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Salvador Dali's Dream of Venus: The Surrealist Funhouse from the 1939 World's Fair text by Ingrid Schaffner, photos by Eric Schaal (Princeton Architectural Press)

For decades the 'funhouse' designed by Salvador Dali for the 1939 World's Fair in New York has enjoyed almost legendary status for its otherworldly eroticism. To add to the building's legend, the photographs taken by Eric Schaal to document the construction and final design of the structure were long believed lost, while the building itself had been torn down with the rest of the fair. Only a few published descriptions survived.

Ingrid Schaffner explains how Schaal's photographs were finally rediscovered in the late 1990s, and she chronicles the history of the planning, design, and construction of the building. But most interesting is her guided tour of the place, room by room, as if the reader is being taken through it with her, the tour illustrated with Schaal's photographs. Various appendages erupted from the funhouse's outside walls; its visitors were obliged to walk between a stone woman's spread legs to enter the building; and the dreamlike exhibits inside are tableaux versions of works by Dali, Magritte, Ernst, and other surrealists. A live nude woman is perched atop a taxi covered in vines; inside the taxi it is raining on seated manikins. In another tableau, a man with a birdcage body sits in a living room chair while giraffes burn in the background. A piano's keyboard is a nude woman on her back, her body painted as black and white keys. Another tableau shows a naked woman lying on a luxurious bed as lobsters roast on open fires around her.

Dali's funhouse was a disturbingly playful environment where strange dreams--erotic, mysterious, and dangerous--came to life. Schaffner's book captures the intensity of a unique structure that has been lost to us for far too long.

--Thomas Wiloch