the rigorous m

bits and bobs, quotes and catching up

Filler on Kitsch in and of Architecture

Posted by rigorousm on September 23, 2014

“‘Kitsch’ is a word to be used with caution, devalued as it has become as an all-purpose pejorative for bad taste. In its classic definition by Gillo Dorfles, kitsch identified a specific phenomenon: the appropriation of a familiar thing that is then altered in scale, made in a different material, and assigned a wholly different and incongruous function, rendering the hybrid grotesque. Objects based on famous works of art and architecture are often cited as examples, such as a Venus de Milo figurine with a clock in its stomach or a Leaning Tower of Pisa pepper mill. Architectural kitsch has been most common in the commercial pop vernacular. But it is not unknown in the higher reaches of the building art. All the indicators of kitsch converged in Philip Johnson and John Burgee’s PPG corporate headquarters of 1979-1984 in Pittsburgh, where the shape of Sir Charles Barry’s Victoria Tower of 1836-1865 for the Palace of Westminster in London was altered in size, function, and material, and transmogrified into a forty-story mirror-glass office building.”

Makers of Modern Architecture: From Frank Lloyd Wright to Frank Gehry, by Martin Filler, p 290.

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