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Image and Meaning in Contemporary Architecture

Part 2 Dissertation 2003
Jamie Brown
University of Dundee, UK
This paper is an attempt to analyse and understand the ways in which architecture, as a broad cultural idea, has responded to the changing condition of contemporary media. Furthermore, it speculates as to how the image of architecture might evolve; so that despite the commodification of contemporary culture, the social integrity, or meaning, of the profession would survive in tact.

A critical part of the research related specifically to the media, and in particular its representation of architecture. It was important to study not only the architectural press, but the media in its broadest sense. As architecture becomes part of everyday cultural discourse, it becomes essential to evaluate popular magazines, newspapers and TV as vehicles for the architectural publicity machine. How might the very different interests of the popular media affect the portrayal of architecture, and the image it presents? And how, in turn, might the profession respond to the evolution in the way it is understood by the people?

As the relationship between architecture and the media, or between architecture and publicity becomes more explicit, what are the implications for the essence of architectural design? Will architecture comply with the relentless cultural march towards the ephemeral image? And if this should occur, what will be architecture’s attitude towards the ‘everyday’? The cultural and social context in which architecture exists is undergoing considerable transformation; this paper attempts to describe what those changes could mean to the integrity of architecture in the future.

Jamie Brown

The dissertation by Jamie Brown concerns Image and Meaning in Contemporary Architecture.
There is an acute awareness within our society that image, sound bite and spin are influential. The consequences of this for architecture require evaluation and elaboration.
This dissertation addresses the subject with intelligence. It defines the ‘everyday’ in terms of architecture, it examines ‘image’ and it pursues ‘image and meaning’. From these investigations a considered conclusion is presented whereby the fusion of the notions of ‘image’ and ‘everyday’ can give architecture ‘meaning’ within a contemporary context.

The subject of this dissertation required a great deal of background reading and a thorough understanding of the complex issues involved. In addition it required a drive for integrity and for the retention of core responsible values.

This dissertation successfully achieves the aspirations of the author furthermore it acts as an exemplar in reminding all of us that architecture and the service that it gives to society need constant reappraisal.

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