Meme, Myself & I

Meme, Myself & I

There are, perhaps, hundreds of variations on the John&Paul&Ringo&George meme, and there would be more if one didn?t have to actually make a t-shirt to participate. Experimental Jetset, the Dutch graphic design firm, created this idea (because it is really an idea about t-shirts, not a t-shirt about an idea) over a decade ago as a reductivist critique of the ?band t-shirt? genre.
It was, and is, brilliant, and it has proliferated.

The design world has its contributions including Tibor&Naoto&Charles&Ray (which is actually a button and is really the most obtuse list I have ever seen*) and Norman&Richard&Renzo&Frank, but none really resonated with my recent class of Cornell architecture students. I was always reminded of their age (exactly my son Julian?s age) when we would discuss useful precedents for ideas they were grappling with on their own projects. What I considered to be brand new was history to them, and what I considered historical was practically prehistoric to these students. It?s a generational thing, and makes perfect sense, but finding relevant and helpful references was always a challenge.

The students had handmade a t-shirt for our class trip around Manhattan (claiming they didn?t want to get lost!) and I was completely charmed by it.
An appropriate response was required!

The preponderance of men in these lists irked me, and with a class evenly split between women and men a list of men seemed, well, jejune (and how often do we get to use that word?). Plus using the same size of logo on a gigantic men?s shirt and a petite women?s shirt seemed a compromise to both. Women are under-represented in the field yet they comprise 50% of student populations and, in my experience, at least 50% of the brainiest students.

Rem&Jacques&Thom&Bjarke is, for the moment, a list of the most referenced (and revered) archidudes today. For those not up on their provenance: OMA, Herzog & Demeuron, Morphosis, BIG

Zaha&Liz&Billie&Kazuyo lists the most admired architects without a Y chromosome. Again, for the list challenged they are: Zaha Hadid (easy), Diller Scoffidio, Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects and SANAA.

The designs were just right, at that moment, for the students, but the guest jurors really needed something a bit more, well, academic. Ezra&Eli&Peter&John is to the college t-shirt what John&Paul&Ringo&George is to the band t-shirt. And while it may not describe the 4 most sought after architecture schools, until we figure out Columbia?s of MIT?s first name it will have to do.

The expiration date on these shirts is very short. They are like the Billboard top songs; they change almost daily, and certainly with every new school year. It is the nature of pop-popularity to be in constant flux, though it is something I have never gotten used to for architects and architecture. Again, it?s a generational issue that is simply true, not good or bad. But especially good for t-shirts.

This limited edition is sold out, but the meme lives forever.

* I could understand Charles&Ray&George&Eero, and I could understand Dieter&Naoto&Jasper&Jonathan, but the Tibor list is simply perverse. It might as well be Pears&Steak&Milk&Carrots, though as representatives of the four food groups even this makes sense. In fact Tibor really needs to stand alone as in Tibor&Tibor&Tibor or, say, as in Emily&Douglas&Alex(ander)&Stephen.
Writing this from Forbes Farm I would add one more to the catalog: Alan&Colin&Theo&Mervyn&Kenneth.