Neil Postman said “Media as Epistemology” in his great work Amusing Ourselves to Death. You are what you read. There is no doubt that Instagram and other social network services are part of people’s daily life, at least most people’s, and are changing the way how people perceive the world.
It’s a time that information is overwhelming people’s life. Instagram culture has seeped itself into everything we do, impacting our media, our health and how we interact with friends and families and the world. An “instagrammable” picture/video, according to Cambridge English Dictionary, is something super attractive or interesting enough to be suitable for photographing and posting on the social media service Instagram and other SNS. With the overly visual nature, architecture today is exposed to these photo-sharing platforms and may blow itself up through a cascade of hashtags and geotags.
The label “instagrammable” has been significant for architecture for several years now. Farshid Moussavi, an architect based in London, believes that creating ‘instagrammable moments’ is “now part of architectural briefs”.
Photo shared by Instagram: architecture_hunter which wins more than 10,000 likes in 5 days.
As mentioned in the very first sentence: Media as Epistemology. Neil Postman has artfully described the relationship between social media and humans. He wrote: “I hope to persuade you that the decline of a print-based epistemology and the accompanying rise of a television-based epistemology has had grave consequences for public life, that we are getting sillier by every minute.” Of course, it’s mobile-based instead of television-based for today. A person who is addictive with entertaining himself with Tiktok clips would not be a meditator or silent book reader.
Influencer Brings Phenomenon
Instead of the true aesthetic nature of architecture, it appears influencers now decide what makes good architecture. If you search MorpheusHotel, a hotel in Macau, Instagram is flooded with influencers, geotags, and hashtags, showing in different pictures how beautiful this hotel is. No doubt, this hotel, designed by Zaha Hadid is a true sense of miracle. However, Morpheus Hotel undeniably financially benefits from this exposure.
3D renderings for the Morpheus Hotel, City of Dreams, Macau. Rendered by AIMIR CG.
You will say “That’s Zaha Hadid!” and this is not a typical case. Here is an interesting story. On the internet, there is a ‘library’ called “世界上最孤独的图书馆”, which means “the loneliest library in the world”. This is a picture of it. It’s located in a very rare seashore near Beijing. This area was purchased by a real estate developer called Aranya for about CNY￥40 million (US$6 million), who then found it might be a bad idea. In order to win their cash back, they started marketing this place by building this so-called ‘library’ and a small church near it. It turned out to be super successful. About a couple of years later, this area was evaluated for over US$300 million. In 2021, Aranya continues to build museums, art centers and educational buildings in this area, intending to make this place a huge artistic travel spot.
The ‘loneliest library in the world’
Influencer brings phenomenon and cash, at the same time, our visual experience. It creates a shortcut for architects to reach the public. The point is whether architects are ready to convey their ideas to the public and how they are going to use this shortcut.
The New Trend Advertising
There is no doubt that SNS such as Instagram, Pinterest, Behance and others help to commercialize design, with many developers and owners considering how to boost visitor numbers, using social media exposure gained through snappable spatial design. Will this trend sway the future architecture industry?
The answer is absolutely yes. We are living in a world with collective illusion, and architecture, in fact, is a perfect medium that interacts with the public all the time. Architects are responsible for leading the public to true beauty and aesthetics. In this case, architects cannot escape from the destiny that utilizing ‘instagrammable’ architectural design to build the public a better, and healthier view towards architecture. As the best advertising tool, Instagram and other SNS have their steady impact on contemporary culture. Their effect on the built environment will remain continuous on the public.
Is Instagrammable architecture the final destination for contemporary architecture design?
Yes and no. Although with the great impact this architecture has on the public, there is still concern that these structures are built for the short-term spectacle, made from shoddy materials which will lose their vibrancy quickly. What we should say no are those buildings that have been prioritized or even just built for lucrative benefits from Instagram, for the fact that those buildings can quickly become damaging for the environment because of temporary materials.
As the Roman architect Vitruvius wrote in his work De architectura: “All buildings should have three attributes: strength, utility, and beauty.” The pursuing for beauty is the eternal topic for the creation of architecture, but no one should ignore the purpose of a building in the virtual world.
As Winston Churchill said: “We shape our buildings and afterward, our buildings shape us.” Architecture is a static artifact and continues to transform people long after construction. And the internet accelerates it. Back to the topic, we are what we read. Next time if you’re posing in front of an architecture for your Instagram, be sure to experience the building by yourself, rather than just by posting on your phone.
You are welcome to talk to AIMIR CG for the renderings for Morpheus Hotel designed by Zaha Hadid, or other rendering services.