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This Building Is Covered in Emoji

-Person raising both hands in celebration-

Emoji cover the facade of this Dutch building. (Attika Architekten)
smithsonian.com

In Ancient Egypt, the tombs of royals were covered in hieroglyphics and intricate burial tableaux. Maya temples are also plastered with glyphs that are still being deciphered by modern archaeologists. But how will tomorrow’s archaeologists remember today’s architecture? As James Vincent reports for The Verge, a Dutch building covered with emoji has given physical form to some of the era’s most important iconography.

The building, located in Amersfoort, Netherlands, looks pretty normal to the naked eye—until you look a bit closer and realize it’s stamped with 22 concrete-cast emoji. It’s the handiwork of Changiz Tehrani and Dutch architecture firm Attika Architekten.

Why go to the trouble of covering a mixed-use building with emoji faces that smile, grimace and frown? It’s all for the sake of modernity. Tehrani tells Vincent that it’s the equivalent of classic forms of architecture that used royal ornamentation, and that the WhatsApp-derived emoji template gave a wide range of human faces to choose from.

Emoji reveal a lot about culture. The images were originally invented for Japanese customers in the 1990s, though the roots of the emoji go way back

Though they’re purportedly universal, emoji highlight the concerns and interests of their users. For example, an upcoming emoji release will include a Wales flag, gender-neutral faces, a person breastfeeding a baby and a person wearing a hijab. All four issues have become flashpoints as notions about national identity, gender, feminism and religious expression evolve.

Okay, so the poop emoji and “person raising both hands in celebration” didn’t make their way onto the building—and with 22 selected, it doesn't encompass the spectrum of emoji. But perhaps the linguists of the future will be able to decipher something about the 21st century’s obsession with text and expression from the Dutch building…if it withstands the test of time.

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