Sarcastic Architecture

Are there any examples of sarcastic architecture?

Not satirc nor ironic, specifically sarcastic.

maybe this?

Jul 11, 07 6:57 pm
A Center for Ants?

charles moore might have some work. he did a set of non-structural columns at my college that had a gap between the capital and the column. does that count?

Jul 11, 07 7:09 pm  · 

Sounds like it could count.

1. A cutting, often ironic remark intended to wound.
2. A form of wit that is marked by the use of sarcastic language and is intended to make its victim the butt of contempt or ridicule.

Makes me think of this:

Jul 11, 07 7:40 pm  · 

Jul 11, 07 7:43 pm  · 

Jul 11, 07 7:50 pm  · 

Jul 11, 07 7:51 pm  · 

That "wacky" looks more like a kind of "wannabe" architecture.

Ever hear of the Wacko House?

Jul 11, 07 7:54 pm  · 
FOG Lite

I've been trying to develop a theory of Smart-Ass Architecture.

No one likes it.

Jul 11, 07 7:54 pm  · 
1  · 

I am intrigued.

Jan 4, 23 9:41 pm  · 

765, care to elaborate?

Jul 11, 07 7:56 pm  · 

Actually I'm realizing that maybe Learning From Las Vegas would've been more appropriate since the FAT image you're showing above is basically a Decorated Shed.

It just always seemed to me that FAT was just redoing the VSB thing without really adding anything to it.

I don't have my books in front of me, but wasn't the 'Ugly and Ordinary' essay in Complexity and Contradiction? Or was it in 'Learning From Las Vegas'? Either way, that's about the most sarcastic piece of critical writing I've come across ...

Jul 11, 07 8:10 pm  · 
1  ·
Jul 11, 07 8:15 pm  · 

In light of "a cutting, often ironic remark intended to wound," Part II: Ugly and Ordinary Architecture, or the Decorated Shed in Learning from Las Vegas may indeed be well spiced with sarcasm. Personally, I haven't read the text is quite some time, but in just scanning it now, there is a fair bit of "cutting" critique. Should make for an interesting re-read this time around. Thanks.

Jul 11, 07 8:24 pm  · 

Oooh, good thread.

I'm not sure if this counts but I've always thought that Venturi's addition to the National Gallery in London was humorous.

So yeah, much of VSB's work. Even though I don't always like it.

Also, I think that Celebration, FL is a giant joke on America. Sarcastic? Sure, to us, but probably not to the people that try to live there.

Jul 11, 07 8:26 pm  · 

Celebration, FL as unwitting sarcasm? Now that's funny!

The Truman Show delivers that message pretty, doesn't it?

Jul 11, 07 8:34 pm  · 
Carl Douglas (agfa8x)

D+S are more sarcastic than they admit.

Jul 11, 07 8:35 pm  · 

Unwitting sarcasm in some early proposals for Ground Zero area?


Jul 11, 07 9:10 pm  · 
some person

Not quite sarcastic, but this now-under-construction and very-much-out-of-proportion condo made me shriek when I drove past it the other day.

Jul 11, 07 9:16 pm  · 

Is there maybe then some sarcasm to be found in some Rossi architecture?

Jul 11, 07 9:24 pm  · 

looks like spumoni!

Jul 11, 07 9:25 pm  · 
Carl Douglas (agfa8x)

I doubt that Rossi is sarcastic. He always struck me as far too earnest for that.

Jul 11, 07 10:14 pm  · 

how about an upside down structure?

Jul 11, 07 10:54 pm  · 

The title of this place implored me to post it.....WonderWorks, Orlando, FL:

But sarcastic? I would say no. More like, ironic for the sake of spectacle.

Jul 11, 07 11:07 pm  · 

loaded with sarcasm, irony and cynicism

in particular the indigenous australians wing in the shape of the holocaust museum

Jul 12, 07 2:08 am  · 
Carl Douglas (agfa8x)

Yeah, ARM are probably pretty sarcastic.

Jul 12, 07 2:19 am  · 
Smokety Mc Smoke Smoke

Still cracks me up to this day ...

Jul 12, 07 5:46 am  · 

Is sarcasm more of a dark comedy? (I always thought so.)

Is seminal post-modern pastiche also sarcastic? I suppose it did taunt establishment Modernism keenly (and perhaps even somewhat bitterly?). Although one could say establishment Modernism became much more embittered because of it.

The D+S example above intrigues me the most. It is indeed taunting and you can almost taste the bitterness. (Not exactly architecture though.)

Perhaps Rossi haunts more than taunts.

Does any sarcastic architecture wound feelings? The Eisenman West Avenue proposal (next to Ground Zero) seems to have that potential.

Has Koolhaas (subliminally?) made a whole career out of taunting and bitterness?

Jul 12, 07 9:29 am  · 

I am not sure that Complexity and Contradiction is sarcastic at all, more about loosening up modernist rigor? Same for Learning from Las Vegas, I think it's more about shaking up the elite modernists than being sarcastic. More quirky. Telling them that their buildings, the ducks, are not really better than the decorated sheds they so despise. No?

