A Guide to Uniting Popular Imagery and Architectural Design

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When pop-culture references lead to successful buildings rather than embarrassing kitsch

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The substantial humor found in Moonhoon's Rock It Suda -- at once a set of mountain lodges and a witty satire on popular imagery -- suggests there is more to this project than meets the eye, even if the pop-art appearance of the lodges has sentenced them to the realm of not-so-serious architecture. The project, displayed above, places imaginary pop icons, disguised as buildings, in a fairy-tale-like mountain setting.

The thought of architecture sporting looks borrowed from people, animals, man-made and natural objects, pop culture and game industry icons -- with a conscious intent to do so -- can be embarrassing to some who attended architecture school and practice within distinct and distinguished schools. But Rock it Suda has created a fairly specific project that distinguishes clever context-aware ingeniousness from kitsch. We present it here as a sort of Architect's Guide to Popular Imagery.

Story continues after the gallery.

Throughout their lives architecture students are influenced by the objects and images they've encountered. At the age of six, for example, we worshiped Space Invaders. By 12, we were writing poems to our PlayStation consoles. Today, some of us still sleep with their Mac laptops. At some point in an architect's development, we'll tend to express our admiration of pop-culture phenomena and allow it to give physical shape to our inner world.

The real, open, questions are: Which direct references seem to work in architecture and why? Which don't? The grotesque, worst-case-scenario examples -- enormous fruit-shaped houses, etc. -- little the Web. Buildings that use such references successfully, as Rock It Suda does, are considerable rarer.

View the complete OpenBuildings collection: Direct Quotations.

Image: Moonhoon: Rock It Suda concept design/Moonhoon.

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OpenBuildings is a community-driven encyclopedia of buildings from around the world. It is a database of historic, contemporary, and conceptual architecture that exists as a website and applications for iPhone and Android.

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