Building for Branding

According to Joseph Pine and James Gilmore, co-authors of The Experience Economy, the competitive battleground lies in staging experiences. For Anna Klingmann, author of BrandscapesArchitecture in the Experience Economy, we are no longer consuming objects but sensations and lifestyles. Anna strongly believes in the potential power of architecture in creating and dramatising customer experiences. Building for branding: “architecture can use the concepts and methods of branding – not as a quick-and-easy selling tool but as a strategic tool for economic and cultural transformation”.

BMW pioneered the idea in the seventies when they built their German headquarters. The BMW four-cylinder tower has been shaping Munich’s cityscape for more than 40 years now. The floor plan includes four cylinders arranged in a cross shape as in the engine of a car. It was declared a protected historic building in 1999. The architecture not only conveys a sense of engineer’s pride, it also demonstrates how focus is the company’s passion to create the ultimate driving machines.

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Opened in 1995 to mark the centennial of the company’s founding, the Swarovski Crystal World is now the second most visited destination in Austria. Here the magic of crystal is staged in a stunning way with fourteen “Chambers of Wonder” created by world-renowned artists and designers such as Alexander McQueen, Tord Boontje and Brian Eno.

On a more intimate scale, Bourdon House in London’s Mayfair is the true spiritual home of Alfred Dunhill and incidentally, the former London residence of the Duke of Westminster, another symbol of grandeur and distinction in British heritage. The decision to open it to the public and transform the house into a Dunhill emporium (including a bespoke tailoring room, barber, cellar bar and museum) makes tangible, opulent and stylish the Dunhill experience.

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Drinks brands have not stayed indifferent to this architectural renaissance. Bricks and mortar for them mean stills and casks to display and dramatise. So timely with the rise of local authentic artisan spirit brands. It is likely Guinness led the way in 2000 in opening its storehouse at St James’ Gate Brewery in Dublin, Ireland. The building covers 7 floors surrounding a glass atrium in the shape of a pint. In 2006 a new wing opened incorporating a live installation of the present day brewing process.

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Beefeater also realised that owning a distillery in central London was a great asset to claim to the world. Last year the original building, located in Kennington since 1958, was opened to the public. Here visitors can discover the history of Beefeater entwined with the history of London gin and learn how the hand-crafted production process is still following the secret recipe of founder James Burrough.

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If you don’t have a beautiful structure to show, don’t worry. . . Build one! Bombay Sapphire, the legendary gin brand, created its landmark distillery from scratch but not just anywhere – in rural Hampshire. With the help of designer Thomas Heatherwick, the company transformed Laverstoke Mill, a 300 year old paper mill. The site, which has over 1000 years of history, is within a Conservation Area and is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). In recognition of all this, the distillery was awarded the highly prestigious BREEAM Award for Industrial Design in 2014.

By creating some architectural drama around their manufacturing or inspirational places, brands literally build their presence and influence. They not only magnify their legacy but offer immersive multi-dimensional experiences. Back to the real stuff.

 – Patrice Civanyan

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