Why Architecture Is Funny

Laughter and Architecture

Architecture is not usually associated with humor, yet it can be a surprisingly funny discipline. From the amusing sights in our cities to the strange forms and shapes that make up the built environment, there is something quite unique about the way architecture evokes laughter and joy. Here, we explore why architecture is funny and the different ways it can elicit a chuckle.
Humour can be derived from several aspects of architecture, from the materiality used to the design of a building or a city. From wacky decorations to strange designs, architecture can often have an unexpected humour about it. Strangely proportioned buildings, for example, can make us laugh, reminding us of absurd popcorn boxes, liquorice allsorts, or even clown shoes.
Some architects prefer to use humour as an important element when designing buildings. While the function of a building is clearly paramount, humour can be used to offer something different and make the building stand out in its environment. Many architects believe that humour has an important role in building design, allowing architects to take risks and not be intimidated by the strictures of their profession.
In some cases, architecture can simply be far too serious to be taken seriously, which can lead to a lot of unintentional humour. As users of the city, we often see absurd or unexpected sights that surprise us and make us chuckle, such as when we notice that two buildings are framed as eyes of a face, or when a structure looks oddly out of place in its environment.
An unexpected use of colour can also be a source of humour for many. For example, seeing a vibrant yellow building in the middle of a cityscape can provide a spark of joy. Such confluences of the weird, the wonderful and the out-of-place can draw attention, making bystanders smile and lift their spirits.
We must recognise that humour is subjective, and that what may seem humorous to one person may not have the same effect on another. This is why it is so important for architects to be aware that their designs might not always elicit a laugh, but will instead create certain associations that viewers may associate with humour.

Architecture and Storytelling

Humour can be used to tell stories. This can be done through decoration or symbolism, allowing the building’s design to be a narrative in itself. A building that tells a story will always be remembered, and if a humorous element is included it will be even more memorable.
And it is at this point that architecture meets storytelling. Buildings can tell a story, be it through unusual forms, mythological references or unexpected themes. By having fun with symbols and unique elements, architects can create amusing stories that bring a smile to the viewer.
From a practical perspective, however, using humour can sometimes be a challenge for architects. Balancing humour and functionality is a difficult task. Architects need to ensure that humour does not detract from a building’s practicality, and that the functional requirements are met. In order to successfully integrate humour into their plans, it is important for architects to keep their humour subtle and subdued, to ensure it does not supersede the building’s function.

The Benefits of Humour in Architecture

Humour in architecture can be beneficial in many ways, not only to the viewer but also to the architect. Understanding humour can provide an insight into the mind of the architect, offering an insight into their tastes, ideas and beliefs. This can provide a useful approach to understanding how architecture can be best used to enhance the experience of the user, as a building’s design should invoke these reactions in the viewer.
Humour can also be a useful tool in architecture as it can provide an insight into the architect’s vision of the world, allowing them to express themselves in a light-hearted way and helping them to articulate their vision and beliefs. Humour can also be a liberating exercise for architects, as it can help them let go of the constraints of their profession and help them explore new ideas and possibilities.
In many cases, moreover, humour can be used to create something more than a clever building; it can be used to create meaningful connections with users and the environment. By including humour in the design of a building, architects can create a special atmosphere and develop a dialogue with their audience, creating an intimate connection that can have a lasting impact.

Humour, Art and Architecture

Humour in architecture is closely related to art, as both seek to create a reaction in the viewer. Art often has humour in it, and can be used to express an idea or tell a story. Here, humour can be seen in the same way as artistic expression and storytelling, allowing an architect to communicate their vision and beliefs in a unique and creative manner.
Humour can also be a powerful tool when it comes to art, as it can add depth and meaning to a piece. Humour can be used to make a powerful statement and increase the impact of the work. It can also be used to convey a certain emotion, allowing an artist or architect to connect with the viewers on an emotional level, giving them a greater connection with the piece and its message.
Architecture, like art, can evoke humour in a number of ways. Whether it is the use of colour, shape, or unexpected juxtapositions, humour can be used to create an atmosphere of surprise and joy. Once understood, humour can be a powerful tool, allowing architects to express themselves in a light-hearted and meaningful way, creating meaningful connections with their viewers.

Architecture and Social Engagement

Humour in architecture can have an even greater impact, as it can provide an opportunity for social engagement. humour can be used to encourage conversation and interaction, allowing architects to create a unique atmosphere and bring people together. For example, a humorous sculpture installed in a public space can invite discussion and debate, something that more serious designs may not have the same power to do.
In addition, humour in architecture can have a significant impact on the mood of a city. By adding a humorous element to a building or an area, architects can create an atmosphere of amusement and joy. This can lift people’s spirits and provide them with an escape from the often mundane nature of cities.


Humour and architecture may not immediately seem like a natural combination, yet humour is a powerful tool in creating meaningful and engaging designs. Humour can be used to elicit a response from the viewer, to hint at deeper meanings through symbolic designs, and to foster social engagement and conversation. By adding humour to their plans, architects can break away from the constraints of the profession and express themselves in a light-hearted and joyful way.

Anita Johnson is an award-winning author and editor with over 15 years of experience in the fields of architecture, design, and urbanism. She has contributed articles and reviews to a variety of print and online publications on topics related to culture, art, architecture, and design from the late 19th century to the present day. Johnson's deep interest in these topics has informed both her writing and curatorial practice as she seeks to connect readers to the built environment around them.

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