“Advertisements for Architecture” – Bernard Tschumi

“Advertisements for Architecture” – Bernard Tschumi

Architects do not just create buildings – they are iconographers and cultural interpreters. Architecture itself is a means of communication beyond the built form. It is the product of converging and diverging desires and architects are the interpreters of those desires. In turn, these interpretations give shape to our cities.

The architect Bernard Tschumi said that the way most of us experience architecture is through photographs in books, in other words, through our imagination of what the space would look like in real life. He then makes a comparison of the way that advertisements show you the same image over and over to create a desire for something that exists beyond the two dimensional page.

Tschumi wanted to see if the language of advertisements could create the desire to see or to be inside the building.

Advertisements for Architecture (1976-7): was a great series of postcard sized text-image juxtapositions from architect Bernard Tschumi. Each was a manifesto of sorts, confronting the dissociation between the immediacy of spatial experience and the analytical definition of theoretical concepts. The function of the Advertisements —reproduced again and again, as opposed to the single architectural piece—was to trigger desire for something beyond the page itself.

Architect and educator Bernard Tschumi is one of the most influential figures in architectural theory and practice. His confrontational and provocative work set the tone for much architectural theory in the 1980s. Influenced by the Situationists, and initially concerned with representation, he argued that the traditional forms of architectural drawing excluded ideas of occupation and event. His book “The Manhattan Transcripts” presented an alternative and inclusive form of spatial representation and notation.

Because there are advertisements for architectural “products,” the logic of the Advertisements for Architecture asks, – “Why not advertisements for the production (and reproduction) of architecture”?

Why should architects be interested in Tschumi’s work, since, as he himself observed, — “deconstruction is anti-form, anti-hierarchy, anti-structure-the opposite of all that architecture stands for” … “Precisely for this reason,” was Tschumi’s response.


le corbusier and villa savoye model

Two of the ads were from Le Corbusier’s famous Villa Savoy of 1965 which was in a state of decay at that point, and was soon to be restored. Tschumi would then go on to create plans for building identical iconic buildings all over the world, repudiating the singularity of architecture.

In the 1960s, a small oppositional element in architecture forged its own counterculture by turning its energies away from building toward writing. Born of a desire to foreground the intellectual dimension of architecture by associating it with developments in conceptual art,linguistics, and philosophy, this turn toward writing soon engaged architecture with broader questions of pop culture, mass media, advertising, and emerging technologies.

Wonderful as these are, I don’t know that most people experience architecture through words and images—paper, and now the screen—as opposed to in physical space. Unless architecture cannot be experienced only from the outside, but requires actually traversing the space. This, or some sort of aesthetic hierarchy that relegates some structures as just being ‘buildings’, and not ‘architecture’.

Architecture resembles a masked figure. It cannot easily be unveiled. It is always hiding: behind drawstrings, behind words, behind precepts, behind habits, behind technical constraints. Yet it is the very difficulty of uncovering architecture that makes it intensely desirable. This unveiling is part of the pleasure of architecture.

In a similar way, reality hides behind advertising.

“The function of the Advertisements—reproduced again and again, as opposed to the single architectural piece—was to trigger desire for something beyond the page itself. When removed from their customary endorsement of commodity values, advertisements are the ultimate magazine form, even if used ironically.

About Bernard Tschumi

Bernard Tschumi  – born January 25, 1944 in Lausanne, Switzerland is an architect, writer, and educator, commonly associated with deconstructivism.

Born of French and Swiss parentage, he works and lives in New York and Paris.

He studied in Paris and at ETH in Zurich, where he received his degree in architecture in 1969.

Tschumi has taught at Portsmouth Polytechnic in Portsmouth, UK, the Architectural Association in London, the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies in New York, Princeton University, the Cooper Union in New York and Columbia University where he was Dean of the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation from 1988 to 2003.

Tschumi is a permanent U.S. resident.

