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Architecture and Marketing

Updated on August 17, 2013
Architecture as Marketing as Architecture
Architecture as Marketing as Architecture | Source

Is marketing related to architecture? You bet! And, in both senses of that phrase, as well: marketing is essential to both the practice and the creation of architecture, and architecture is very often be created and crafted to advance the aims of marketing, branding and product positioning.

Allow me to explain, beginning with the example depicted in this initial photo. What you see happens to be a portion of an office building that I (with the assistance of a number of my fellow architects and engineers) designed in downtown Cleveland, Ohio several years back. It occupies a prominent corner of a fairly well traveled intersection near the heart of the city's financial and business sector. It originated as the seven-story corporate headquarters of a local financial institution, and is situated on a long and narrow rectilinear site with exposure on three different street frontages. Its serrated and articulated upper stories are clad in continuous horizontal ribbons of reflective blue glass, while its base is sheathed in alternating bands of white to pale gray marble.

In this old aerial of downtown Cleveland, note the ego statement and branding achieved by The Terminal Tower of the van Sweringen brothers
In this old aerial of downtown Cleveland, note the ego statement and branding achieved by The Terminal Tower of the van Sweringen brothers | Source

At the beginning of this architectural commission, I had to first market myself and my firm to the prospective clients. That is, I had to persuade them — through the use of examples of our past work, a definition of our experience and history, and an indication of our level of performance relative to our fees — that we were a good buy.

I next had to create and market the conceptual design for this structure. It was essential that my new-found clients be excited and enthused about the architecture I was creating. And, in fact, the building’s very design was based on some sound marketing principles: it was intended to display the clients’ company as it wished to be seen.

Can you spot the modern triangular body and stunted neck of the 'guitar' created by I.M. Pei for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum?
Can you spot the modern triangular body and stunted neck of the 'guitar' created by I.M. Pei for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum? | Source

Since the clients wanted their bank to be seen as being on a par with much larger and more established banks, its headquarters needed to be as sleek, modern, imposing and impressive as other much taller structures in the vicinity. I therefore applied a striking reflective glass surface above a posh marble base to convey the proper stature.

My clients were also dismayed that they could not make a bigger, bolder statement, as their budget and the site permitted no more than seven stories. To make the building appear much taller than it actually is, we striated its upper floors with multiple identical horizontal bandings of glass, creating the illusion of more than seven stories. The added sawtooth notches in the building’s façades also draw the eyes of passing viewers upward, emphasizing the structure’s height. Finally, to convey the new and unique character of the building, we elected to use a bright blue shade of reflective glass that was not already present anywhere in the city skyline.

Solidity, dominance, power, durability — all exuded by the former BP Headquarters in Cleveland
Solidity, dominance, power, durability — all exuded by the former BP Headquarters in Cleveland | Source

The net result is that, by applying sound marketing concepts to architecture, we were able to created an iconic headquarters structure that in turn marketed its occupant business.

Architects have using the same tricks of marketing and public perception for millennia. The form of the Egyptian pyramids indicated the radiating sunrays that enabled the Pharaoh to rise to join his godly counterparts. The Roman fora displayed the imposed order, munificence and regal splendor of their founding Caesars. The Statue of Liberty is the amity of France toward America cast in copper. Architects market themselves by their distinctive styles: the roiling metallic swerves and swoops of Frank Gehry, the pristine sun-splashed white boxes-within-boxes of Richard Meier, the low-slung shard-roofed Prairie homes of Frank Lloyd Wright. And architecture markets those who inhabit and fund it, whether they are the art patrons beneath the Louvre’s glass pyramid, or the Dubai princes of the Burj Khalifa.

Frank Gehry's curled titanium roofs top the Peter B. Lewis Building at Case Western Reserve University
Frank Gehry's curled titanium roofs top the Peter B. Lewis Building at Case Western Reserve University | Source
The Cleveland Botanical Garden presents a funky family-friendly openness at its entrance
The Cleveland Botanical Garden presents a funky family-friendly openness at its entrance | Source
A portfolio piece for both the architect and the occupying bank
A portfolio piece for both the architect and the occupying bank | Source
Sports teams love to draw fans via distinctive architecture, and corporations love to splash their names across them
Sports teams love to draw fans via distinctive architecture, and corporations love to splash their names across them | Source
Architecture can also market a style, a culture, a sensibility, and a sense of exotica
Architecture can also market a style, a culture, a sensibility, and a sense of exotica | Source

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    • rickzimmerman profile image
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      rickzimmerman 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Thanks, MT!

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 5 years ago from Minnesota

      Wow, your talent is evident in your buildings. I am so impressed Rick. If that wasn't enough, now you tell us that you also designed Jacob's field. I hit many buttons. What an artist you are.

    • rickzimmerman profile image
      Author

      rickzimmerman 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Thanks, Stigma31! Glad to have you aboard.

    • Stigma31 profile image

      Stigma31 5 years ago from Kingston, ON

      Excellent article...well written, and nice photos....never thought of architecture on a marketing level, but it truly makes sense....Voting up!

    • rickzimmerman profile image
      Author

      rickzimmerman 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Thanks so much! I've always been proud of it. (You might also enjoy the signs I designed for Jacobs Field, Home of the Cleveland Indians. Check my hub.)

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      I found this to be terrifically interesting and the building you designed in the initial photo is just simply stunning!