Architect Changiz Tehrani of Dutch firm Attika Architekten has designed a building in Amersfoot adorned with emoji-inspired concrete tiles. The icons look out into a square that houses a 150-year-old oak tree. Local students who eat their lunches in the square have been seen taking photos of the facade. Ironically, the same students were one of Tehrani’s main inspirations for the building’s 21st-century theme.
”When we start a project, we analyze the context and use that in our architecture. These analyses help us to set up a concept for the whole design process. 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,” Tehrani told Dornob. Other than its emoji motif, the building predominantly features straight lines and dark bricks, allowing it to maintain a clean, professional aesthetic.
The building, part of a larger complex called “Plein rond de eik,” incorporates 22 emoticons originally designed by Willem Van Lancker for Apple iPhones. Upon discovering these emojis on WhatsApp, Tehrani felt their round shapes were “perfect, iconic, and subtle” enough to fit nicely into his design. While these modern symbols do have the potential to confuse older generations, they will be instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever owned a smartphone. Tehrani adds, “Emojis are the fastest growing international language. They have a historical value. The people and especially the teenagers know them and thus they are very recognizable. They also have a fun factor, connecting the viewers to our building.”
For hundreds of years, architects have decorated facades with the faces of kings or classical figures. The team at Attika Architekten simply wanted to “translate this into [their] project in a contemporary way.” Specifically, their design was inspired by two classical buildings: The House With the Heads in Amsterdam and the Ospedale Degli Innocenti in Florence. In a way, Tehrani’s emojis are like modern-day gargoyles. More than that, they reference a timeless decorative technique that incorporates some gorgeous statuary. Even if these emojis go out of style, the building will still have its own place in architectural history. Future spectators will easily be able to identify the facade as a piece of 21st-century design.
Tehrani also revealed to us that the building’s concrete belts, on which the emojis are placed, are not just decorative. “They are part of the structure of the brick and they are also working as a shelf angle to support the weight of the bricks. So they are, above being nice, very functional.” The emojis themselves were made into 3-D models based on their Whatsapp templates before being made into molds, cast in concrete, and incorporated into the facade facing the square. The building contains shops and flats and is neighbored by a library and a theater. With so many people walking around, it’s sure to attract plenty of attention.
All “Plein rond de eik” photos taken by Bart van Hoek.