Can Media Transform Architecture?

It is fascinating how media could represent architecture, usually. It uses different modes, settings, and themes that influence our imagination to think about ideas that was not possible or conceivable otherwise. However, Some architects argued that media can do more to architecture. Beatriz Colomina, for instance, a Spanish architectural historian, opened an interesting way of thinking about architecture within the same realm, by considering media as a way of transforming architecture rather than just simply representing it. This idea will be tested on one of the University of Arizona’s buildings, the Center of Creative Photography (CCP), to see, using one way of representation, how media could change the presence of the existing building.

As far as the CCP’s existing building (the upper photo), the building shows a massiveness of its entry. The form expresses a huge threshold to intensify an important hierarchy for the visitor, indicating the main entrance and opening up a generous space for him or her to come in.

While the massive concrete forms, with the recessed glazed entrance, an interesting balance. There is a significant lack of openings in the concrete part that conceals all the interior spaces. Why that large area of elevation is a plain concrete? It promotes a curiosity to know what programs are inhabited in those big concrete forms. Therefore, there was a desire to envision an activity, an event, or just a daily use, and compare that with the quietness of the first picture.

The Media Transforms ….

Starting from questioning the methodologies used for demonstrating an architectural project – or a studio project –, the obvious thinking went to try an x-ray vision of the building to see through the walls, using Photoshop. While experimenting with this idea, the media opened another medium which is like using a thermal vision to “detect” people or activities that are happening in the building. Therefore, it conveys two sets of information at the same time, a thermal vision and programmatic vision. By comparing the two scenes, the result was amazingly different.

Building’s exterior appearance, textures, materials, colors, tones, and sun rays touch on surfaces in these two modes have transformed the original design to a combination of technical and architectural rendering. The second picture provided a motivating scene full of unrealistic colors that provides information about surfaces thermal exposure, while including a scan of internal programmatic activities. It suggests a vision to people who were just invisible and a viewer could, using this technology, stare at them watching what they are doing indoor from outside.

On the other hand, other architects have suggested other ways of using media. For example, Miriam Gusevich, a Cuban-American urban designer, included people’s own vision to aid in the transform of architecture. That means, for our case study, having the two pictures together is open to the viewer’s interpretation. It will be interesting to know what the professionals’ opinions regarding this analytical comparison are as opposed to public’s opinion (clients/people). Is any of that considered an architecture, an art, or a computer science? What canon could rule the naming? How do people feel about this artificial juxtaposing when they see it? Does it communicate the poetic features that was explored? Or they are completely ugly and useless? Images and words have a lot of power to deliver an idea to people, but they only affect people by the way they are presented to tell them.



  • Colomina, Beatriz, “Skinless Architecture“. Thesis, Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift der Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, (2003) Heft 3
  • Gusevich, Miriam, “The Architecture of Criticism: A Question of Autonomy“, 1991.
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