Friday, March 28, 2014
Lampoon and Love
What we Architects do is not easy. It is a stressful existence scrounging for work and keeping clients’ happy while hoping to avoid lawsuits along the way. Through 17 years of private practice, I have found humor to be the most effective mood changer and cartooning to be the best vehicle. Over the last 10 years, the creation and evolution of Archi-toons (Architecture + cartoons; get it?) has become both my private therapy and public soapbox.
I had dabbled with cartooning for years as I hand-drew my Christmas cards during the 80’s and 90’s. The futurist John Nesbitt’s high tech/high touch reaction theory was valid; the more hours in a day that I spent on the computer, the more I enjoyed the old fashioned hand drawing of cartoons in my spare time.
I had always enjoyed the work of Alan Dunn, the noted cartoonist for The New Yorker and Architectural Record but there were no other humorists dedicated to the plight, struggles, idiosyncrasies, and daily experiences of the architectural profession.
Cartooning is a logical extension for the expression of our architectural talents. The Architect is academically instructed and professionally trained to be an observer of life. Cartooning becomes the medium for a re-presentation of these every day experiences…but with a twist. Archi-toons not only point out the obvious but often lampoon the self-righteous, praise the anonymous and fantasize what the profession could be.
A few of these early cartoons first appeared in my second book, the Architects Planner 2000. My editor had specified the page format for the book and my first official architectural cartoons were bound by those constraints. (That format is still followed to this day.) It was the 2003 publication of Archi-Toons : Funniness, Comedy and Delight that this hobby of mine officially developed into something grander than I had ever imagined.
Part Far-Side, part Thomas Paine, part Seinfeld, a typical Archi-toons panel is structured into an equation of three parts that include:
A. a message that provokes protest, touches the memory or promotes enlightenment.
B. an element of humor, usually by exaggeration or satire
C. a singular, attractive, simple graphic image
Needless to say, the amount of material and experiences that I have to draw from my 25 years in the profession is boundless. From my days as a student at NC State and Clemson to a Project Architect at LS3P and TVS to my current occupation as an Architect in private practice, I can tell you there is funny stuff everywhere; yet these experiences prove most satisfying when a colleague exclaims: “I feel that way too!” or “That happened to me!”
I personally feel we Architects are, by our education, licensure and training an exclusive bunch-few “outsiders” truly understand what we do. In my Archi-toons, the stereotypical professional, the academic role model, the daily professional exchanges, the public’s perception of our craft and many icons of our industry are all “celebrated” in the broadest sense of the word. Cartooning, I have found, is not just therapeutic but can function as an effective method of communicating social commentary, cultural observation or just plain old funny stuff. With apologies to The Godfather, only family can lampoon family…and that is what I do.
So here is a companion Blog where I park my cartoons:
I hope you like it!
Posted by Rick Bynum, AIA