Materials make brandspaces

The soft factors of branding: Thoughtful use of materials in corporate presentations can create a distinctive profile.

Every planning process eventually reaches the point where the pencil lines or animations consisting of millions of pixels have to be implemented in stone, rubber, glass, ceramics or some other physically tangible material. The choice of materials gives rise to spatial images that suggest solidity or fragility and can elicit different sensations in observers, such as warmth or cold. Materials are bearers and communicators of emotions and influence our spatial perception and comfort in spaces. Whether a space appears cheap or exclusive, inviting or unwelcoming is primarily decided by the visible and tangible surfaces. Materiality becomes a three-dimensional user interface that communicates information, creates moods and makes identity palpable.
Traditional materials are being replaced by new materials that were often developed for quite different fields, such as car manufacturing, competitive sport or medical technology. Innovative materials are being created that can surprise and confuse our familiar expectations. They combine previously incompatible properties and refute known chemical and physical laws. The boundaries between wood, metal, ceramics and plastics are being blurred to form tailored products, known as ‘custom-made' in materials science. The result is that the perceived surface no longer has to match the expected material properties such as weight and strength. The desired emotional effect is simulated.
Fake - that is, the world of artificiality and imitation - is becoming a topic in trade fair and exhibition architecture where it is enabling new ways of creating identity in three dimensions. For example, the Swiss architect Jacques Herzog sees simulation as an extremely fruitful and interesting means of expression in architecture: "If the indistinguishability of the genuine and fake is accepted, then this is something that has always heavily interested and influenced us."
Real buildings and rooms cannot be experienced without us actually being there. You have to walk round them, explore them and enter them. A real visit to a trade fair or exhibition cannot be replaced by virtual presentations or effortless surfing. Materials are the key that takes you from virtual space to really experiencing the "soft" factors of branding such as identity, sympathy and emotion. The visitor would like to "inspect" and touch the space forming elements of wall panelling and flooring, furniture and textiles to find out more about their properties. This is borne out by the fact that tourists almost compulsively touch and feel the objects and buildings they are visiting. As three-dimensional marketing instruments, brandspaces are the spatial visiting card of companies and their brands. By using new materials, companies can develop their own profile and set themselves apart from the competition. The right choice of materials conveys associations and information on corporate contents and principles to customers and employees.
For example, an innovative façade with promotional value, which has already received the Scandinavian metal prize for architects, has been designed for the sales and marketing centre of the Danish shoe manufacturer Ecco. The principles of the company, which is located on the flat marshland near Tønder, about 25 km northwest of Flensburg, are "creativity, innovation and environmental awareness". Based on the criteria defined by the company, the architects from the Danish Arkitektfirmaet Rudolf Lolk A/S, Esbjerg, chose a material for the façade that is characterised by innovative possibilities in colour design, long life and recycling. The two bevelled exhibition cubes are clad in anthracite-coloured pre-painted aluminium in standing seam quality, which harmonises well with the surrounding hues. Details were considered very important. For example, special sections permit clean contours at the corners of the building despite the inclined walls. A further unusual element are the expressive window strips that lend the grid for the façade panelling a dynamic character and result in an unusual use of daylight in the interior. Jons Messedat

m+a report Nr.7 / 2006 vom 27.10.2006
m+a report vom 27. Oktober 2006