Architecture podcasts tend to get caught up in the minutia and politics of the field. But this episode of The Business of Architecture managed to delicately weave architectural jargon and politics with social media prowess, ultimately bringing new energy to the technical nature of architecture.
The episode starts by introducing Adam Nathaniel Furman. At the time, he only had 16k followers on Instagram, which was impressive but does not compare to his current page that boasts 42k, at the time of writing this. At the time, Furman was also teaching architecture and design. His research and training adds to his journalistic work and bolsters his Instagram page.
The podcast explores Furman’s start before his incredibly meteoric climb. It touches on discussions about day jobs and the time to pursue your passions, postmodernism and its place in a modern design world, the influence of architecture influencers on design and so much more. The topics are never delved deep enough but that superficiality allows the conversation to move smoothly and flow through the podcast.
As an advocate for Postmodernism, Furman encourages architects to advocate as well, speaking at length what kind of projects he includes himself in, when defending postmodern architecture. This topic is riveting; it reminds listeners of the intersection of architecture and advocacy.
His success on Instagram shows an alternative use for an architecture degree besides licensure. Compared to traditional architecture-based pages, especially ones directed at specific details, Adam Nathaniel Furman’s page is unique, exciting, and colorful. It truly has to be seen for yourself. His curated images are very eclectic and by nature, only appeal to a certain subsect of designers and design enthusiasts.
Going through his feed, it’s easy to see how the saccharine sweetness of his bubblegum palette stands out. The candy-like colors do not take away from the sophistication and nuance of his work, however. Rather, you are reminded that even in a trend of brutally honest work, designs can still make you happy and encourage joy.
The focus of the podcast was on Furman’s Instagram account, so much information about his design work was lost. Aside from a few snippets about work and exhibits he had done, very rarely did specific references to his work come up. We told multiple times through the podcast that Furman is a “renaissance man” and wears many hats, but we hardly get to see it given the speed they fly from topic to topic.
Furman’s designs are intriguing, distinctive, and friendly. They’re pop-py and imaginative. Something about the works breeds hope. His work is far more interesting than his Instagram as the amalgamation of his research and background. They are works that subvert expectations and ignore decided rules. They come off as a rebellion just through their existence.
Even his store, the first page of which is filled with two of the same product (a mug and a tote bag) printed with bright energetic designs and a pink dad hat stating that “ornament is sublime” (and I don’t disagree) feels like a pointed commentary on the rise of influencer branded merchandise.
As you go through the store, you can assess previous generations of Furman’s work, going down a timeline of sorts. His less prominent works, the quote mugs, and cheesy graphics are indicative of a traditional graphic design artist finding their voice. The t-shirts are the only items that seem relevant to his more compelling works.
I enjoyed his story of accidentally falling into his Instagram page by curating interesting architecture work based on the things he loved about architecture. When I finally looked at his page, I couldn’t help but notice who followed him. My peers and contemporaries were already engaging with his content. My generation of architectural students and practitioners found solace in his work.
This makes complete sense when you contact his postmodernism stance with his work. As designers, my generation is growing tired of architecture designed to be honest (read, cynical) in place of architecture that can be captivating.
Unfortunately, I do wish the topics above were given more conversation and thought. I wish they even discussed Furman’s heritage of Argentina and Japan, and how his culture influences his work. It’s a surface-level introduction for the architectural design world to see Adam Nathaniel Furman, the influencer. But it skips pivotal discussions that we will have in the coming years to analyze instead how to engage with an audience on social media.
An important topic, of course, but lacking a bit in nuance. It is an intriguing podcast if you want to understand how architectural influencers can exist in social media. It can be found on Spotify. But it is not an accurate depiction of Adam Nathaniel Furman’s work. Maybe a fault of the medium itself, but you are better off scouring his Instagram feed and website.