The names of deceased architectsare the perfect secret ingredient for selling loads of mediocre merch. The names of deceased architects are the ideal secret ingredient for selling large quantities of poor merchandise.
Things include chess sets, t-shirts, and even shoes, in addition to things like educational toys and t-shirts.
The majority of these architects, Frank Lloyd Wright being the most prominent of them all, adhered to the philosophy that a building should be seen as a "Gesamtkunstwerk," which is a fancy German phrase meaning "complete work of art."
This indicates that if an architect were to build you a house, it would also come with a number of chairs or cutlery that were made just for the home.
However, shoes or Lego sets are not works of art; they are simply commodities. They do not include a lovely house; instead, they include a markup and sometimes some nice graphics or colors.
At the very least, one may expect that architecture-marketed products have some connection to the architectural community, perhaps in the form of scholarships or outreach to marginalized populations, but that's the problem.
By purchasing this thing, you are frequently not supporting architecture or design; rather, you are contributing to Uncle Scrooge McDuck's daily money swim.
The thing is, I'm a sucker for nice merchandise. It's a terrific way to remember the delight of a good vacation or to help a worthy cause. I have a fantastic collection of Sabacc cards from Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disney, despite the fact that the game itself is so hard that I will never play it.
I proudly donned a Bowser shirt from my trip to Super Nintendo World last month at the Venice Architecture Biennale.
That merchandise is enjoyable, but it does not hold the same sentiment for me as the Cleveland Cavaliers t-shirt I received for Christmas, which was created by an individual graphic artist with an Etsy store rather than an NBA official.
This line between corporate stuff and grassroots items is becoming increasingly blurred. In a world where so much feels manufactured, marketers are capitalizing on the yearning for authenticity by using buzzwords like "bespoke," "handmade," or, heaven forbid, "artisanal."
These are all terms that have lost their meaning, and you can tell when you see them in a description of airplane meals.
As the American people is constantly discovering, the tendency toward goods that aim to seem distinctive implies that it is now more difficult to garner support for a cause by selling symbolic stuff on a large scale.
In the 2000s, everyone wore those garish "LIVESTRONG" cancer-fundraising wristbands until Lance Armstrong's doping scandal slashed their donations and income. And who wasn't wearing Toms Shoes in 2012, seduced by the buy-one-give-one notion, until it was proven that the brand was terrible at giving shoes?
That is why the discussion does not stop with some fanciful concept of informed consumerism. There is no value in arguing for ethical consumerism since all social ills have a systemic base from which we must draw to effect change.
Even if architecture-branded items did produce some benefit for the community, they would be empty at best.
Kith, a fashion company that claims of "collaborating with brands that have stood the test of time" like Star Wars, collaborated with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation to develop Broadacre City-themed New Balance 998s.
This cooperation uses only a few desert-like hues on a basic sneaker to fleece a few gullible buyers.
Ryan Scavnicky founded Extra Office, a design firm that investigates alternative outlets for architectural information. He formerly taught at Frank Lloyd Wright's The School of architectural and now teaches architectural design, philosophy, and criticism at Kent State University.