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TOWARDS A NON-IMAGEABLE (ICONIC) ARCHITECTURE IMAGE (non)_PROLIFERATION : ASSIGNED VALUE AND ATTRIBUTED MONUMENTALITY samuel xu_ architecture as medium : claire zimmerman / mclain clutter


“In societies dominated by modern conditions of production, life is presented as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has receded into a representation.� - Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle


Photographic Images : Production / Generation / Construction In today’s image-soaked culture, the camera is no longer a sacred object for image production. Cameras do not exist anymore as rare tools for the elite few who craft specific photographic images. Rather, cameras have become commonplace, abounding for users of all ages, types, professions, and interests. Photography is no longer a unique singular art. We live in a time and age where the process of image production does not require skill. Amateurs and professionals alike are able to produce photographic images with either a DSLR camera or a cell phone (or everything in between). The camera’s universal accessibility allows anyone and everyone to capture and produce photographic images.


Photographic Images : Dissemination / Proliferation / Consumption Personal photos are disseminated and consumed through the medium of the mass social media. Outlets such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and Flickr have become a global database for the proliferation and consumption of photographic images. There exists in modern society a freedom of photographic expression that allows virtually unlimited and unrestricted viewing and sharing of images.


“The images detached from every aspect of life merge into a common stream in which the unity of that life can no longer be recovered. Fragmented views of reality regroup themselves into a new unity as a separate pseudoworld that can only be looked at. The specialization of images of the world evolves into a world of autonomized images where even the deceivers are deceived. The spectacle is a concrete inversion of life, an autonomous movement of the nonliving.” “The spectacle is not a collection of images; it is a social relation between people that is mediated by images. The spectacle cannot be understood as a mere visual excess produced by mass-media technologies. It is a worldview that has actually been materialized, a view of a world that has become objective.” - Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle


Photographic Images : Representations of Value We take photographs of someone, something, or some place because we ascribe some sort of value or significance to it. We take pictures because we find the content of our photograph interesting, beautiful, or worthy of capture. There is no inherent value to an object, but the photographic image is the medium and means by which an object is assigned certain value or fascination by the authors of the image.


Assignment of Value in Architecture : The Monument Monuments in architecture are defined as buildings that have certain cultural or heritage value(s). In “The Modern Cult of Monuments: Its Character and Its Origin,� Alois Reigl identifies and describes two types of monuments: the intentional monument (of which its value has been determined by the makers at its time of its making) and the unintentional monument (of which its value is determined by us, its modern audience). The intentional monument has historical value, for which it must be preserved to maintain the genuiness of its historical significance. The unintentional monument has age value, for which it accumulates cultural fascination and value via its visible traces of age, decay, and disintegration.


The Intentional Monument : Parthenon (Athens, Greece) Erected as a monument, the Parthenon is considered a divine architectural creation, an icon of society and culture that people approached and lauded because of its inherent monumental and heritage qualities. Constructed as a temple to the goddess Athena, it is regarded as a symbol of Ancient Greece and western civilization, and widely considered as one of the world’s greatest cultural monuments.


The Unintentional Monument : Packard Automotive Plant (Detroit, Michigan) The Packard Automotive Plant is a modern architectural ruin, an urban apparatus that collects cultural value and fascination. Designed in 1903 by Albert Kahn, the Packard was not intended to be a monument; it was just another factory building constructed in Detroit at a time when large-scale assembly lines were being activated. Since its abandonment in 1958, the Packard has increased in cultural value and fascination as artists, photographers, journalists, urban explorers, and television/movie directors have proliferated the image of the deserted factory. The Packard is an unintentional monument, a building that gains more significance over time as cultural value and fascination is attributed to it. The production, dissemination, proliferation, and consumption of images of the Packard perpetuate the assignment of value of the unintentional monument.


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The Architectural Icon : Creation of Monumentality via Image If the image is the medium by which cultural value is assigned, then the production, proliferation, and consumption of images of an architecture ascribes to its monumentality. The image creates the monument, or, more polemically, the image itself becomes the monument. Iconic architecture is defined by its monumentality via image proliferation.


Icon Image / Non-Imageable Icon If monumentality can be created (unintentionally) by its proliferation of images, can monumentality also be created (intentionally) by the non-proliferation or restriction of images? If cultural value is ascribed and disseminated through images, can the absence of images also generate cultural value? Does the halt of image production of an iconic architecture devalue its cultural interest, or does the nonexistence of images further accelerate its architectural fascination? What is iconic architecture without its image publicity?


(Anti)-Icon : Non-Imageable Monument An architectural icon is primarily an icon because of its imageability and attributed monumentality through image proliferation. Is it possible to create and design an architecture that becomes a monument or an icon without its image publicity?

Towards A Non-Imageable Architecture  

Image (non)_Proliferation : Assigned Value and Attributed Monumentality