in the Electronic Age
Jonathan E. Schroeder
Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm
The Bank of New York's web site shows a small image of a classical templelike building—not the bank's own building, but the U.S. Treasury building in Washington, DC. Corinthian columns, a rusticated entablature, and a classical frieze are just visible on the web site, peering out from the lower right corner of the page, which appears in several places throughout the site (see Fig. 18.1). The bank points to its 200 years of experience and achievement in words and images, adopting the classical language to the latest electronic forum. Alluding to both its tradition of providing the first loan to the fledgling U.S. government, and banking's echo of the federal government's embrace of classicism, the web site provides evidence of the enduring and flexible power of the classical form—an architectural language that lives on in the electronic age.
Although space and time are transfigured within the information-based electronic world of contemporary commerce, architectural design remains an ancient, powerful, persuasive method for communicating consumer values. We study building brands, constructing networks, and testing structural models, yet there is little architectural discourse within consumer research scholarship. Architecture is not part of the consumer research toolbox. There is a movement toward studying “servicescapes, ” some studies about design, and more on retailing atmospherics, but few studies place architecture—bricks and mortar as well as symbol and expression—at the center. Of course, there is a growing research literature about on-site ethnographic studies, spectacular consumer palaces such as DisneyWorld, Las Vegas, and Nike Town, and interview subjects are often “intercepted” at the shopping mall (cf. Sherry, 1998). However, architecture is more than the place that