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Looking for Influences Upon Hergé for Architecture

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#1 · Posted: 14 Apr 2009 16:02
I'm an architecture student and I’m currently working on a project that has to do with the way that Hergé created the built environment of the places Tintin visited.

Hergé did not just create scenes for his characters. The places he drew played an important role, as they depicted the local political and social circumstances. Architecture and society are closely connected. Could anybody enlighten me about Hergé’s basic designing principles as far as architecture and urban environment are concerned? What were his inspirations? I would appreciate your suggestions about useful bibliography.
#2 · Posted: 14 Apr 2009 17:36
Since his work was published in newspapers and magazines, Herge had access to a lot of material from around the world and this included photos of streets and buildings which he used in his drawings.

In "The Blue Lotus", for instance, Tintin is on his way by rickshaw (two-wheeled cart which seats one or two persons and is pulled by a man) to meet Mitshuirato for the first time. The street scene where he is observing the activity around him was based on a photo Herge had in his archives. Houses and streets in Switzerland, for "The Calculus Affair" were also based on photos taken in that country.

The house of Professor Taragon, where Tintin and his friends have the nightmares involving Rascar Capac, was based on a house Herge sketched while researching for "The Seven Crystal Balls" - unaware at first that it was being used by the Gestapo.

Try Michael Farr's "Tintin the Complete Companion" which should be available on Amazon. It is regarded as the best authority on Tintin to date and includes many of the original photos which Herge used to draw his streets and building.
#3 · Posted: 14 Apr 2009 22:27
I'm familiar with Michael Farr's work on Tintin,in fact i have his "Adventure of Herge,creator of Tintin" book, but unfortunately it didn't include the piece of information my project required. I hope "Tintin the Complete Companion" is closer to what i am looking for!In case something new related to my project issue comes up,any new idea,please let me know!Thank you!
#4 · Posted: 14 Apr 2009 23:58
Do you read French christi? - if so, there are a few articles (and passages in books) that touch on your theme.
#5 · Posted: 15 Apr 2009 00:20 · Edited by: Balthazar
Some of Hergé's architectural drawing was spot-on documentary realism, such as the centre of Brussels when Tintin returns home at the end of Land of the Soviets, or the airport, station and hotel in Geneva in The Calculus Affair.

And then much of his architectural drawing was carefully researched but altered, adapted, and relocated from their actual real locations for his fictional purposes. Examples of this would be Marlinspike Hall (adapted from a real French chateau, of course), the "Gestapo" house that mtc mentions above, the huge city-gate wall in the Blue Lotus (which I think I read somewhere was from a photo he had of a wall in a different Chinese city to Shanghai), and many "exotic" or typical buildings in Tintin's foreign adventures in South America, Asia, the Middle East, etc, which add a realistic flavour of the country.

And thirdly, some of his architectural drawing actually contains social and political satire, parody or comment. Reading what you've written in your first post above -

Herge did not just create scenes for his characters. The places he drew played an important role, as they depicted the local political and social circumstances.

- this category might be the most interesting to you.

The prime example of this category would be his creation of the entirely fictional city of Schôd in The Calculus Affair, where every building (or car) seem to have design features that refer to the country's dictator's huge Stalin-like moustache. (It's quite similar to the portrayal of Hitler's Germany in Disney's 1940s Donald Duck cartoon, Der Fuhrer's Face, where every road and window frame is swastika -shaped.)

Other examples of Hergé making socio-political comment with his architecture drawing would be the springing-up-overnight city in Tintin in America, and his portrayal of Tapiocapolis in Picaros, with chic skyscrapers and modern sculpture in the centre and terrible shanty towns on the fringes. And even that huge gated wall in the Blue Lotus, that I mentioned above, seems to have a political symbolism as well as architectural realism, somehow representing the occupying Japanese army's oppression of the Chinese people. (It's give an unusually big half-page panel, which adds to its impact as an image.)

Those are just my own thoughts really, rather than a bibliography of work on the subject, but I hope they're helpful! It's an interesting subject you raise, which is maybe not well covered in the few books we have on Herge's work that are published in English.

As to Hergé's own tastes and principles in architecture, I'm not sure. But I'd guess they were similar to his design principles on the page - utilitarian in a clean, elegant balanced way. (From photos, I think his own house was like that - fairly restrained and simple.)
#6 · Posted: 15 Apr 2009 00:57
To be honest,i don't read nor speak French,but i can have the articles and passages translated for me. The language won't be an obstacle.
#7 · Posted: 15 Apr 2009 11:23
A good starting point is the book “Tintin et la Ville” (“Tintin and the City”) (Moulinsart, 2004). You should consider ordering a copy.

And, for some recent shorter pieces which treat the topic of architecture in Tintin, see the following :

– a two-part article on the castle from Black Island in issues 4 and 5 of the periodical “Hergé” (issued by Moulinsart).
– two articles on Brussels in Tintin: (1) in the special issue of the magazine “Geo” (“Tintin grand voyageur du siècle” (2000) – now also available as a book); (2) in the special issue of “Lire” devoted to Tintin (2006, definitely worth getting even by those who read no French).
– some relevant commentary in Beaux-Arts Magazine / Le Figaro “Tintin à la découverte des grandes civilisations” (2008).

There are plenty of useful passages in more out of the way reference works – but what exactly is the scope of your project? Will you be spending much time on it?

Any serious student of Tintin must perforce become a collector as material simply isn’t available in public libraries (an exception is the British Library which has quite a good selection of French language studies on Tintin, including volumes 1-5 of Goddin’s Chronologie and some more obscure titles).

For more specific help you’ll have to provide an e-mail address where you can be contacted off-list.
#8 · Posted: 15 Apr 2009 13:55
I've recently started searching for material related to my project, as i'm still at its very beginning. I must have it completed by the end of September.Through this project I'll try to discern the correlation between Herge's beliefs-purposes and his drawings,get into his mind in other words and translate his various architectural languages.I suggest that he used on purpose different "architectural expressions" in his design-if i may say that-for every place,as a mean to describe different social and political conditions.I haven't come up with the exact topic yet, but this is approximately the points i want to develop and reach a conclusion. Is it likely to find the articles you mentioned on the internet? I live in Greece and that is the most possible way to have access to foreign magazines or newspapers!
#9 · Posted: 15 Apr 2009 14:20 · Edited by: luinivierge2010
If money is no object you can order photocopies of relevant material from the bande dessinée library at Angoulême (http://www.cnbdi.fr/) and/or purchase relevant material from book dealers in France and Belgium and on e-bay (http://www.ebay.fr/ offers the widest range and should be checked on a daily basis). Otherwise you may have trouble finding the most significant studies - is there anything at the French Institute in Athens ?
#10 · Posted: 15 Apr 2009 16:00
I found some books about Tintin and Herge at the French Insitute but they weren't very enlightening as far as my study is concerned; this is why i turned to other sources for assistance.

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