Iconic architecture through the lens of Instagram: the case studies of the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao and the Dongdaemun Design Plaza, Seoul
Date: 19 August 2019
University of Exeter
PhD in Management
Architecture has played an enormous role in the branding of cities, initially through cultural institutions such as museums, which have become the preferred platform for the expression of iconic architecture to boost the image of a city’s modernity and economic prosperity, and to express its civic pride. In recent years the seemingly ...
Architecture has played an enormous role in the branding of cities, initially through cultural institutions such as museums, which have become the preferred platform for the expression of iconic architecture to boost the image of a city’s modernity and economic prosperity, and to express its civic pride. In recent years the seemingly endless potential of social media has allowed the consumption of architecture to surpass the boundaries of space and time. The instant image sharing and dissemination of Instagrammably photogenic iconic architecture has made the notion of ‘iconicity’ more questionable than it might have been before the social media era. This research aims to explore the manner in which contemporary iconic architecture is represented in social media, with a specific focus on the manner in which such architectural imagery moulds ‘iconicity’ in architecture; in doing so, it investigates the ways in which city image is incorporated into the social imagery of architecture. Using the two case studies of Frank Ghery’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and Zaha Hadid’s Dongdaemun Design Plaza and Park in Seoul, the thesis scrutinises user-generated photographic images and accompanying textual descriptions, which were downloaded from Instagram. The empirical work involves a two-part multi-method approach combining visual content analysis and discourse analysis, using an adaptation of Panofsky’s Iconology, which was borrowed from art history. A general picture of the representational practices of Instagram images was gained through content analysis; this is followed by qualitative readings of individual images using Panofsky’s iconographic-iconological method. The results demonstrate that there are key elements that convey architectural iconicity in Instagram images. These include: (a) the heightened aesthetics of image-taking through the maximisation of aesthetic value in the portrayal of a building; (b) verbal texts alongside an image, which deliver information on the building; and (c) geographic associations through geo-tagging and hashtagging, and textual components, such as a caption and comments. The findings further indicate that, given that a majority of images are depicted in relation to architectural context, this context, in other words, the place in which a building is situated, is essential for the reception and perception of iconicity in the building. The present study is cross-disciplinary in nature, which serves as an important contribution to academic research into place branding by bringing together architecture, city branding, and social media. This is the first time that the Panofsky model of iconology has been applied to the field of place branding.
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