Why Instagram Should Be a Part of Every Architect's Design Process


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Instagram is an app. Instagram shows images. Instagram is a verb. Instagram it! Instagram has 600 million users. Numbers are very important. These days, they are an exact expression of what one is, or isn’t; by the way, how many followers do you have? Instagram is the great equalizer.

I don’t think Instagram is about news. Instagram is about influence. It is that very moment when the old order is changed; the moment when the recent graduate changes the established practice. Instagram is space. Have you seen @archiveofaffinities? It is better than any school library. It is the space to spend your most important time. It is a spa.

Instagram is superficial. This is a compliment. Its superficiality is beautiful. It is that lightness that comes with judging everything just visually. Instagram is cropping images. Ah! Instagram is synthesis. Instagram is art. Instagram is a timely matter. It is the moment when you realize you are not original. Or even worse, it is the moment when you realize that there is someone better than you.

Instagram is high-speed design.

Instagram feels like thinking. It is about thinking in images. It is Aby Warburg in square format. A brief primer: Warburg is an iconographer. In his “Mnemosyne Atlas” (1929), various symbolic images, mostly related to a specific Renaissance topic, are juxtaposed and placed in a sequence, in order to construct a visual understanding of the subject matter. It is very important to note that the understanding of the subject matter is immediate. This timely dimension is crucial as it momentarily displaces other forms of rationalization. The brilliance of Warburg was that he was building a counterpoint to the traditional Platonic thinking that considers the image to be the opposite of knowledge. It seems to me that Instagram is about knowledge.

Instagram is easy, when you don’t care.

I recommend my students to have an Instagram account. Instagram requires commitment. There would be a moment when Instagram became part of every single architect’s design process. This moment lasts a little over a second. After that second, some of them go rogue. Some of them decide to look only ahead.

Instagram is only a temporary abrogation of the polarities of mind.

Instagram is openness to the world. For an architect, it is about the public. I love @officialnormanfoster. The architect who has built half of the contemporary world is human. Looking at his amazing doodles or smart-material cycling pants makes me confident.

I do not follow it.

What I mean is that Instagram is about surrender. How smart is OMA? Nowadays, their website displays primarily images of their buildings as posted by the buildings' “users” via Instagram. How better to showcase your architecture than through the eyes of the public? I am not naïve. It is not perfect and for sure it is curated, but it implies a clear attitude to the relationship between architect and user. Soon, everybody will do it.

So, why Instagram should be part of every architect’s design process?

For me, Instagram is a project. It feels like a construction project. I instagram everyday. This forces me into an absolutely annoying position; that of being bad. I use Instagram only to look back. For me it is the new version of the ultra-clean website. It is the medium through which I open windows into my design process.

I try to be honest.

The End.

PS: Joshua Rothman, writing in The New Yorker, describes Karl Ove Knausgaard’s six volumes autobiographical novel “My Struggle”:

“The novel imagines a kind of ultimate freedom – a spiritual freedom based in radical openness. It’s expansive and impersonal, yet still human; it’s concrete, anti-ideological, and, above all, emotional. Beyond, alongside, or perhaps within the quest to know oneself, there’s a quest to know the universe.”

I started using Instagram around the same time I started reading Knausgaard.

OMA's website shows Instagram photographs by users of their buildings. Imagevia OMA

This gentle brutalism

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An exploration w/ @theflatsideofdesign #miesvanderrohe #berlinmuseum #digital #collage

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Image of a model made out of soap #officeofadrianphiffer_sibiu #architecture #architecturephotography #architecturemodel #soap #image

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Adrian Phiffer is founder of the Office of Adrian Phiffer and teaches at the University of Toronto John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design. His Instagram account was included in ArchDaily's “25 Architecture Instagram Feeds to Follow Now (Part IV).”

About this author
Cite: Adrian Phiffer. "Why Instagram Should Be a Part of Every Architect's Design Process" 14 May 2017. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/871238/why-instagram-should-be-a-part-of-every-architects-design-process> ISSN 0719-8884

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