Landmarks & Movements

Landmarks & Movements

Cologne, Germany



Definitions of landmark:


In literature: a geographic feature used by explorers and others to find their way back or through an area. In modern usage: a landmark includes anything that is easily recognizable, such as a monument, building, or other structure.


In American English: to designate places that might be of interest to tourists due to notable physical features or historical significance.


In urban studies as well as in geography: an external point of reference that helps orienting in a familiar or unfamiliar environment


In American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition:
1st. Of, relating to, or having the character of an icon.
2nd. Having a conventional formulaic style. Used of certain memorial statues and busts.

In Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia:
1.Of or pertaining to a portrait or likeness or to portraiture; of the nature of a portrait.
2.Of, pertaining to, or resembling in any way an icon or sacred image, or the style of such image-paintings.
3.In art, conventional: applied to such work as the statues of victorious athletes commonly dedicated to divinities in antiquity, or to memorial statues and portrait-busts executed after fixed models or types, as the busts of the sovereign set up in British courts of justice.


In Wiktionary:
1.adj. Relating to, or having the characteristics of, an icon.

In WordNet 3.0:
1.adj. Relating to or having the characteristics on an icon

From the day that cities were born, they shaped themselves around references points which the city would grow around it and make an image in mind of inhabitants and visitors. As the cities started to grow, having strong points to show the richness and power of city through them became more important. Nowadays is also not so much different. What we perceive from the cities at a glance is landmarks and iconic buildings. There have been shaping the spatial organization of the city through history.


As quoted by David Dillon: “Iconic buildings still have an intrinsic role in defining ‘place’. Iconic buildings are landmarks that help us associate with a place … Iconic buildings tell us where we are, at a glance….we can‘t decipher the landscape without them”.

Iconic buildings are memorable since they are a break from routine. The concept of landmarks as something extraordinary has two readings. In one hand, is the morphologic reading which means the bigger and more eternal, the better. This is the point of view of architecture. And on the other hand the functional reading which means the more enjoyable, the better. This is the point of view of urban planning.


However not everybody interprets icons and landmarks in the cities in such way. Iconics and anti-iconics architects all have one common ground, a positive human characteristic. Any debates appeared to end with agreement that it is primarily quality that can make or break any building, not stylistic typology. But there is more to it than that. Anti-Iconics claim that such buildings are not needed and sustainable, so they have a negative effect on our society. These pieces would be considered as a “signature of Architect” rather than a good building.


However, in urban studies it is proven that cities need referencing point. Aldo Rossi mentioned in his book “the architecture of the City” that landmarks are the source of meanings and feelings with which we recognize the city or ourselves. He advancing this theory for urban artifacts and with a novel vision for urbanism says that a city is a collective memory of its people, and like memory it is associated with objects and places. The city is locus of collective memory.


There always have been various attempts to create a conscious collective memory through architecture and urbanism, or in another word to fill the emptiness that comes from having no memories, in the history of man. What can be concluded from Rossi’s book is to build in the city not merely a physical transformation, but a transformation of the collective mental life of its habitants. Rossi and many architects had trust in this concept that for them the notion of the building is in the memory that they stand for.


In a way it is concluded that Icons bring the issue of branding to the cities, after all. They are one of the major elements which put the city on the maps.


In an event sponsored by CCA in June 2007 in Canada, Rem Koolhaas implied that there is an urgency of “the life and death of the icon” and this death is because of overdose of the city. He emphasized that there is nothing wrong in the notion of icons but it is how architects do it nowadays since architecturally icons are harmless and innocent.


In the same event in the same conference Peter Eisenman said: “in a way we need to make people more in touch with the physical environment. Because after all, Architecture is a one discipline that brings the mind, hand, the eye in physical being together.”