The building pictured on that meme isn’t fast-casual, penny-pinching, developer-driven architecture at all.


Above, I’ve refashioned a meme about “fast-casual architecture.” Before linking you to an explanation of the visual, below is the actual meme. Recently it went viral.

What makes the meme relevant to New Albany? Our fast-casual Break Wind Lofts at Duggins Flats, that’s what. Can an interim executive director of public housing afford one of those units?

Ironically, the structure pictured in the viral meme isn’t faux luxury housing at all. Rather, it’s low-income housing for seniors in a neighborhood of Seattle.

Here’s the rest of the story.

The Story Behind the Housing Meme That Swept the Internet, by Kriston Capps (CityLab)

How a popular meme about neoliberal capitalism and fast-casual architecture owned itself.

The Providence Gamelin House opened its doors in Seattle in 2005. It was built to offer safe, affordable housing for low-income seniors in Seattle’s Rainier Vista neighborhood. To occupy any of the facility’s 77 units, residents must be ages 62 and older and earn below 50 percent of the area median income for King County in Washington. Most of them earn far below it: The average annual income for Gamelin House residents is $11,000.

For more than a decade this permanent supportive housing facility has served low-income residents of south Seattle. It’s their home. But the Providence Gamelin House only came into its own at the end of 2017, when an architectural rendering of the project was compelled into service as a meme. Specifically, as a housing meme, which is its own bucket for signifiers of our slide into late capitalism.

The meme surfaced wherever memes surface and spread however memes spread—idk. Eventually it found its way to the desk of Timothy Zaricznyj, director of housing for Providence Supportive Housing, the person who now oversees this alleged gentrification nightmare. (In fact, he manages 16 affordable-housing developments in Washington, Oregon, and California.) Zaricznyj was not exactly tickled. “They chose the wrong project, if they want to slam developers,” he says …

 … The fact that this meme depicts modest affordable housing—not penny-pinching, developer-driven Fast-Casual architecture—even inspired a meta-meme backlash …

 … The original meme is a vague critique of “architecture by bean-counters” (of which Seattle does not lack for examples) and developers’ thirst for transitional neighborhoods. The Gamelin House was the work of Michael Fancher, an architect who designed affordable housing across the Pacific Northwest in the 1980s and ‘90s. But don’t blame Fancher: Affordable housing is subject to severe restrictions and even worse funding shortfalls.