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The Architecture of City Identities: A Multimodal Study of Barcelona and Boston

Multimodality, Meaning, and Institutions

ISBN: 978-1-78743-332-8, eISBN: 978-1-78743-331-1

ISSN: 0733-558X

Publication date: 30 November 2017


City identity is a distinct form of collective identity based on the perceived uniqueness and meanings of place, rather than group category and membership. A city’s identity is constructed over time through architecture, which involves three sign systems – material, visual, and rhetorical – and multiple institutional actors to communicate the city’s distinctiveness and identity. We compare Barcelona and Boston to examine the identity and meaning created and communicated by different groups of professionals, such as architects, city planners, international guide book writers, and local cultural critics, who perform the semiotic work of ­constructing city identity.




We gratefully acknowledge financial support from the Danish Research Council DFF-1327-00030, Boston College and ESADE Business School. We appreciate comments from participants at the 2nd workshop on Visuality, Materiality, and Multimodality at Copenhagen Business School. We thank Helena Viladàs and Meena Andiappian for their research assistance in the early stages of this project.


Jones, C. and Svejenova, S. (2017), "The Architecture of City Identities: A Multimodal Study of Barcelona and Boston", Höllerer, M.A., Daudigeos, T. and Jancsary, D. (Ed.) Multimodality, Meaning, and Institutions (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 54B), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 203-234.



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