In the Netherlands, one man has taken one of the most recognizable symbols of our time and turned it into a modern-day mascaron. Perhaps building on the success of #Archemoji, architect Changiz Tehrani has turned a few of the most familiar WhatsApp emojis into 3D models and cast the faces in concrete for a small suburban development in the Amersfoort city limits. Unlike the baby heads and mermaids that adorn this reporter's 19th-century New York apartment building, the faces on this building are understated. Placed at regular intervals along the facade's white concrete banding, the recessed emojis blend easily with the building's simple gridded brick-and-concrete facade. “In classical architecture they used heads of the king or whatever, and they put that on the facade,” Tehrani told The Verge. “So we were thinking, what can we use as an ornament so when you look at this building in 10 or 20 years you can say ‘hey this is from that year!’” The architect, who works for Dutch firm Attika Architekten, produced 22 emojis for the building, which anchors the Vathorst town square. Although the structure was completed two years ago, the emojis were only installed last month. Tehrani has some thoughts for self- anointed guardians of good taste who may dismiss the faces as too trendy: "If you look at history, people always think ‘Oh this is timeless,’ or ‘This will stay forever,’ and they’re always wrong.” In Tehrani's view, the emojis will mark the building as very much of this time—and to him that's not a bad thing.
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The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York announced today that it has acquired the original 176-character set of emojis for their permanent collection. The original "12 x 12 pixel humble masterpieces," as MoMA called them in their Medium post, were developed by NTT DOCOMO under the supervision of Shigetaka Kurita. The original set was released to cell phones in 1999. This set off the beginning of an entirely new language that would eventually become ubiquitous in mobile messaging. MoMA credits the new language with altering the way we communicate. "The design of a chair dictates our posture; so, too, does the format of electronic communication shape our voice." The institution gained notoriety for these cheeky acquisitions when they got the "@" symbol and a set of seminal video games, all of which is a 21st-century continuation of curator Paola Antonelli's famous Humble Masterpieces show from 2003 that set off a decade-plus exploration of the beautiful in everyday objects. That show, which displayed everything from band-aids to light bulbs under plexiglass, even made references to Philip Johnson's original Machine Art show by including the ball bearings that were one of the first acquisitions by MoMA in 1934. As for emojis, this set was seminal in the history of telecommunications. The 176 emoji (picture characters) became an instant hit and were copied by rival companies in Japan. When Apple released the updated, unicode version for iPhone in 2011, they became the new form of communication we know today. Paul Galloway, MoMA architecture & design collection specialist, said that "This acquisition was the work of many people both at MoMA and at NTT DOCOMO. First and foremost I must thank the indefatigable Paola Antonelli, our fearless advocate for expanding an appreciation of the field of design to new realms, who initiated this project. I also thank our Chief Curator, Martino Stierli, A&D Curatorial Assistant Michelle Fisher, Alexis Sandler of the MoMA General Counsel office, and Betty Fisher in the Exhibition Design department. And I commend and send thanks to NTT DOCOMO’s large team, who exhibited tremendous patience, flexibility, and an adventurous spirit well in keeping with their company’s great heritage."
Until now, architects have had few ways of expressing themselves when faced with a palette of emojis. The dull depictions of a hospital, hotel, or town hall simply do not suffice the range of architectural expression in the modern world. Cue Alexandra Lange and Curbed, who recently launched Archemoji. The name says it all. Emojis, whether you like it or not, are part of modern day life. Last year, the Oxford English Dictionary officially added "😂", or "Face with Tears of Joy", and so it's probably only fair that the architecture scene got in on the act. After all, Kim Kardashian has already added her own set, Kimoji. Thankfully, #Archemoji has taken twitter by storm, trending for all the right reasons, and now there's even a quiz that lets you know what specific Archemoji you are. https://twitter.com/kelseykeith/status/702869324118286336 With Archemoji, you can now swear at someone with Frank Gehry without having to source a meme from the web. You can let someone know you disapprove with the disapproving-Zaha emoji, or passively send them a Doric column to let them know how basic they are. Denise Scott-Brown's power-stance, Lange's favorite, is also featured. Quite how emotionally liberating Archemoji's will be remains to be seen, though Lange points out that the common dilemma of articulating yourself through emoji's to say "fell into a Brutalism rabbit hole online" has now finally been solved. "Won’t it be nice to just say Heart + Villa Savoie? Or Side Eye + Shipping Container? Sadly, I know I’m going to get a lot of use out of Heartbreak + Wrecking Ball + Boston City Hall, as yet another heroic concrete building goes down," says Lange.