Actors and Vehicles of Architectural Criticism (4)

From Satire to Criticism: Comics in Architecture Publications in the 1960s and 1970s
Carlos Machado e Moura
Faculdade de Arquitectura da Universidade do Porto

Cartoons, in the tradition of the graphic satire, have been an acute form of criticism of architecture and the city since the beginning of the 20th century. Although originally produced for the general press, many of them were incorporated into architecture periodicals in the form of illustrations or as sections of magazines, like the long-living Alan Dunn’s cartoons for The Architectural Record, Louis Hellman’s for The Architect’s Journal, Marcello Piccardo’s strips for A, or Saul Steinberg’s caricatures for many different publications.
Comic strips, on the other hand, made a different entrance in the discipline and had a different presence. Vindicated by Le Corbusier in L’Esprit Nouveau as early as 1921 for their ability to narrate sequences, they have been used by different modern architects as a way to incorporate the dimension “time” into their projects. However, during the 1960s and 1970s, comic strips will be used prominently in architectural publications and especially little magazines as a specific and very different form of criticism. Their widespread use in the radical scene linked to their narrative form, a graphic way of conveying discourse, which will be exploited for many different purposes, from their countercultural value to their communicative abilities: incorporated in collages in the Situationist tradition of détournement as a means of political action; used for their science-fiction imagery of space comics as a way of claiming for motion and dynamism into architecture; or as a tool for narrative communication especially in a type of architecture which is very ideological.
This presentation proposes an overview of the use of comics during this period, demonstrating that their use is deeply linked to a claim for an architecture “autre”, as well as to a position outside the official sphere of architecture, therefore being a powerful visual vehicle of criticism of the discipline, coming from outside to act from within.


Carlos Machado e Moura (Porto, 1982). Graduated in Architecture (FAUP, 2006), Postgraduate in Architectural Heritage (CEAPA-FAUP, 2013) and integrated member of the Center for Studies in Architecture and Urbanism (CEAU-FAUP) since 2016. He currently develops his PhD research, funded by the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) since 2015, on the use of comics and graphic narrative in architectural publications. He lived in Italy, in 2006-10, where he collaborated with public agency “Consorzio Trasformazione Urbane Urban S.p.A.” and integrated several research teams in European projects for urban regeneration and local development, besides being an invited lecturer at the degree of “Urbanistica e Pianificazione Territoriale e Ambientale” at the University of Florence (2009/10). Co-author of several architecture projects, he designed the new public Primary School and Nursery of Sant’Albino in Montepulciano (Italy), completed in 2016 and selected for Bauwelt award 2017 and Premis FAD internacionals 2017. Editor of “Building Views” (Circo de Ideias, 2017), a book on minimalist windows, and co-author of “Casas Quinhentistas de Castelo Branco” (CMCB/Argumentum, 2008), he published several articles in different magazines and participated in conferences both as speaker or moderator. Assistant curator of Open House Porto 2016, he currently is editor at J–A Jornal Arquitectos.

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