A Semiotic Analysis of Duplicative Redundancy in Commercial Architectural Signals: Design in Ambulatory Spatial Structures and in Sign and Typographical Transmissions

By Paul Matthew St. Pierre.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Essential to the design of contemporary commercial architecture is duplicative redundancy, multiple signals that signify the same referent. Thus, a staircase is a semiotic device that signifies a message about human mobility; its vectorization indicates the possibility of upward or downward movement. But the staircase may be identified in additional signs such as the word “STAIRS” and the symbols “➚” or “➘”. These duplicative signs are redundant, conveying the same message about the referent of possible upward or downward movement as the vectorization of the staircase itself, but also eliminating noise by ensuring the staircase can be located and identified under various conditions. In contrast, an elevator, having no intrinsic physical vectorization, may be located and its vectorization identified with signs such as the words “ELEVATOR” and “UP” and “DOWN” and the symbols “↑” and “↓”. Additionally the elevator’s vectorization is evident in its floor numbers “G”, “1”, “2”, “3”, and so on. All these are duplicative signs of the elevator’s referent of vectorization and the possibility of upward and downward movement. Commercial architecture exploits duplicative redundancy to direct human movement, using typographies and symbols as well as the physical structures of ascent and descent, ingress and egress, and transit and enclosure. In its designed redundancy commercial architecture transmits messages about human mobility and passage and eliminates the noise of the equivocal messages that prevent buildings from transmitting their information.

Keywords: Commercial Architecture, Duplicative Redundancy, Vectorization, Human Mobility, Signaling System

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp.361-374. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.618MB).

Dr. Paul Matthew St. Pierre

Associate Professor, Department of English, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Associate Professor of English at Simon Fraser University, I specialize in Performance Theory, Film Studies, Semiotics, and Biosemiotics. I am also Director of the Explorations Program at SFU. I am a painter and an installation artist with an executive as well as a theoretical interest in design. My current academic project is a book on involuntary hand movement as sign transmission in human living systems, in which I use the methodology of biosemiotics, which combines biology, neurology, and biomechanics with semiotics. I have published books on the performers Barry Humphries and Elsie and Doris Waters, on British film 1895-1960, and on the German film director E. A. Dupont. I am a delegate in the Delegate Assembly of the Modern Language Association, in which capacity I attended the MLA Conference in Chicago in 2007.


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