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Amersfoort, Netherlands

Plein Rond de Eik

The gargoyles of the 21st century are here—22 emoji built into a new building in the Netherlands.  

The facades of some buildings look like faces, and can give the impression that they are smiling or frowning or making some other inscrutable expression. A building in Amersfoort in the Netherlands strives to give that impression—22 times over. The architect behind the facade of the new mixed-use structure at Plein Rond de Eik (“Square Round the Oak,” referring to a 150-year-old oak tree) placed a series of emojis, molded in concrete, along the facade. 

Changiz Tehrani, of Attika Architekten, was inspired by classic architectural ornamentation, as well as a nearby building called “The House With the Heads,” which features busts of six Greek gods on its own facade. The use of emoji—in this case the WhatsApp designs of Willem Van Lancker—in the building is an acknowledgment of the fact that the yellow smiley faces have become the fastest-growing “language” in the world.

The emoji Tehrani selected include the smile, the wink, the heart eyes, the kissy face, the sunglasses, the angry face, and the tongue out/wink, plus a few expressions of extreme distress. They are arranged on the north side of the building, mostly in rows of five, with two perched at the top of a clocktower. The building has residential spaces, shops, restaurants, and a supermarket. There is also a school nearby, and the students reportedly love taking pictures of the building.

Responses to the building’s inclusion of emoji have been decidedly mixed, but Tehrani says that, decades from now, the emoji will make the building identifiable as being of this moment. There is no telling if this style will catch on. Perhaps one day the theater next door will sport laughing and crying emoji in place of the traditional masks representing comedy and tragedy.

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