New Alternate Architectures and Their Generation through Media Representation

In his 1968 article for Bau Magazine, Herbert Hollein stipulates that ‘traditional definitions of architecture and its means have lost their validity’[1] for the ‘human sphere’ has expanded ‘beyond a built statement’. His bold, and at the time controversial claims were made, most likely in reference to the rapid technological evolution of his day. With television becoming common place in households after the second world war and ‘documentaries becom[ing] popular in television programming’[2] in the 1960’s. It is not difficult to understand why Hollein would draw parallels between television and architecture by evidencing his initial statement upon the observation that, ‘building[s] can become entirely information—its message might be experienced through informational media (press, TV, etc)’[3]. Hollein furthers his argument, and specifically, his evidencing by explaining how a ‘building can be entirely media’ as most people, not having visited a site in person ‘are aware of [the Acropolis or the Pyramids] through other media and not through an experience of their own’[4].

In advancing our discussion, we reference Vitruvius’ Ten Books of Architecture to establish a controlled definition of ‘traditional architecture’ which he explains began with simple huts, ‘an imitation of the nests’[5] . Over time they were ‘constructed better and better’[6], eventually manifesting in the great orders of Greek architecture. Here architecture is seen as inherently physical.

In reference to this definition, one may argue that architecture portrayed through media lacks physical dimension, hence it cannot be considered traditional architecture. To experience architecture is to interact with it spatially and when translated into media, these monuments lose their majesty – a direct product of their spatial dominance. Hence viewing the Pyramids through the television presents viewers with an alternate architecture, devoid of traditional notions of physical dimension. These ‘media’s’ read as select descriptions cultivated by curators to be interpreted by viewers. There are two points of failure when referencing this chain of media with respect to the authenticity of the original subject. The first, and most critical is the curator’s depiction of the source which can easily reflect their biases. While experiencing an architecture first-hand may present a polysemy of readings across a vast audience. Something completely natural and explained by Jacques Derrida as différance, the second problem is that the initial creator’s interpretation may drastically impact the viewers experience and understanding of the initial subject. Hence the différance becomes multiplied and further removed from what the viewer may have experienced first-hand. The subject reconstructed in the viewers mind from the fragments provided by the creator are completely new, unique to the viewer and their process of sign. Thus they invent a new building and exercise a new virtual form of architecture structured upon the spatially deficient and fragmented media.

While traditional architecture still exists, Holleim’s rebellious statements evidence an alternate architecture which addresses architectures relation to technology and representation in alternate media.






Hollien, Hubert. “Architecture is Everything.” Bau (1968).

Encyclopedia Britannica, s.v. “Documentary Film” by Editors of Encyclopaedia. Accessed December 13, 2011.

Vitruvius, The Ten Books of Architecture. Cambridge, England: Oxford University Press, 1914.

[1] Hollien, Hubert. “Architecture is Everything.” Bau (1968).

[2] Encyclopedia Britannica, s.v. “Documentary Film” by  Editors of Encyclopaedia, accessed December 13, 2011.

[3] Hollien, Hubert. “Architecture is Everything.”

[4] Hollien, Hubert. “Architecture is Everything.”

[5] Vitruvius, The Ten Books of Architecture (Cambridge, England: Oxford University Press, 1914), 38.

[6] Vitruvius, The Ten Books of Architecture, 39