How social media is changing the way we perceive architecture

Social media has radically altered the way in which we perceive architecture. Scrolling down any Instagram feed and you will notice that along with brunch snaps and selfies, social media is also home to a wealth of architectural imagery.

Image by RUMI, @ruminantreserve

It’s not just the big hitter architectural icons that are being captured, curated, replicated and reimagined but infrastructure of every kind; from art galleries to Apple stores and club toilets. These images are for the architect as much as the Instagrammer because they show how real people actually use and perceive space. 

Apple Store, Fifth Avenue, New York City  Apple Store Fifth Ave, New York City, designed by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson.

Prior to the internet, print publishing became crucial to the manufacturing of architectural culture. Early on, photography became important as it was primarily a means of dissemination; photographs enabled architects and editors to show the world a building they might otherwise not see. But also, photographs enable architects to tell particular stories about their buildings—reimagining space through photography communicates new contexts depending on whose looking.

Image by Chris Jackson, @concretedetritus

Image-led platforms such as Instagram and Facebook have democratized architecture in so far as accessing it is now immediate. Social media has taken contextual authority out of the hands of the architect, curator or magazine editor and enabled the public to share their opinion on what they perceive to be important architecture. 

The Potting Shed by Grey Griffiths Architects, Image by Adam Scott, @adamscottimages

So why do we use Instagram? To show off, to sell, to promote, to validate, to define and to discuss; images on social media have a fundamental influence on how we now communicate and understand the world we inhabit and our place within it.

Instagram has changed the game for the architecture world and to quote architectural photographer Paul Rafferty, who spoke on the subject at the 2017 ARCHITECT@WORK as part of a panel discussion on the subject of photography and architecture entitled Frozen Light, for the architect, when it comes to visually communicating their work today, it’s “evolve or die”. ​

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