Let us assure you

Architecture can often find itself in service of a message: this institution is trustworthy or forward-thinking; that individual or company is powerful; here is a world you want to buy into. This topic looks at examples of the built environment as a kind of public relations strategy. In unpacking the ways that architecture—and, equally importantly, representations of it—lays claims and exerts influence, we might better understand the versions of reality that architecture proposes to us.

Article 8 of 16

Stone and Gold

Photographs by Edward Burtynsky, Serge Hambourg, James Iska, Len Jenshel, David Miller, John Pfahl, George A. Tice, and Catherine Wagner

The relationship between changing architectural styles and the evolution of banking practice emerged almost immediately as the critical issue [when work began on Money Matters in 1985].…Bankers used new architectural fashions and technological advances to serve their industry’s changing needs—occasionally even setting the pace in innovation. These needs have always been both physical and psychological. Bankers have always relied heavily on architecture to convince people of the stability, security, and solvency of their institutions.
— Susan Wagg, 19911

  1. “North American Bank Architecture: An Overview,” in Money Matters (Montreal: Canadian Centre for Architecture, 1991), 21. 

These photographs were shown in the exhibition Money Matters, which travelled here in 1991. The project originated as a photographic commission by the Parnassus Foundation aiming to generate a comprehensive look at the architecture of banks in North America. The Parnassus Foundation donated a set of prints from the commission to our collection in 1993. Even by that time, many of the names of the banks depicted had changed.


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