Bernard Tschumi is widely recognized as one of today’s foremost architects. First known as a theorist, he drew attention to his innovative architectural practice in 1983 when he won the prestigious competition for the Parc de La Villette. Since then, he has made a reputation for groundbreaking designs that include the new Acropolis Museum; Le Fresnoy National Studio for the Contemporary Arts; the Vacheron-Constantin Headquarters; The Richard E. Lindner Athletics Center at the University of Cincinnati; and architecture schools in Marne-la-Vallée, France and Miami, Florida, among other projects.

The office’s versatility extends to infrastructure projects and master plans. Major urban design projects recently executed or in implementation under Tschumi’s leadership include master plans for Mediapolis in Singapore, a new Media Zone in Abu Dhabi , and the Independent Financial Centre of the Americas in the Dominican Republic.

Tschumi was awarded France’s Grand Prix National d’Architecture in 1996 as well as numerous awards from the American Institute of Architects and the National Endowment for the Arts. He is an international fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in England and a member of the Collège International de Philosophie and the Académie d’Architecture in France, where he has been the recipient of distinguished honors that include the rank of Officer in both the Légion d’Honneur and the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

He is a member of the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects.


bernard tschumi by richard schulman

A graduate of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, Tschumi has taught architecture at a range of institutions including the Architectural Association in London, Princeton University, and The Cooper Union in New York. He was dean of the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University from 1988 to 2003 and is currently a professor in the Graduate School of Architecture.

During the 1970s, through drawings and written texts, Bernard Tschumi insisted that there is no architecture without events, without actions or activity. His early work recognized that buildings respond to and intensify the activities that occur within them, and that events alter and creatively extend the structures that contain them. In other words, architecture is not defined by its “formal” container, but rather by its combinations of spaces, movements, and events.

This research was put in practice in 1983 with the commission to design the 125-acre Parc de la Villette. The project’s brief became the starting point for a new “cultural” park based on activity rather than nature, one whose many buildings, gardens, bridges, and fields would serve as sites for concerts, exhibitions, sporting events, and more. La Villette’s popular success (its annual attendance far exceeds EuroDisney’s) is matched by the programmatic changes it fosters, as when its green playing fields are transformed into a 3,000-seat outdoor cinema on summer nights, dramatically altering the site.

Completed projects by the office, in addition to the Parc de la Villette, include Le Fresnoy National Studio for Contemporary Arts in Tourcoing, France (1997); Columbia University’s Lerner Hall Student Center in New York (1999); Marne-la-Vallée School of Architecture in Paris (1999); the Interface Flon, a bus, train, and subway station and pedestrian bridge in Lausanne, Switzerland (2001); an 8,000-person Concert Hall and Exhibition Complex in Rouen, France (2001); the Florida International University School of Architecture in Miami, Florida (2003); the Vacheron-Constantin Headquarters in Geneva (2004); the University of Cincinnati’s Richard E. Lindner Athletics Center in Cincinnati, Ohio (2006); the Limoges Concert Hall in Limoges, France (2007); BLUE, a 17-story residential tower on the Lower East Side of New York (2007); the ECAL School of Art and Design in Lausanne, Switzerland (2007); and the Acropolis Museum in Athens (2009).


” Any relationship between a building and its users is one of violence, for any use means the intrusion of a human body into a given space, the intrusion of one order into another.”

Dedicated to the interface between 21st-century culture and architecture, Bernard Tschumi Architects is an international architectural and urban design services firm with over $1 billion worth of projects for institutional, private, and civic clients. With offices in New York and Paris, the firm has been the recipient of numerous national and international honors, and has established a world reputation for its innovative design solutions to client concerns of different sizes and scales, from small facilities to large-scale master plans.

Bernard Tschumi established the firm in Paris in 1983 with the commission for the Parc de la Villette and opened the head office, Bernard Tschumi Architects (BTA), in New York in 1988. Bernard Tschumi urbanistes Architectes (BTuA) was established in Paris in 2002 to act as executive architects for BTA’s French projects. All designs are personally directed and supervised by Bernard Tschumi.

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