Jordan v. The AIA

Memes have potential as a new format to discuss and bring to light subjects within the Architectural community that have otherwise been taboo or only ever discussed among the esoteric of the community.

The format enjoys five distinct advantages that traditional formats ie. journals, magazines, books, lectures, etc. typically lack:

  1. Memes are easily consumable.
  2. Memes use emotions triggered by comedy, ridicule, and satire to plant new ideas.
  3. Memes are easily duplicated, transferred, or reformatted to propagate a new or existing idea.
  4. Memes encapsulate larger concepts into a simple core message.
  5. Memes are deceptively innocent.

The highlighted cyan text below was written at the beginning of this investigation. As you see in the following texts and Fig.1, the original intent shifted slightly from the genesis of the idea; however, I believe that it is important to include first drafts that can offer context into how that initial idea grew and evolved.

Michael Jordan reaching out in the Space Jam movie to score against the Monstars as a reflection of current professional architecture to stay relevant in a hyper HGTV, DIY, Maker, culture that dilutes the title of Architect.

Fig. 1. Crying Jordan 1. aux-lab 2018

The image source of Fig.1 is a still from the movie Space Jam, released in 1996. It is a live-action movie that follows NBA-player Michael Jordan as he gets involuntarily sucked into an alternate dimension of the Warner Brothers cartoon world. The image captures a moment in the film where in order to bring back harmony to the chaos of this cartoon world, MJ and his Warner Brothers cartoon friends must defeat the Monstars in a game of basketball. In the image, MJ is about the score the final point to win the game but two of the Monstars hold him as he is in mid-air, this being a cartoon he is able to stretch his arm over 17 ft. to dunk the ball and win the game.

The meme seen in Fig.1 is a critique on a number of things that plague the world of architecture:

  1. Beginning with the common practice of using unpaid interns for real architectural work, in the image the outstretched comical arm is labeled as the unpaid intern. In many instances, it appears like architecture firms are staying afloat by using the unpaid skilled labor of young interns. How terrible are you at business that you have to use free work to get projects built?
  2. The ball in the image is labeled as the ‘architecture’ with parentheses around it positioning the viewer with the questions, What is the type of architecture that is being pushed and rewarded by these institutions?
  3. The hoop in the image is labeled as the AIA Awards, and in general just a propensity for architects to care about how a project is received. We should consider that the purpose of architecture might not be to determine social hierarchy. I should elaborate on this point, but I won’t, do your own homework.
  4. The two Monstar’s in the image grabbing MJ by the waist so that he will not “score” portray in portion what enables all of this to happen; the client and the institution that governs how Architects practice in the United States of America (The AIA).
  5. I will let the viewer unpack the other hidden slights within the image.

The meme in Fig.1 and others like it, are satirical in nature, they take a semi-truthful real life situation and amplify it to a level of absurdness, in order to poke fun at the original real life situation. As seen in the example above, it took more than 500 words to describe the message within the meme. The meme format can distill the core message of these different ideas into a single coherent image that is easily consumable, triggers the emotional, can be easily shared, and is innocent enough to be considered a silly goof.