Advertising Architecture

Begin morning commute, radio up. The second ad is a home consultant informing me of turnkey options; I change the station as I pass a billboard displaying ‘perfect’ homes to suit any budget and lifestyle. Entering the local coffee shop, I order a long black with a dash of milk and peruse the day’s newspaper, only to find a 30-page lift out dedicated to project builders. With a sigh I default to my carefully curated social media feed for reprieve… alas, I am confronted with a sponsored post.

Reflecting on previous summers spent in New York walking by these iconic townhouses, aptly named due to being clad in brown sandstone, I’m left thinking what marketing dynamo committed this sacrilege? The warehouse aesthetic of exposed beams and brick wallpaper is far from the mark, and no, render does not qualify either.

Interior and exterior of Express Living’s ‘Brownstones’ 
Images via Instagram @myfirsthomebuild

A traditional New York ‘Brownstone’
Image via Pinterest

Instagram’s ‘Help Centre’ states, “We want to show you ads from businesses that are interesting and relevant to you.”1 Well, all-mighty algorithm, you’ve got me all wrong. You’ve just made me mad. And there I find myself wondering where are the ads promoting the architects which I so admire?

Turns out advertising is not a medium traditionally utilised by architects. In fact, a century ago it was prohibited in America. The American Institute of Architects policy forbid advertising, as it was thought unethical and undignified. Even the display of an architect’s name upon a building under construction was condemned. Six decades later, the limitations were lifted as the Department of Justice determined them to be restrictive of trade.2

Still today most architects rely on past project success and their reputation to generate future work. A large majority of Australian architects work in small practices, often as sole traders.3These small firms don’t have the manpower or budget to dedicate to marketing, so they must be strategic in attracting new clients. Strategies include raising brand awareness through community involvement, entering into awards, and engaging with journalists to see their projects published. Many are also using social media to connect, but are often preaching to the converted.

Interested by this inherent culture, the organisation openHAUS put out a call in 2009 for hypothetical advertisements promoting architecture.4 The resulting exhibitions proved architects aren’t so serious after all, teeming with posters in spirit of Tschumi, revealing a sense of humour and candour.

Bernard Tschumi, ‘Advertisements for Architecture‘, 1977

Next Time’ by Norman Day and Associates, 2009
Architecture is Addictive’ by Iredale Pedersen Hook, 2009
A Glass Half Full’ by Tony Leung, 2010
Infect Your City’ by Marcus Trimble, 2010
Images via openHAUS

National Manager of the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) at the time, Greg Hughes, commented if the institute had access to endless money they would venture into print and radio.5 The AIA later attempted a consumer engagement campaign, however was met with controversy. The President of the Building Designers Association of Victoria (BDAV) reported the campaign to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), labelling it misleading and elitist.6

AIA ‘Ask an Architect’ Campaign
Image via Architecture & Design

Everyday consumers are besieged with the offerings of project home companies, with some becoming more bespoke and brand savvy, blurring the distinctions between architecture and building design. As a commitment to the quality of our built environment, architects need to expand their audience by exploring new advertising strategies to increase awareness, access and to educate the public about the strengths and advantages of our profession.

Are you looking for an architect?

1 “How does Instagram decide which ads to show me?” Instagram Help Centre, 2018. Accessed 23/03/18.

2 Heath, Sienna. “Can Architects Advertise? The Complete History Of Advertising in Architecture.” The Architect Marketing Institute. Accessed 23/03/18.

3 “Australia’s architecture sector.” Architects Accreditation Council of Australia (AACA), 2018. Accessed 23/03/18.

4 “Advertisements for Architecture 2009.” openHAUS. Accessed 23/03/2018.

5 Watts, Oliver. “Advertisements for architecture.” Architecture Australia, January 2011, Vol 100 No 1. Accessed online 23/03/2018.

6 Johnson, Nathan. “Building designers hit back at Architects campaign and head to the ACCC.” Architecture & Design, 19/05/2016. Accessed 23/03/2018.

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