Instagram has had a huge impact on the architecture of our cities and perhaps it is time that this changed, says Will Jennings.
In just nine years, Instagram has risen from a fun photo-sharing app to a central element of contemporary culture. Instagrammable is now a recognised word, and as a verb “to Instagram” is threatening the traditional “to photograph”. It has entirely reshaped marketing, subtly placing products into Instagrammers’ photographs to such a level that the Advertising Standards Agency have released a Guide for Influencers helping audiences separate innocent posts from commercial promotion.
Architecture has not been immune, with Dezeen itself deeply embedded within Instagram culture, its annual Instagrammable top 10 from Milan design week becoming the go-to list of what’s hot at the event. From nowhere, this app seems to have become a critical element of urban design.
There is a rich critical history of photography’s relationship to architecture – from Frederick Evans’ Sea of Steps, to the original Willhelm Neimann and Sasha Stones photographs of the Barcelona Pavilion reproduced throughout postwar design textbooks, through to Iwan Baan and his contemporaries re-imagining architectural form into two dimensions.
But shareable digital image making, and in particular the Instagram explosion, has radically shaken this slow evolution of place’s relationship to its image.
From nowhere, this app seems to have become a critical element of urban design
Instagramming architecture is not the same as photographing it, carrying not only its own aesthetic and globally conformed standpoints, but an urgency and need for the image to work beyond art object and within an economy of likes, self-promotion, and social currency.
The slow process of architecture is now catching up with this rapid rise of aesthetic and social expectations, and a new genre of Instagrammable architecture has been emerging.