“A Thing is its Own Best Mask”

Antagonisms of the Architectural Wrap


  • Colin Sterling University College London, UK




wrapped buildings, architectural preservation, urban heritage, surrealism, facadism


This photo essay interrogates an increasingly familiar sight in the preservation landscape of our cities: buildings encased in images of themselves. The strange details of these architectural wraps are photographed as a means of exposing the surreal fissures that speak to their underlying ontologies, explored here with reference to Slavoj Zizek's concept of the parallax and Graham Harman's notion of immaterialism. This photographic archaeology further seeks to unravel the overarching inconsistencies of heritage and preservation, with the building wrap seen to embody many of the paradoxes and tensions of these fields.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Colin Sterling, University College London, UK

Colin Sterling is currently a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London and formerly Project Curator at the Royal Institute of British Architects.


Calvino, I. 1997 [1972]. Invisible Cities. Translated by W. Weaver. London: Vintage.

Glancey, J. 1995. “It’s a Wrap.” The Independent, 16 June. Available online: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/its-a-wrap-1586760.html

Harman, G. and S. Žižek. 2017. “Duel + Duet: Graham Harman and Slavoj Žižek.” Conversation on 1 March, 2017, at SCI-Arc, Los Angeles. Available online: https://www.facebook.com/sciarc/videos/10154404056385872/

Jameson, F. 2006. “First Impressions.” [Review of Slavoj Žižek, The Parallax View] London Review of Books 28 (7): 7–8.

Mundy, J. 2012. “Lost Art: Christo and Jeanne-Claude.” Tate, 12 November. Available online: http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/gallery-lost-art-christo-jeanne-claude

Murray, J. 2013. “Cost of Digitally Printed Building Wrap on Mesh Banner.” Wide Format World, 7 August 2013. Available online: http://www.wideformatworld.com/profiles/blogs/cost-of-digitally-printed-building-wrap-on-mesh-banner

Richards, J. 1994. Facadism. London: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203308684

Richards, W. 2016. “Ritual Evidence.” [Interview with Jorge Otero-Pailos] Architect Magazine, 7 March. Available online: http://www.architectmagazine.com/aia-architect/aiafeature/ritual-evidence_o

Roth, M. S. 2012. Memory, Trauma, and History: Essays on Living with the Past. New York: Columbia University Press.

Žižek, S. 2005. “The Christian-Hegelian Comedy.” Cabinet 17. Available online: http://www.cabinetmagazine.org/issues/17/zizek.php

____. 2006. The Parallax View. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

____. 2009. “Architectural Parallax: Spandrels and Other Phenomena of Class Struggle.” Lacan Dot Com. Available online: http://www.lacan.com/essays/?page_id=218



How to Cite

Sterling, C. (2017). “A Thing is its Own Best Mask”: Antagonisms of the Architectural Wrap. Journal of Contemporary Archaeology, 4(1), 91–106. https://doi.org/10.1558/jca.32400



Photo Essays