Now, Rem's Exodus project, that seems sarcastic. Voluntary prisoners of architecture and all.
Perhaps Tschumi's La Villette? Erm, maybe not.

Jul 12, 07 9:46 am  · 

kablakistan - try reading the 'Ugly and Ordinary' essay from Learning from Las Vegas again, and tell me you can't taste the bitterness at having been excuded from the High Modernist cocktail party, and the secret, barely witheld glee at having found a crack in their ideology large enough to lever the whole thing down.

If that combination of bitterness and triumph isn't sarcasm, I don't know what is ...

aside - is sarcastic architecture always referential? Does it have to look like something else in order to be sarcastic?

Jul 12, 07 10:03 am  · 

MVRDV’s Pig City? I think sarcasm goes beyond criticizing styles and can lead to come up with unexpected ways of working and programs. In my own work I have tried to use it to play with programmatic relationships in a few projects, from mobile war voyeurism and profiteering hotels, to parochial schools inside bullfighting rings.

This thread makes me wonder when post-modernist-like projects will begin to react against the neo-modernism of the digital ‘emergence’ style.

I am surprised no one has brought up Banksy's work...

Jul 12, 07 10:17 am  · 

Q - it already is, I think that's one of the points of this discussion, right?

Jul 12, 07 10:23 am  · 
Smokety Mc Smoke Smoke

Pig City ... good call. And you might as well put Metacity/Datatown in that category ... although I think that project does serve a distinct analytical purpose.

Jul 12, 07 10:24 am  · 
Jul 12, 07 11:03 am  · 

765, you're misrepresenting when you say V, SB and Izenour were "excuded from the High Modernist cocktail party" and therefore bitter. Venturi a Rome Prize recipient, Complexity and Contradiction coming out of MoMA, V and SB teaching at Penn and Yale, Learming from Las Vegas coming out of Yale. I'd say they were definitely guests at the "cocktail" party. The exclusion, you could say, came after Learning from Las Vegas was published (thus no bitterness before the publication, as you imply).

I did begin to re-read Part II of Learning from Las Vegas last night, and I agree with kablakistan in that sarcasm isn't really the modus operandi. It may be too hard now-a-days to recognize the "Pop" sensibility of the critique--the whole mixture of high art and low art which was then something like sacrilege. Plus, the "in your face" stance (ie, naming names rather than remaining cautiously abstract) was "just not supposed to be done."

For sure there is much taunting and ridicule within "the ugly and the ordinary," as there is always taunting and ridicule whenever an orthodoxy is questioned and critiqued, but the task was accomplished without much sarcasm at all.

765, you and others may well see sarcasm as an effect of "the ugly and the ordinary" critique, and I concur that that is one fair interpretation, but there is very little sarcasm within the actual text itself.

It's probably also fair to say that most people that saw Venturi and Rauch's entry at Roma Interrotta saw sarcasm as well. But was "Pop" sensibility just too often confused for sarcasm. Does "Andy W" suggest more Andy Warhol rather than Andy Williams? Does Lennon suggest more John Lennon than the Lennon Sisters?

Jul 12, 07 11:06 am  · 

[Just as an aside, you'll see that the exhibit installation of Metacity/Datatown pretty much reenacted exactly the exhibition installation of From Rome to Las Vegas: An Exhibit of the Work of Venturi and Rauch at the Philadelphia Art Alliance, 1968 (as seen on page 125 of the 1st edition of Learning from Las Vegas).]

Jul 12, 07 11:22 am  · 
Jul 12, 07 11:32 am  · 

I have to wonder if opening this thread with the FAT house image caused the post-modern slant that followed. I questioned the FAT house as possibly sarcastic not because it's post-modern, but because it's more post post-modern.

Quilian, sarcasm to criticize style really isn't the issue here. To point to an architectural design and say it's sarcastic is not necessarily to say it is therefore bad design (or something). I'm interested in simply sharpening the "reading" of architecture (--at least that's the extent of my agenda) and not to place value judgments.

Putting a parochial school inside a bullfighting ring--is that like putting a Catholic church inside a synagogue?

Jul 12, 07 11:45 am  · 

über œuvred e suicidal - You're totally right, I don't know enough about the context to bring that into play here (had forgotten, actually how connected they were). It's interesting that, as you say, the exclusion came afterwards. But then how did postmodernism and historicism come to dominate discourse and and built work from the 70s on?

I'll stick by my read of the VSB (and I) project in general as a negative one. If VSB(I) were so plugged into the academy, why do they sound so snarky and smarmy[/] when they're talking about Ugly and Ordinary vs. Heroic and Original? You can hear the tongues lodged in the cheeks. I really wish I could find a copy of that essay online, all my books are in storage, because it's a [i]tone of voice thing (like all sarcasm). For comparison, check out Banham's Los Angeles book, where he says alot of the same things as VSB(I), a couple of years earlier even, but he's so much more positive about it all that for me, it's much more convincing.

