Thinking about a social media strategy for my own business, I am reminded of a project I did in my undergraduate years while attending SCI-Arc, UniMediaWeb a little architecture school in Los Angeles. I thought I would share.
SCI-Arc’s move to a freight yard in downtown Los Angeles was the largest alteration to the Artist District at that time. The school now found itself situated in a culturally diverse and active community. How the institution and community adapted to accommodate this transplant was a delicate subject. I and two other classmates decided to address the school on the architectural level and its cultural responsibility. Since the new building was spatially unique (having a nearly two-dimensional floor plan that is 1/4 mile long and 60′ wide) renabyggsystem the building’s skin had the potential and responsibility to function not only as the barrier exiting between interior and exterior but also as a major visual and social presence. We figured the social responsibility of this facade must establish communication with its new environment and neighbors.
We initially considered creating this communication by covering the facade with school news and activities by projecting exhibition dates, fotballrevyen reviews, and student work. However, this uni-directional conversation; the institution speaking to the community, would do little to develop a true relationship with the public. After realizing that transforming the facade into an overwhelming billboard was not the solution, we understood that we had to create a skin that became involved in the community by somehow creating a public forum. We began thinking of the school not as a fixed concrete object, but as something far more ephemeral, visualizing skins that blurred the confinement and inclusion of the school itself. Knowing that our goal was to create a condition that encouraged dialogue, action, lofotenbirding and reaction by the students and community without bias- we began the following project.
“I will purr for you- swf” was the first message we posted. It appeared early one February morning atop the freight yard building. The sign was constructed of 10 sheets of whitewashed plywood spanning 40′ x 8′ stinessystue with three-foot black and white Helvetica lettering. This initial sign was an attempt to cause intrigue and the opening line in a semester-long conversation. Within a week “I will purr for you” disappeared from the roof and “you are dumb” appeared on a neighboring fence. The message carried no apparent relation to the previous sign, yet the format was identical- 40′ x 8′ of whitewashed plywood with Helvetica lettering. From this point on, approximately 75 t-shirts and hundreds of stickers using the same white background and Helvetica font complemented the weekly signs.
They were left at random locations throughout the community from the school bathrooms to art district town meetings. They carried messages that conversed with the 40′ plywood message- “not dumb” “am dumb” and “dumber” etc. This created a media conversation in which a sticker on a light post would relate to a person wearing one of the T-shirts that then corresponded to the sign in the area. The focus was never on the message itself, but its location and effect, datewithhistory.com encouraging any response whether it is a compliment or criticism. Though the messages discretely provoked communication at some level they did not directly relate to each other to keep the publics intrigue high and turn their ambiguous meanings into conversation topics.