ARCHITECTS AND HUMOR

Photo: Demilked.com

Photo: Demilked.com

ARCHITECTS LAUGH…

If you’re interested in architecture—whether as an active practitioner, historian, or witness—there’s plenty to laugh at [and even more to cry at—especially the fees]. Walloping misunderstandings of one’s design intent, whether by builders or clients, do happen—and, though such occasions are troublesome, as human beings we try to see the humor in them. Also, design work can go in unusual directions, sometimes to deal with unusual or unexpected site conditions—with amusing (and very clever) results, as in the above image.

LAUGHING ARCHITECTURE…

In the above case, one can well imagine the architect laughing, happily, at his own solution to a challenging situation. But what about projects where the intention seems to have been humorous from the beginning (perhaps a goal set by the client)?

Here are a couple of examples:

The Upside Down House, in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Photo: Infoniagara.com

The Upside Down House, in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Photo: Infoniagara.com

Yes, this is quite real: it is the office building of the National Fisheries Development Board, in Hyderabad, India    Photo: Noah / Seelam, as seen on Unusualplaces.org

Yes, this is quite real: it is the office building of the National Fisheries Development Board, in Hyderabad, India

Photo: Noah / Seelam, as seen on Unusualplaces.org

LAUGHING AT ARCHITECTS…

Laughing at the foibles, pitfalls, and pretensions of architecture as a profession—as well as individual architects and their particular styles—is another category of humor where there are some great examples. The 1920’s and 1930’s issues of the American architectural magazine, Pencil Points (which later became Progressive Architecture) are full of reader-supplied examples. And the distinguished journal, Architectural Record, was a long-running venue for the work of the great cartoonist, Alan Dunn—of which this is a pointed offering:

While most people encountered Alan Dunn’s work in The New Yorker, he also had a long relationship with Architectural Record, supplying many cartoons over decades—of which this is a fine example. Image courtesy of Architectural Record

While most people encountered Alan Dunn’s work in The New Yorker, he also had a long relationship with Architectural Record, supplying many cartoons over decades—of which this is a fine example. Image courtesy of Architectural Record

Even Dilbert has taken on the vicissitudes of architectural life—and here’s an example of the masterful work of David Levine—the New York Review of Books’ long-time resident caricaturist. His portrait of Philip Johnson which incorporates a broken pediment (that Johnson had used for his famous—or infamous—AT&T Building in New York):

David Levine’s image of Philip Johnson, drawn in 1994. It has been used with essay-reviews about Johnson (focusing on books about him), which have appeared in The New York Review of Books.    Image: The New York Review of Books

David Levine’s image of Philip Johnson, drawn in 1994. It has been used with essay-reviews about Johnson (focusing on books about him), which have appeared in The New York Review of Books.

Image: The New York Review of Books


There’s also The Onion—the joyously satirical publication (which had been an ink-on-paper weekly—but is now entirely online.). Some years ago, they published this item about Frank Gehry:

News story source:    www.theonion.com

News story source: www.theonion.com

The Onion, we’re glad to report, just won’t leave architects alone—as Googling “The Onion” together with “Architecture” will quickly reveal. And that brings us to the main point of our post: that The Onion turned their attention to Paul Rudolph—as you can see here:

News story source:    www.theonion.com

News story source: www.theonion.com

AND STOP ME IF YOU HEARD THIS ONE…


If you haven’t had enough, there are several books which engage with the topic of architectural humor. Alan Dunn’s cartoons were collected in several volumes, and Louis Hellman’s “Archi-Têtes”—his clever caricatures of famous architects (each in the style of their subject)—have been gathered into a book.


But seriously folks, if you’d like to read an in-depth study on the topic: Laughing at Architecture is a thorough and thoughtful set of essays on architecture and humor, edited by Michela Rosso:

Photo: Bloomsbury Publishing

Photo: Bloomsbury Publishing