Representation and Reification: Architecture in the Politico-Media-Complex.



Author: Dr. Graham Cairns



The relationship between politics and advertising is controversial, polemic and seen by many as inherently manipulative. At its most explicit in election campaign imagery, it is now integral to the political process. However, one component of this relationship yet to be investigated is the role of architecture. This publication investigates the employment of architecture in political imagery in the US and the UK – in both historic representations of democracy and power – and in contemporary election campaign communication. It will suggest that the nature of architecture’s appearance in ‘representations of political power or authority’ is, almost inevitably, manifest in its constructed form – either explicitly or implicitly.

Its template of analysis employs Antonio Gramsci’s notions of Civic and Political Society, embedded in the concept of hegemony, and Louis Althusser’s distinction between Ideological and Repressive State Apparatus, central to his definition of ideology. Conceptualising architecture in political imagery as a tool in ‘civic’ and ‘ideological’ social constructs, it seeks to trace out the routes through which this imagery feeds into the nature, style and typology of constructed architecture – an architecture that thus becomes readable as the ‘political’ and ‘repressive’ manifestation of the democratic socio-media complex.

Offering a historical overview of the emergence of the contemporary political communication machine, and its continual appropriation of architecture and architectural imagery, this work will focus on recent ‘political architecture’. Using examples from the Tony Blair governments in the UK and the George W. Bush administrations in the US, it will underline how, in the democratic socio-media complex, the importance of constructed architecture becomes inseparable from its appearance in imagery, and how both reflect sub-level ideological constructs.

In short, this publicationoffers a model through which we see the relationship between constructed architecture and political imagery in contemporary democracies as both symbiotic and mutually influencing. It is an interpretation that reframes our understanding of political architecture as both reification and representation in the media saturated environment of contemporary democracies.

The first piece of work produced as part of this Host Project was published as Volume 1, Issue 1 of the journal Architecture_MPS. The second piece is an outline of the book that will result from this initiative:

Paper 1: Architecture as Political Image -The Perspective of Advertising

Paper 2: Representation and Reification -Architecture in the Politico-Media-Complex



Dr. Graham Cairns.        email: