Why are buildings named?

Having worked with over 65,0000 apartments across three countries (Canada, Ireland, & United States), I often myself musing about the naming convention of buildings.

(The Whimsical Pig Apartments, seriously?!)

After some consideration, I think for a modern day development it must be a brand play by the architect or developer as they usually have a theme in mind. Naming a building provides a sense of story, and it adds a human element of sorts, a sentimental value to the project in addition to creating a sense of grandiose that lends to the character of the building and development community.

However, I’m less interested in the names of newer buildings, especially new condominiums. In the world of condos, there is always an underlying motive to create an (inflated) sense of value, and promote a brand for sale purposes. More often than not, it comes off as a bit trite. Especially in a city like Toronto where there are more condos under development than presently anywhere else in the world, the industry just seems to give off that impression. With fierce competition between developments, and many providing similar offerings, these projects quickly draw attention to their name/brand for sales purposes as a way to compensate for originality, and the marketing team thinks they’re focusing on lifestyle because they believe that is what the consumer wants. Often simply overlooking or shadowing out more essential needs of the homebuyer. However, there are the occasional exceptions of course.

To the average Joe like myself, we could not care less about a made up brand for a building unless it has some unique function or practical value, or real historical connection. A building name and by association the ‘brand’ only has true value if it’s truly authentic in nature. Truly authentic is a hard idea to define, perhaps I need to mull it over a bit further to clarify what I mean by that to be clear on how I would quantify it.

I’m digressing from the original point I wanted to make, and that is I’ve always held a curiosity about the naming conventions of buildings. Why do we name buildings? How did the practice start? Is there a real purpose to naming a building? Is there any practical benefit?

I suspect there’s some deep-rooted historical significance to naming buildings. I’ve googled around a bit over the past few months, but I haven’t turned up any golden nuggets. Although I do have some thoughtful reasons for why I think we name buildings; I’ll have to share it in a future article in which I discuss Ireland, specifically Dublin as I’ve made some interesting observations which I’d love to share.

Lastly, I did find one link that was semi-interesting, an article from the Ottawa Citizen: What developers look at in creating the brand. I’m just going to take the last paragraph and quote it:

After all, when it comes to naming, it’s all about showing the people what they want — community, quality and the possibility of an urban lifestyle. It’s about selling the dream.

If you have any thoughts or insightful knowledge about building names or the practice of such, please drop a comment. I’m very interested in knowing more.

Josh Vinegar