Icon Footprint

Humans construct their environment by creating different settlements that represent their culture and identity. When a community expects to assemble a big number of persons it needs to create artefacts that can make big masses engage with it. That’s why big cities need iconic buildings. In order to build an image that can set up a dialogue in a large scale they need a representative structure. An iconic building has to be a construction that looks like no other and that stays in the mind of its visitors to give a sense of uniqueness. Besides leaving a physical mark in the site it also leaves an intangible mark in the idea of the city: it’s the icon footprint.

icon footprint of the Centre Pompidou in Paris by Rezo Piano and Richard Rogers

Architecture is not only about creating a container for a useful programme, it’s about defining the environment we live in. All the elements that characterize architecture, set up a pace in which we tune in. Having different stimulations is a necessity to make us want to be in a particular city. Some buildings need to have a strong impact and others should just blend with the city. Icons become more than its functional purpose and feed the notion of space and culture. Although they might be framed in a block as any other building, they have the ability to stand out and set a tone.

icon footprint of the Seattle Central Library by OMA + LMN

When thinking about an iconic building it’s about its capacity to give a strong image that will live on in the collective imagery and at the same time to let the viewers imagination carry them away. All in all the main characteristic is not its physical presence but its intangible one. Façades, interiors, long distant views and close-ups are blurred in a singular concept that is defined by the icon.

icon footprint of Beijing National Stadium by Herzog & de Meuron

If we would draw city plans with the influence of the icon footprint, cities would look very different from a satellite photography: we would have a sense of the true meaning of a city, which is not defined by an extensive urbanisation but an extensive cultural impact. The icon footprint area of influence is where the intensity of engagement resides and makes each human settlement unique.

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