Cities competing for tourist dollars strive for distinctiveness in an increasingly globalised world, a distinctiveness that is frequently achieved through the making of new urban icons. These icons are designed as symbols of success and wealth and can be visual, tangible, and imaginary
or real in a climate where publicity and perception play an even more crucial role in the marketing of cities. The value of architecture is no longer appraised merely as a formal object but by its ability to elicit relevant transformations. For both the general public and students of architecture,
it is often the photographic media that acts as a mediator between the idea and the reality of iconic architecture. This paper explores the 'iconic' in the built environment and then reflects on the experiences of forty postgraduate architecture, interior architecture and landscape architecture
students from New Zealand as they visit iconic architecture and landscapes in three iconic European cities. Students were asked to identify iconic architecture and landscapes, followed by close analysis and documentation of the essential qualities which established their pre-eminence. A subsequent
visit to each of the places studied provided the opportunity to test the importance of authentic context and the realities and fictions of the icons themselves.
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