No laughing matter: How architects have used (and why they should still use) cartoons to disrupt architecture and society

Putra, Yvette ORCID: 0000-0001-8219-1872 (2023) No laughing matter: How architects have used (and why they should still use) cartoons to disrupt architecture and society. In: Architecture 101: Questioning the Fundamentals, 9th-11th November 2023, Newcastle University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

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While the use of cartoons to critique architecture is already known – such as “Los von der Architektur”, from 1911, which alleges that Adolf Loos found design inspiration in a manhole cover – I more specifically address architects and designers who draw their own cartoons. With a focus on the British and Australian contexts of the last century, I explore the cartoons by Geoffrey Atherden, Robin Boyd, Louis Hellman, Osbert Lancaster, and George Molnar, which are variously humorous, polemical, and satirical. I probe the cartoons’ purposes, which interrogate society’s interface with architecture-as-built, architectural history, and architectural practice. At the same time, I consider the cartoons’ elements, such as human figures and hatched lines, and I compare these elements vis-à-vis those grounded in architectural practice. To this end, I find that the established conventions and techniques of architectural drawing are linked to and supportive of cartoon drawing. After establishing the who, what, and how of cartoons drawn by architectural professionals, I analyse the why, which reveals that, aside from the cartoons’ agency for particularly keen and succinct observation, architects draw cartoons to bridge the divide, between the architectural and non-architectural publics, and as a continuation of the longstanding practice of architectural critique, albeit through a more distinct, engaging, and idiosyncratic modality. I conclude by recommending the integration of cartoons into pedagogies of architecture, owing to the cartoons’ significantly accessible and recognisable medium, their adroit encapsulation of the anthropocentricity that is central to architecture, and their presentation of opportunities to learn and advance drawing and thinking skills beyond the usual concatenations of architectural drawings. As the architects of the past used cartoons to react against their contexts, emerging architects can likewise use this quotidian yet impactful medium to comment and ponder on architecture’s future amid global challenges such as artificial intelligence, climate change, and racial and social justice.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NA Architecture
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Creative Arts
Research Priority Areas: Culture, Continuity, and Transformation
Depositing User: Yvette Putra
Date Deposited: 14 Nov 2023 12:18
Last Modified: 14 Nov 2023 12:22

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