Using architecture as a marketing tool is a concept which has been pioneered across the USA, with airports, malls and even bus shelters carrying advertising messages and slogans.
But according to Dubai-based designer Andre Meyerhans the concept can be taken further –bringing together buildings, apps, phones and people.
His plans include getting people to fully interact with their surrounding buildings, listening to messages, watching images as they shop, move through an urban environment to take their leisure.
French company JCDevaux – pioneered using spaces in the streets and shopping hubs of America and is now operating more than a million screens in 55 different countries and plans are underway for Dubai.
Kinetic, a company specialising in digital outdoor marketing, said it expected the number of road-side advertising screens to soar globally between now and 2020 while Budapest airport is the latest transport centre to offer what its director Ildiko Wagner called “an array of communication opportunities”.
Swiss-born Meyerhans, who runs his own architecture firm in Dubai, has worked with brands including Alfred Dunhill, Cartier, Hugo Boss and Christian LaCroix as well as designing buildings – the latest being a sculpted tower in Abu Dhabi. He said: “The intensity of a marketing message, how effective it is conveyed, relates to the quality of engagement of the receiver.
“This means, if one only hears a message it is most likely less actively recorded than when the same information is presented in a moving image with sound.
“Architecture can build the frame for such activities while visualising values and messages at the same time.
“These can be direct or more subtle. Flagship stores are a good example where you see marketing, branding, interaction and architecture merge and a world themed around a product is created.
“In a large scale we see it at Ferrari-World.”
Meyerhans, who is currently talking to a major international company about a Dubai campaign, said advances in technology would bring marketing and architecture closer together.
He explained: “Modern technology brought interaction on a different level with real-time communication between location and individual handheld devices.
“Currently still a challenge in this field are the two-way communication which makes the process really interesting.
If aesthetics is not only understood as a visual appearance but something connected to content than interactivity is relevant for aesthetics as it provides a more stimulating environment to people than a non-interactive building. Furthermore, it encourages people to take ownership of areas which results cleaner and safer places.”
Interactive architecture could also be of benefit to retail, by encouraging people to stay for longer in shops, according to Meyerson.
He said: “Malls, for example, carefully design their layout to ensure visitors stay as long as possible in their premises to increase shopping transactions. Similarly, revenues of Dubai Duty Free rose when average transit time at the Dubai Airport has been risen by one hour.”
But not everyone relishes the concept of architecture and marketing becoming interchangeable.
Dubai has increasingly relied on branding to fund projects, events and exhibitions and critcs say that the company logos and sponsorship overpower whatever it is they are supposed to be backing.
Salim Hussain of BSBG said that he did not want the same happening to architectureز
He said: “The question for me is to what scale do you introduce this to the built environment?
“Everything becomes a billboard and everything becomes a commodity or about promoting a commodity. Is that really what we want the built environment in our towns and cities to be about?”