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Digital commons and architecture's self-image

Banou, Sophia


Sophia Banou
Senior Lecturer in Architecture


The research frames an emerging visual culture of display and observation that relies on the staging of architecture and the city not ‘as’ but ‘for’ the image. This does not concern strictly the building as visual object (Jencks 2006; Brigden 2019), but the occupation of architecture through the image (Runting and Torrison 2013), anticipating hybrid and augmented forms of public spaces (Del Signore and Riether 2018). Recent commissions indicate visual staging as a programmatic brief for architectural production (Fairs, 2018). This ‘face‐value’ of architecture is of concern to urban design and heritage management due to the values it defines (Rustow 2014).

This research is presented through a mapping of Bristol through a series of urban sites prominent in the representation of the city’s image through Instagram. The drawing present a series of decoding processes that survey the city’s social ‘self-image’, as an aggregate of mass reproduced visual impressions of urban sites as visual objects, formed out of the gaze the of ‘social media’ digital crowd. In doing so, it proposes a methodology for the spatial analysis of mobile urban photography, to identify the ways that mass photographic reproductions consolidate shared perceptions of places and add or reduce value for architecture and urban localities. The research, thus, addresses how such a ‘collective subjectivity’ (Banou 2020) affects notions of public value for architectural practice; how the emerging digital commons inform and shape new, physical commons within the city.

Charles Jencks (2006). ‘The Iconic Building is Here to Stay’. City 10(1), pp. 3‐21.
Tom Brigden (2019), Value in the View: Conserving Historic Urban Views, London: Routledge.
Helen Runting and Fredrik Torisson (2015), 'Yes Boss! The 8 House', Drawing On 1, pp. 127-137.
Marcella Del Signore and Gernot Riether (2021), Urban Machines: Public Space in a Digital Cutlure, LISt Lab.
Stephen Rustow (2014). ‘The Privatization of Prospect. Urban Omnibus
(online). Available at:‐privatization‐of‐prospect
Sophia Banou (2020), ‘Kaleidoscopic drawings: Sights and sites in the drawing of the city’, in S. Ewing, & I. Troiani (Eds.), Visual Research Methods in Architecture. Bristol: Intellect.


Banou, S. (2023, October). Digital commons and architecture's self-image. Presented at AHRA International Conference 2023: Situated Ecologies of Care, Portsmouth

Presentation Conference Type Other
Conference Name AHRA International Conference 2023: Situated Ecologies of Care
Conference Location Portsmouth
Start Date Oct 25, 2023
End Date Oct 27, 2023
Deposit Date Dec 2, 2023
Keywords social media; urban experience; city image; collective perception; urban commons; public space; mapping
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