I actually think this ongoing, and open, question of just how serious VSB(I) are about their 'populist' critique is one of the only interesting things about their legacy. I personally don't buy it, I think they're being completely sarcastic and negative, and that turns me off. I don't think there's much value in a critical project that's based almost entirely on negativity.

But it's interesting that they're slippery enough about it to still spark a conversation, 30 years later.

PS - for another take on Popism check this out: link

Jul 12, 07 11:49 am  · 

(oops - botched the italics tags up there)

(should've used the /sarcasm tag!)

Jul 12, 07 11:51 am  · 

"Snarky and swarmy"--go read the essays because here you're being completely subjective. I'm more interested in what is actually written, and not so much in what people think they see behind the writing.

Jul 12, 07 12:03 pm  · 

c'mon, I told you I've read 'em. I actually just went down to the storage room to try to find the book and get some quotes, but I couldn't.

... and anyway, sarcasm's all about tone of voice, which does make it hard to pin down and somewhat subjective.

(PS - it's smarmy, not swarmy

Jul 12, 07 12:17 pm  · 

i dunno, uber. in 'iconography and electronics' venturi's shoulder-chip is even much more overt. whether vsb are outsiders or not, venturi's always seemed to be interested in playing the under-estimated/under-recognized/uncredited outsider.

Jul 12, 07 12:20 pm  · 
sarcasm 1 :

a keen or bitter taunt : a cutting gibe or rebuke often delivered in a tone of contempt or disgust

The overall tone of Part II of Learning from Las Vegas is not one of contempt or disgust.

For example:
"Many people like suburia. This is a compelling reason for learning from Levittown. The ultimate irony is that although Modern architecture from the start has claimed a strong social basis for its philosophy, Modern architect have worked to keep formal and social concerns separate rather than together. In dismissing Levittown, Modern architects, who have characteristically promoted the role of the social sciences in architecture, reject whole sets of dominant social patterns because they do not like the architectural consequences of these patterns."
--p. 154, 2nd edition

This sounds to me like solid critique rather than contempt or disgust. And the whole texts reads more of solid architectural (because the text really is so rich with just talking about architecture) critique then some sort of sarcastically based evil plot.

Jul 12, 07 12:41 pm  · 

solid critique and well-said, indeed. that's among some of the strongest statements venturi has written. and we're still trying to digest it, really, aren't we?

i'll play both sides, though: these flashes of brilliance are marred by the occasional petulance.

Jul 12, 07 12:47 pm  · 

uber - you say you are 'interested in what is actually written, and not so much in what people think they see behind the writing' but isn't a large part of post-modernism (and of design in a more general sense) the ability to read into something beyond it's face value - it's intentions and possible implications?

Jul 12, 07 12:47 pm  · 

Steven, yes, 'iconography and electronics' is a entirely different set of texts (like almost 30 years after Learning from Las Vegas), and the bitterness therein may well stem from the aftermath of Learning from Las Vegas. Again, this "venturi's always seemed to be interested in playing the under-estimated/under-recognized/uncredited outsider" is completely subjective. Seriously, how can you even really know that?

But the issue here is sarcastic architecture. I'm not interested in defending Venturi et al. What I'm interested in is a sharper reading of sarcastic architecture.

Jul 12, 07 12:49 pm  · 

Chch, sure there is the ability to read into something beyond it's face value, but that does not at all discount the primacy of the face value itself. Look at the architecture (designs) themselves, read the primary sources themselves.

Jul 12, 07 12:54 pm  · 
But the issue here is sarcastic architecture. I'm not interested in defending Venturi et al. What I'm interested in is a sharper reading of sarcastic architecture.

über - What about a sarcastic reading? Interested in wether or not you detect any sarcasm here: link

(PS - I will take another look around for that book and maybe bump one of your old Venturi threads if I can find a good quote)

Jul 12, 07 12:58 pm  · 

Chch, also, you can't really pin on an author someone's interpretation of the author. You can really only pin the interpretation on the interpreter.

Jul 12, 07 1:04 pm  · 

My point was that you seem too quick to discount 765's suggestion. Sarchasm is an emotive thing and can be hard to pick up on in print. Do you expect Venturi to write out </sarchasm> tags?

Obviously the content of the source should be looked at, but I don't think it should be without also questioning the motive of the source. This is a fundamental point in understanding any source, written, architectural or otherwise. I'm not neccessarily agreeing with 765's theory, but it's a bit much to shout him down just because he's trying to suggest a potential motivation behind an author - a motivation which would affect the reading of the source.

Jul 12, 07 1:07 pm  · 

Chch, I'm not shouting 765 down. I'm simply reading the text and I'm not finding the sarcasm.

Jul 12, 07 1:10 pm  · 

No, it's cool Chch, thanks for speaking up, but I haven't taken any offense at anything uber's said, and I don't think any was intended. Although it's ironic that would come up in a discussion about tone of voice here in a text based medium.

That's why we should go back to the sarcastic architecture!

(Just went down to the basement and took apart all my book boxes looking for Learning from Las Vegas, and it wasn't there, the next alternative is to drive to the storage unit, which I'm not ready to do yet, but maybe eventually!)

Jul 12, 07 1:21 pm  · 

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