In the world of property development every square meter counts and while those square meters and small units are hot in debate, some questions become inevitable, such asDo architects need to deliver more than enough square meters and sellable space and is there any space for architects to brand themselves in a world driven by the numbers game?
Most people may think of architectural branding as the creation of signature architecture. Throughout architectural history, big names were associated with striking landmark buildings. These buildings were allowed to have the stamp of their creators and the line between art and architecture was fine.
Today, when a Richard Meier building in New York’s West Village is listed for record prices, one cannot but wonder if the renowned architect contributes to the dollar sign, adding value with his name next to the building. Just as buying a brand or a luxury item tagged with a desirable name, buying in to a building with the signature of a star architect defines how you want to be perceived.
But is it West Village itself or the name Richard Meier that creates the added value? How about the costs that come with building iconic towers that not necessarily utilise space in the most effective way? Are factors such as location, demand and a competitive price not stronger selling points than name dropping? Most likely these are factors that, judging by what is being built in most cities and urban areas at the moment, are likely to be prioritised over the choice of a star architect. In Melbourne it would be difficult to nurture the idea of the status associated to a building purely because of its designer. We do not have buildings by star architects such as Zaha Hadid just as yet but we do have landmarks and notable buildings and we certainly do have areas which attract high figures by their own right.
Proposed buildings like The Grace on Coronation, a three residential development located in Toowong in Brisbane, would be, if or when completed, the first work of Zaha Hadid in Australia and it would be interesting to see what her name on the building would do for the asking prices.
Towers such as the Eureka tower in Melbourne and the world’s currently tallest; the Burj Khalifa in Dubai are iconic landmarks but they are not being branded by the architects, but instead by being the tallest of their time. Some other famous towers are being branded by the developer rather than the architects such as the Trump Towers that have been designed by various architects and while a studio apartment in the Trump Towers in New York would attract only the wealthiest of buyers, the branding does not relate to the architect but to Mr Trump himself.
When real estate agents market residential single dwellings, we can often read “architecturally designed home” as a catch phrase and there seems to be a common belief that a house designed by an architect is indeed adding value. This is true in many cases, but is it due to the professionally designed building that adds value by being just that, an efficiently designed house, or is it the name of the architect that adds value on its own?
Is there room for new stars in the high rise heaven?
As any aspiring design professional, architects too want the recognition of their work and a part of that recognition is to be branded as top architects. But how to get there is one question and another is do architects brand buildings or do buildings brand architects? The answer to both is like pondering over the hen and the egg; one doesn’t exist without the other.
There is no real comparison between the journey from architect to starchitect and the journey from “no brand“ to “the brand” as a company. Lot of great architects do not necessarily promote their names and boost their egos by doing so but rather focus on getting the company name out there. A building that carries the architectural company name instead of the individual who designed it may be less likely to come across as a “designer home” per se and may instead be interpreted as a quality home.
By the property market booming and the demand for new apartments it will be interesting to see if the many of Melbourne’s hardworking but less known architects will be given the opportunity to brand themselves out there. With restrictions that come with rescodes and meeting budgets, there may be limitations to creating signature pieces. The more interesting a façade, the more likely it is to be recognised and with that comes the recognition of the designer. The challenge would be to create visually significant and outstanding buildings under these restrictions and unless given the opportunity.
Without doubt, there is a prestige in having an architecturally designed home and as such there is bound to be an increase in the value along with other factors such as location, size and market demand. Trends are trends and with the myriad of reality shows in the fields of architecture, real estate and home improvement, not only the rich and famous, but the general public as well, is starting to get more brand and trend conscious.
Whether or not our perception of architects will change to follow these new trends one thing is sure. We do have an architecturally interesting future ahead of us with the increase in urban buildings and we are likely to see more emerging architectural superstars step out of the shadows, claiming their rightful place in the spotlights.
Kate Gawi - Director