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We need to create an archipropaganda

26 of February '24

Where does the battle for good architecture and urban planning really take place? I assume that the most popular answers to this question would talk about the offices of ministers, the halls of universities, conference exchanges or over mock-ups in architectural studios. The aforementioned places are important, but this battle takes place somewhere else.

To venture the thesis that mass media and archipropaganda may be more important than meetings organized by architectural institutions may cause headaches for quite a number of architects and employees of the professional self-government. Nevertheless, sometimes TikTok and the autumn television frame will be more important than conferences on architecture in the fight for good space or sustainable architecture. In what way? It is worth citing a distant example from our European perspective.

A soap opera on the road to tolerance

The " ForeignDepartment " service and podcast created by Maciej Okraszewski aims to provide information and knowledge about regions of the world that are completely overlooked in the Polish media. What happens in Lesotho, Newfoundland or Latin America interests us superficially - very often wrongly. I was particularly interested in the podcast episode "How telenovelas have strengthened tolerance in Latin America." It's a fascinating journey through the beginning of the emergence of forms of novella broadcasting (which, as the author points out, began with the employment of voiceovers in cigar manufacturing manufactories), to the large-scale productions that were often lived not only in Latin America, but the entire world. As the author points out, telenovelas are not worth seeing only as worthless soap operas, but as a mass medium that can, and in principle already has, contributed to positive change.

It was telenovelas that helped break taboos about LGBT+ people in a conservative region of the world such as Latin American countries. From great controversy over a dozen years, it has come to a point where the portrayal of LGBT+ people is considered perfectly normal. No information campaign, pickets, debates or leaflets can convey a different vision of the world than what a good story can offer. The power of the message that Theodor Adorno described is immutable. So it is worth appreciating the power of the soap opera and wondering if it could also be helpful to architects.

through the eyes of the imagination

It is worth proposing a short exercise for the imagination. How much easier it would be to discuss suburbanization in the social sphere if the phenomenon was illustrated by the problem of how to get an ambulance to the protagonist of one of the many Polish soap operas, who has fainted in a suburb, as a result of which she becomes paralyzed. Of no less interest could be the story of an architect who is pulling his hair out trying to support his family in the face of free projects funded by ministries.

I wonder how much the number of established rain gardens, micro-forests or small fourth nature parks would increase if a tiktoker or influencer produced on the subject, setting up such enclaves as part of a publicity stunt?It would be equally interesting to translate into the language of mass media the issues of modern urbanism with sustainable transportation, the need for thermal modernization and the pursuit of energy efficiency, or the role of architecture and urbanism in shaping our everyday life. Perhaps it is the soap opera that flies after Teleexpress, TikTok or a YouTube program made by content creators for the masses that could promote the resolution of issues that seem reserved for the industry. Perhaps archipropaganda is the cure for many of the shortcomings of our reality? Locking these challenges within the narrow walls of chambers and associations serves no one.

about two breakthroughs in two directions: the city of fifteen minutes and concretosis

Postulating the creation of an archipropaganda, it is worth noting that it is not a space without examples, which in Poland began to stir controversy. An interesting career was made by the term betonosis, which, even if overused and often understood in a selective way, broke through to a mass audience, realistically changing the approach to the planning of urban squares. The positive as well as negative aspects of the term are worth discussing today, but its impact is hard to undermine. Empty discourse without coverage and populism? At times, yes, but it has realistically changed reality.

An example a rebours to the positive aspects of the popularity of the word betonosis is the city of fifteen minutes, as I wrote about in May 2023. The term has proven to be a decoy for all sorts of conspiracy theories, which are increasingly leading to the exclusion not only of meaningful discussion, but more importantly, of the meaning of the concept. Today, fewer and fewer people are using the term not out of fear of what the so-called heads in tin foil hats are creating, but out of fear of being misunderstood.

archipropaganda needed yesterday?

The popularization of certain problems and solutions in the field of architecture and urban planning by mass media in the form of soap operas and TikToks can hardly be considered a viable program for change that could be proposed by a local government or a group of architects. Such archilobbing would be incredibly difficult to orchestrate, and, above all, should not distract from, but complement, the discussion among professionals. Nevertheless, it is hard to underestimate the mass media and its role, where archipropaganda could prove to be an important tool, if only the environment finds the right way to use it.

Wiktor Bochenek

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