Eavesdrop> The AIA “looks up”

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Some of Safdie's work seen in the "I Look Up" film. (Screengrab from AIA)

Some of Safdie’s work seen in the “I Look Up” film. (Screengrab from AIA)

Today, December 12th, the architectural world changed forever. Is that an overstatement? Entirely, but the AIA did launch a new social media campaign that it’s really excited about. It’s called “Look Up” and the AIA said it marks the next phase of its “multi-year repositioning initiative” to increase the public’s awareness about the importance of design.

Like all good social media campaigns, “Look Up” came into this world with a slickly produced promotional video and, expectedly, a hashtag: #ilookup. The video is awash in stock footage of clouds, skyscrapers, water, natural landscapes, a sunrise or two, and some science-y looking things. Mixed between the imagery are architectural models, blueprints, and noteworthy buildings (hello AIA gold medalist Moshe Safdie, twice). Take out the architecture moments and the video is almost a carbon copy of  “This Is a Generic Brand Video,” a parody created by Dissolve, a purveyor of stock footage.

“Tell me,” says a deep-voiced narrator in the AIA’s video, “what do you see when you look up? Walls? Windows? Or do you see something else?” Before the narrator can answer his own question, there are some time-lapsed stars, a few trees, an intricate ceiling, a woman staring into the sun, and then, boom, he’s back. “To be an architect is to look up, even before we put pencil to paper.”

With the video comes the inevitable Twitter campaign which asks followers to “look up” and post what they see under the hashtag #ilookup. For example, Twitter user Manuel posted a photo of the Willis Tower and Craig Toocheck saw the Chrysler Building. But here’s the thing, sometimes when you “look up” you don’t see the most interesting thing. Case in point, Toocheck’s previous tweet:

It didn’t take long for the AIA’s followers to more directly attack the premise behind the “I Look Up” campaign. Ethan Kent, the senior vice president of the Project for Public Spaces, tweeted that he hoped the AIA would put more focus on human scale and place-making over looking skyward. To that, the AIA tweeted back “haters gonna hate,” spurring a number of additional tweets among urbanism circles. The Institute has since deleted that tweet. Why don’t we all just calm down and wait to see what Arcade Fire thinks.

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