Televising architecture : media, public engagement, and design in America

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2014-05
Authors
Dodd, Samuel Tommy
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Abstract

Starting in the 1940s, the cultural revolution associated with the popularity of television placed new demands on how and where designers communicated the value of their work with the American public. "Televising Architecture" explains how architects, planners, and other design professionals used television as a communication technology and as a cultural platform for shaping public opinion on the built environment. Each of the six chapters describes a specific purpose and context for the application of television to architectural practice. I consider public affairs programs produced by the American Institute of Architects; the use of closed-circuit television for space simulations; public service announcements meant to offset negative coverage on urbanism; interactive television projects that elicited community participation in planning; and PBS mini-series on the history of American architecture. I conclude by discussing Home and Garden Television (HGTV) as a lesson in media convergence for design professionals in the twenty-first century.

"Televising Architecture" provides a new way to understand architecture not as a text, image, or built object, but as a complex system of communication models — including representation, negotiation, mediation, and participation — that occur between design experts and the public at large. I draw from the work of media and technology scholars who treat media as sites of negotiation and convergence. One of my primary methods is to analyze the largely untapped archive of architectural images, texts, and sound-bites found in television programming. I do so by examining programs themselves, including frame-by-frame analysis to identify what the programs communicated through visual tropes and camera and editing techniques, and a textual analysis, drawing on transcripts, program summaries, and press coverage. As a result, Televising Architecture provides historical perspectives— and a series of media lessons— for understanding the practice of architecture in our current digital culture, wherein architects must navigate a new media environment in the pursuit of social relevance.

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