Laughing at Architecture : Architectural Histories of Humour, Satire and Wit
In a media-saturated world, humour stands out as a form of social communication that is especially effective in re-appropriating and questioning architectural and urban culture. Whether illuminating the ambivalences of metropolitan life or exposing the shock of modernisation, cartoons, caricature, and parody have long been potent agents of architectural criticism, protest and opposition.
In a novel contribution to the field of architectural history, this book outlines a survey of visual and textual humour as applied to architecture, its artefacts and leading professionals. Employing a wide variety of visual and literary sources (prints, the illustrated press, advertisements, theatrical representations, cinema and TV), thirteen essays explore an array of historical subjects concerning the critical reception of projects, buildings and cities through the means of caricature and parody. Subjects range from 1750 to the present, and from Europe and the USA to contemporary China. From William Hogarth and George Cruikshank to Osbert Lancaster, Adolf Loos' satire, and Saul Steinberg's celebrated cartoons of New York City, graphic and descriptive humour is shown to be an enormously fruitful, yet largely unexplored terrain of investigation for the architectural and urban historian.
“Satire opens the mind even as it leaves the mouth gaping... and it turns out to have been an inherent ingredient in the symbiotic rise of public debate and modernization since the mid-18th century. That is one of the many conclusions of this anthology of ribald images and erudite analyses that place humour in its social ad political context. The collection is as delightful as it is insightful, the humor runs the full gamut from affectionate to wickedly biting.” —Columbia University
“Although architecture is usually regarded as too ponderous a matter to allow much space for humour, some of its sharpest and most memorable criticism has been in the form of wit and satire. The essays in Laughing at Architecture, both diverting and serious, range from Pugin to Loos, to Steinberg, and open up this important, but neglected, mode of architectural criticism.” —The Bartlett School of Architecture UCL
“This pathbreaking collection of essays brilliantly links architecture to social history and to the multiple cultural contexts and interpersonal exchanges implicit in acts of ridicule and satiric irony. The section by Rosso herself, on the irrepressible, often volcanic, pasquinade of the 1930s Italian architectural scene launched by Mino Maccari and Leo Longanesi in the journal Il Selvaggio, is a true gem. Edited with an incisive critical introduction and beautifully produced with copious illustrations, this book will be a scholarly reference for years to come.” —Princeton University