The ‘Image’ Problem

Foster + Partners' Gherkin used in ad for erectile dysfunction treatment

A manipulated photo showing Norman Foster’s Gherkin skyscraper (2004) as a flaccid phallus has been used by a UK retailer to advertise pharmaceuticals.

Foster + Partners' Gherkin used in ad for erectile dysfunction treatment

The image is tagged by a headline asking “Lost the perk-in in your gherkin” in an advertisement appearing in the London newspaper The Evening Standard [see Dezeen]. The ad’s text promotes “Erectile Dysfunction treatment you can trust” sold at Lloyds pharmacies.

The image in the ad ‘quotes’ a drawing by architect and urbanist Leon Krier showing the alter-ego of Foster’s London tower as a wilting “architectural priapism”.

Architectural priapism by Leon Krier

The sketch (from The Architecture of Community, 2009) parodies the phallic form of modern skyscrapers:

The hollow priapism of the utilitarian skyscraper and the pathological monumentalism of totalitarian bombast are the proliferating symbols of catastrophic hubris, of loss of human limits, of humaneness tout court.

It’s generally people who need to show their power and they don’t know why, but it’s stronger than them because, intellectually, you cannot argue for high-rise cities. The more you densify a city, the more congestion will increase, [no matter how much] technology changes … cities so packed that they will no longer function … [amount to just so much] vertical sprawl.

Leon Krier

Foster + Partners' Gherkin used in ad for erectile dysfunction treatment

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