• 04.26.17

This Building Has Emoji Gargoyles, And They’re Brilliant

22 different emoji decorate the facade of this building in the Netherlands.

Architecture is often perceived to be serious and reserved. But in Vathorst, a suburb about 30 miles southeast of Amsterdam, a new building takes a cheekier approach: It’s festooned with 22 emojis.


[Photo: Bart van Hoek/Attika Architekten]
Attika Architekten–a Dutch firm with offices in Amsterdam and Zutphen–designed a new mixed-use brick building and decided to punch up the design with a few choice flourishes–namely the most recognizable and understandable emoji (which happened to be faces, according to a report on the Verge).

“When we start with a project we always try to understand its context and anticipate on that matter,” architect Changiz Tehrani tells Co.Design. “We also try to add a little bit more detail in our architecture–it can be a decorative fence, a nice phrase, or the date of the [building’s completion]. In this case we wanted to add something contemporary, interesting, and recognizable on this particular facade.”

[Photo: Bart van Hoek/Attika Architekten]
To Tehrani and his team, emoji were the ideal embellishment. “Emoticons are the international language of now,” he says. “The world communicates with these iconic faces, and that is something special we think.”

Lest you write off these graphics as gimmicky or too silly, consider this: Gargoyles–those sculptures commonly found on historic buildings–feature monsters picking their noses, sucking their toes, expressing anguish, showing boredom, and more. Emoji are the perfect modern version of these figures, and undoubtedly make the building more fun.

So far the response seems to be positive. Tehrani has noticed students at the school next door taking photographs of the building. He says his clients were a bit hesitant about the idea, but trusted him to run with the idea. We’re glad they did, too.

About the author

Diana Budds is a New York–based writer covering design and the built environment.