

I have long been interested in the architecture of retail spaces. I have written about them elsewhere in the blog. I think it is a topic worth keeping at the forefront of discussions about sustainability, art and architecture. has a post on architecture and branding and here is a link: Building Appeal

The piece talks about all kinds of things but here is my favorite paragraph:
Sall believes architectural brand experience has less to do with the look and feel of a store than with the kind of customer behavior that is promoted in that space. “When brands employ architects to look at ways to induce behavior that reflects brand values, that becomes truly sophisticated. If one associates Nike with dynamic spaces and spaces full of gregarious young people who are attractive and vital, people begin to think of that as Nike and its territory. That becomes truly powerful. How the brand includes a demographic and makes it behave in a particular way is where three-dimensional brand experience becomes architecture,” he says.

I think the essence stated above is self-explanatory. Get people buying stuff. An architecture to 'induce behavior' that is not in the service of the end user but in service of the retailer.

David Foster Wallace loved to use footnotes in his fiction and in his essays. I just re-read his essay about the experience of a luxury cruise. Really funny and poignant and sad. The essay, titled, Supposedly Fun Thing I'll never Do Again contains the following footnote about an ad or brochure for the cruise - I can't remember exactly but that's not the point. The thing about the note is what is says about art:

"...a powerful, beautiful ad...can never be any kind of real art: an ad has no status as gift, i.e. it's never really for the person it's directed at."   (note 38, P289)

I don't expect architectural services to be given away - that is not the kind of 'gift' I think Wallace is talking about. It seems to me it is more about the intention, about the state of mind and the telos of those planning the work.