Quick Response Codes, or QR Codes, are square, black and white, pixelated, symbols that can be scanned to send data directly to a smart phone or handheld device. Free code-generating websites make it easy for anyone to create their own unique symbol for quick and easy data transmission. The most difficult thing about QR codes is giving the public a reason to download whatever information one is trying to transmit. While some designers have started incorporating codes directly into building structures, others are cautious of the trend. Below I’ve offered a few examples of QR codes already being used in architecture, each with a take away should you decide to use them.
Use them for PR/marketing:
At Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, workers painted a QR code on their roof. When scanned the code directs you to a community Facebook page dedicated to QR Codes. Given that the page hasn’t been updated in four months, it seems all that effort may not have been worth it.
Take away: Maintain your message.
Use them to transmit consumer data information:
In the fall of 2013, New York City will require all businesses to display QR codes for data transparency. This new requirement is intended to offer data relating to inspection history and code violations for that particular business. Unfortunately the codes will most likely be tucked away in a corner, on the actual permit, so this cannot be considered true transparency yet.
Take away: Make sure the public can easily find and access the code.
Use them for didactic purposes:
The Russian Pavilion at the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale used codes as decorative elements, as well as creating an interactive learning experience about the Skolkovo Innovation Centre. Each code becomes its own module of curated information, wrapping up design with a didactic storytelling experience. An added bonus is when the codes are ganged up inside of the dome, and all over the floor, walls and ceilings, they become an incongruent and interesting pattern of black and white.
Take away: Make sure the data is as compelling as the design.
Use them for enhanced wayfinding:
A few months ago, in preparation for the 2016 Olympics, Rio de Janeiro started installing mosaic QR codes in the streets at popular tourist destinations (Similar efforts have already been implemented in Spain and Portugal). When a mosaic is scanned, information such as history of the site, upcoming activities, and weather becomes available in several languages. The codes seem to be catching on for tourists, but all I can think about is when archaeologists thousands of years from now unearth the mosaics -- what will they think these mysterious symbols are communicating?
Take away: Integrate codes into an already established building element to create a whole new experience.