| Author: Henry H. Yang
| Advisor: David Ruy
| Southern California Institue of Architecture (SCI-Arc)
This project was part of the post-graduate program at Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) called “Design Theory and Pedagogy,” which is a yearlong program under the supervision of David Ruy. For the final project, the students were asked to develop an advanced studio syllabus during the Spring semester. Then, during the Summer semester, they tested and followed the syllabus that was developed during the Spring semester as if they were the students in that studio. This project is the product of the advanced studio.
Is comedy a form of abstraction? Comedians provide a different point of view and allow us to rethink the critical issues in today’s society through laughter. The role of humor is crucial when actors construct the context as a performance, which is safer than a regular discussion for dealing with uncomfortable topics. This technique is an evasive maneuver allowing them to identify the problem.
Architecture attempts to identify the problems of society and solve issues using various interdisciplinary processes. However, certain complications cannot be addressed directly to the audience. Architects either have to find a way around this or simply ignore it from the context. This awkwardness has caused architecture to lose its pleasure, freedom, and potential to be open to other definitions.
As architects, how do we deal with the client who asks us to produce work that is against our values? Giving up on the project or ignoring the social conflict should not be the only ways to address this. Comedians suggest that there is a way to tackle such situations. Architecture can deliver solutions as comedians do with laughter.
This analogy does not degrade the seriousness of the original problem; rather, it allows the audience to see its various sides, just as comedians do. This process is a form of abstraction. How can an architectural project maintain a challenging process and yet be seen without that seriousness?
Investigating how comedians construct their routines provides us with a different point of view. This studio will analyze how comedians build their schemes and will find ways to apply their methods as design tools.
There are many stand-up comedians; only a few of them, including Louis C.K., Kevin Hart, and Conan O’Brien, construct their plot that works. Each has different methods to approach and means to convince the audience. One important technique that they all use is jokes that the listener can understand only when in a certain position or having a certain point of view. Comedians find a sneaky way to introduce critical evaluations of a subject through twisting one’s understanding. This studio will use this specific technique to present and investigate the uncomfortable messages in architectural discourse.
Many architects tried to utilize the problem of humor in the past including Michael Graves. However, humor was a technique, which was a short trend and became a joke after, rather than defined as a method since architects were abusing humor to critique architecture. This studio will examine humor as a design tool to achieve authority and power over the architecture problems, not critiquing them.
Bernard Pras, a French artist who specializes in anamorphic art, questions the problem of perspective. The spectator can see the artist’s intention only from a single point of view. The architect could borrow Pra’s technique to manifest the uncomfortable, hidden messages in the architectural discourse.
This studio will investigate and research how to express one’s vision without any limitations, with the aim of introducing meta-humor in architecture to the group. Each student will be responsible for studying a comedian of his or her choice and using that analogy as a design tool.
Students will be expected not only to engage in those conversations. Reading materials will allow students to research what it means to produce a non-serious yet difficult project. Students will also be expected to have a concrete project thesis and the capacity to defend their project when presenting it.
This project will investigate and research how to express one’s vision without any limitations, with the aim of introducing meta-humor in architecture to the group.
Bergson, Henri. Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic. Lexington, KY: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013.
Bloom, Harold. The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry. 2nd edition. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1997.
Duboy, Philippe and Middleton, Robin. Lequeu: An Architectural Enigma. 1st MIT Press edition. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1986.