10 October 2022 (Monday!)

*Please note the exceptional time:
18:00-20:00 CET / 12:00-14:00 EDT

Session Host:
Dasha Kuletskaya, RWTH Aachen University
Session Respondent:
Léa-Catherine Szacka,The University of Manchester

Designing for Amusement:
Critical Interpretations and Intentions
of Humour in Clore Gallery
and Tv-Am Studios, London

UCL Bartlett

Abrams, Janet. "Camden Town Clowns'." Building Design (Archive : 1969-2014) no. 624 (Mar 25, 1983)

In 1983, Jonathan Glancey wrote an article on the TV-am Building, by Terry Farrel & Partners, in The Architectural Review. A few years later, in 1987, John Summerson reviewed Clore Gallery, the extension to Tate Britain by Stirling, Wilford & Associates, in the same journal. Both authors, writing in the year of each building’s completion in London, connected the works to postmodernism and attributed humour to them as a positive architectural quality. Glancey’s and Summerson’s reviews allow a detailed look into the experience of architectural humour, which often makes an appearance in the discourse on postmodernism, but is rarely analysed in relation to concrete examples. However, the context and the way in which the authors chose to present their ideas reveal that humour cannot be understood merely as a quality inherent to buildings, but rather as a product of the relationship between buildings and their discourse. Both reviews presented humour as an essential English quality, which was particularly present in 18th and 19th century architecture in England and was brought back with TV-am and Clore Gallery. At the same time, Glancey and Summerson connected humour to the mastery of the individual architect, endorsing a conflation between humour as a quality in a built work and as an architect’s personality trait, which was present in other instances of the building’s media coverage at the time.

This presentation is a dialogue between two of the case study buildings which my on-going PhD thesis investigates. Currently titled “Designing for amusement: Expressions and Repressions of Humour in Postmodern Architectural Culture”, the thesis explores a suspicion against humour in Western architectural thinking and the rudimentary acceptance the term gained in the discourse concerning postmodernism in the British context. The presentation will address, through the case studies, two of the dissertation's main research questions: “how have critics perceived architectural humour” and “why did an interest in humour emerge in this particular moment”?  


Humor in the White City:
From Architectural Intent to the Urban Condition in the Kalisher School of Art
in Tel Aviv-Yafo

Technion - Israel Institute of Technology

Kisselov-Kaye Architects, The Kalisher School of Art, 1996
(Photo credit: Kisselov-Kaye Architects)

Can a building be funny? This paper examines the use of humor as an architectural instrument for promoting urban change in the light of aesthetic and social theories of humor. Although the use of humor in architecture has often been associated with the brief but glorious postmodern period, when architecture was defiant, ironic, and amusing, its significance and meaning in architectural production in local contexts remain unexplored. Moreover, assessing Israeli architecture through the concept of humor contradicts the rationale of modernism as the local ethos praised functionality and disregarded redundancy and ‘lack of seriousness’. During the first half of the 1990s, Israeli architecture underwent a turning point, as a young, rebellious generation of architects introduced imported postmodernism mainly in Israel's economic and cultural center of Tel Aviv-Yafo. In conjunction with this stylistic transformation, the country swiftly transitioned into neoliberalism following a severe economic crisis in the mid-1980s that dominated the construction industry and nearly halted public building investments. The Kalisher School of Art was commissioned by a private donor in the early 1990s and designed by a young architecture firm that has already demonstrated an attentive approach to local urban fabrics and their inhabitants. The school complex is located next to Tel Aviv’s city market, an industrial zone that was considered derelict and abandoned though relatively quickly succeeded in its urban transformative mission since the project’s completion in 1997. Using the planning and administrative history of the complex, this paper unveils the humorous toolkit used in the making of architecture and suggests that humor can translate beyond the limits of the building to promote urban and social change. It further proposes that the transition from an architectural scale to a social one parallels Henri Bergson's conceptualization of humor as a sophisticated solution to a unique social human problem.

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