News - 29 April 2019

UNStudio, OMA and PLANE—SITE analyse social media’s impact on architecture

What do social media platforms – especially image sharing platforms like Instagram - mean for architecture, and for the design of public space?

Social media has become a crucial vehicle for engaging with online audiences, promoting new work and conducting research to understand how end-users occupy completed designs.

For users of public and architectural spaces, the decentralized, personal perspective of social media has transformed the way spaces are experienced and documented. Smart phones have shifted the creation of meaning away from industry professionals and into the hands of the public, capturing the dynamism of everyday life. For the first time, end-users can choose how a building is represented, while architects can connect with audiences to understand how they use a particular space, often with unusual or unexpected results.

Social Media platforms also provide designers with tools to understand how buildings are occupied, either through data analysis or qualitative research using hashtags and geolocation tagging, helping to propagate post-occupancy analysis. Social images may also help assess post-occupancy performance, and perhaps techniques such as image plotting or sentiment analysis could offer new insights into human environment interactions.

Beyond giving us a glimpse into how people experience built designs, “instagramable” architecture poses risks and opportunities, potentially creating generic or superficial design, while also opening up new dialogues around design communities. Is the documentation of instagrammable space truly a democratic experience of space? Or a marketing ploy, prompting end-users to engage in an economy of likes and shares?

In this new short video, ‘Building Images’, PLANE—SITE examines with UNStudio and OMA/AMO the various ways that social media has inspired, challenged and democratized contemporary architectural practices.