Today is World Emoji Day—probably not something you’d expect to be covered in a blog that focuses on modern design. But when emojis are used prominently in a building’s design, how could we not?
The word “emoji” comes from a combination of the Japanese words for “picture” and “character.” These ideograms and smiley faces have only increased in popularity since their debut on Japanese cell phones in the late 1990s.
Changiz Tehrani, an architect at a Dutch firm called Attika Architekten, has designed an emoji-adorned building in Amersfoot. The pictographs look out on a square that houses a 150-year-old oak tree where students from a nearby school often come to eat their lunches.
There is a long tradition of decorating buildings with the faces of angels, gargoyles, or historical figures. Angels and gargoyles were often carved into buildings to protect against dark forces, while historical figures were engraved as a means of honor and remembrance. While the emoji building might not protect you from anything (except maybe a bad day), it could be seen as homage to the current time. Emojis might go out of style, but this building will allow future spectators to identify the facade as a piece of 21st-century design and history.
Tehrani was inspired in his design by the students at a school next to the building. “When we start a project,” he told Dornob, “we analyze the context and use that in our architecture…One of the things that played a role in this case was the young audience. Next to the building is a school with a lot of teenagers.”
Today, you can see many of those same students out front of the building taking pictures of it.
Part of a larger complex called “Plein rond de eik,” the building incorporates 22 emojis that run the gamut from smiley to frowny. Tehrani felt that the round shape of the emojis made them “perfect, iconic, and subtle.” These symbols might confuse older generations. But they’ll be instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever owned a smartphone as, “emojis are the fastest growing international language.”
Far from being purely whimsical, Teharni designed the building with dark bricks and straight lines to give it a clean and professional aesthetic. Additionally, the concrete belts on which the emojis are engraved serve a structural purpose. They act as a shelf angle to support the weight of the bricks, so they are, “above being nice, very functional.” The emoji tiles themselves were made into 3-D models based on their Whatsapp template before being made into molds, cast in concrete and incorporated into the front side of the building.
The building contains shops and apartments and is near a library, school, and theater, giving it high traffic and plenty of attention. If you ever find yourself in Amersfoort in the Netherlands, I’d strongly recommend you go and check out this very emotional building.
Rhyen Clevenger is a site merchandiser at YBath. While he is new to the bath team, it does not hinder his enthusiasm for decorative plumbing. On the weekends he enjoys curling up with his fiancé and watching some good science fiction.