Emoji embellishments immortalize contemporary society on building façade

Ornamentation, a long tradition in architecture, is moving into the digital age thanks in part to Dutch architect Changiz Tehrani. He has incorporated 22 concrete emojis into the façade of a mixed-use building in the Vathorst district of Amersfoort, Holland.

PHOTOS: Bart van Hoek, Attika Architekten


Architect Changiz Tehrani poses with one of his concrete emojis prior to installation.

“In classical architecture, they used to put heads of the king—or whatever—on the façades,” Tehrani, who works for the firm Attika Architekten, told The Verge. “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’.”

Placed at regular intervals along the building’s white concrete banding, the emojis blend easily with the simple gridded brick façade. They only appear on one side of the building, which overlooks a public square. Tehrani converted the emojis from the messenger platform WhatsApp into 3D models. Out of more than 1,000 emojis available, Tehrani and his team only chose faces as they were the most expressive and recognizable. Dutch firm Millro used wood molds to cast the emoji in concrete.

Although construction on the building was completed in 2015, the emojis were only installed earlier this year. According to Tehrani, locals have expressed mixed opinions on the design element; some haven’t noticed them at all. Tehrani added that while the building may show its age fairly quickly, as the emoji fad passes, it will still reflect this era. “Maybe we won’t use emoji in 10 years: that’s fine, it’s still from our time.”