What “About Us”? The Language Issue, or The Issue with Language
Columbia GSAPP, 2017
Research Project


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Abstract

This research begins with a word-bank: a spreadsheet of keywords and catch-phrases harvested from the “About Us” profiles of fifty firms that made the 2017 edition of Architect 50, a ranking of ‘top firms of the year’ published by ARCHITECT, the journal of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). This process of word collection has taken stock of their meanings, associated firm size, profile descriptors, verbosity, exemplary quotes, common themes and contradictions in relation to their ranking. This informational field forms the “metadata” behind this project from which correlations are drawn between the words used to describe a firm, and the largely uncritical universalist, transactional, and Eurocentric tendencies they represent (albeit in insidiously conciliatory form). These excavated words have been recontextualized in the form of an experimental dictionary that attempts to display en masse the absurd range of such empty rhetoric, and to interrupt the hegemonic corporate lexicon with alternative critical definitions. Straddling agonistic fields of theory and public relations that would never usually mutually converge (at least not openly), this project hopes to form a critical vantage point from which one may recognize the largely unquestioned claims made from sites of professional success firmly external to the academy, namely the corporate design world.