Laughing at Architecture

Laughing at Architecture : Architectural Histories of Humour, Satire and Wit

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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.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 288 pages
  • 156 x 234 x 15.49mm | 413g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 73 bw illus
  • 1350170496
  • 9781350170490
  • 1,529,956

Table of contents

List of Figures
List of Contributors

Introduction, Michela Rosso

1. Laughing at the Baroque: A Drawing and Some Texts Compared, Susanna Pasquali

2. From Reportage to Ridicule: Satirizing the Building Industry in the Eighteenth-century Irish Press, Conor Lucey

3. The Thorn of Scorn: John Nash and his All Souls Church for a Transformed Regency London, Daniela Roberts

4. 'A Joke that has Gone on Far too Long': Mocking the Completion of the New Hotel des Postes de Paris (1886-1888), Guy Lambert

5. Deconstructing Gaudi: Intertwined Relationships between Satire and Architectural Criticism, Josep-Maria Garcia-Fuentes

6. Confronting Problems with a Sense of Humour: Adolf Loos's Architectural Polemics and Viennese
Journalism, Ruth Hanisch

7. Words and Images of Contempt: Il Selvaggio on Architecture (1926-1942), Michela Rosso

8. Osbert Lancaster: Architectural Humour in the Time of Functionalism, Alan Powers

9. Irrational Interiors: The Modern Domestic Landscape Seen in Caricatures, Gabriele Neri

10. From 'Little Russia' (Klein Rusland) to 'Planet of the Apes' (De Apenplaneet): Nicknaming Twentieth-century Mass Housing in Belgium, Evert Vandeweghe

11. Saul Steinberg's Graph Paper Architecture: Humorous Drawings and Diagrams as Instruments of Critique, Christoph Lueder

12. The Modern City Through the Mirror of Humour: A Different Portrait, Olivier Ratouis

13. Splendid?! Preposterous! Chinese Artists Mock the Architectural Spectacle, Angela Becher

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Review quote

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. -- Barry Bergdoll, Meyer Schapiro Professor of Art History and Archaeology and Director of Undergraduate Studies * 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. -- Adrian Forty, Professor Emeritus of Architectural History * 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. -- Daniel Sherer, Lecturer in Architectural History and Theory * Princeton University *
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About Michela Rosso

Michela Rosso is Associate Professor of Architecture at the Politechnico di Torino, Italy. In 2014 she was elected General Chair of the Advisory Board of the European Architectural History Network, and in 2016 she was awarded a residential fellowship at the Yale Center for British Art.
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