Matthew, we may be namesakes but I'm going pretty much the opposite direction!
I agree, I like Andrea Doria/Cristoforo Colombo funnels, but that's about all we share. I have seen the United States' funnels described in another thread as something like oversized plastic flowerpots, and I have to agree with that. They ruin the otherwise classic lines of the ship, in my book.
And, although I know many out there will disagree with me, I really liked those Michelangelo/Rafaelo funnels. On those ships, they fit somehow, although I must say on many other ships they would have looked daft.
Generally, though, I don't really think you can view funnels in isolation. They have to fit into the ship's general profile, so what looked grand on Titanic would have looked stupid on a post WW2 vessel for example.
I agree funnels can really distract from or enhance a vessel. The pairing with a gap of the NGL ships I found really disconcerting, like a missing tooth, on otherwise lovely hulls. There is something particularly desirable about the neat spacing of the other four-stackers though, and I can see how immigrants had faith in the power and speed implied by those four funnels. Normandie's abbrieviated short stacks somehow fit her avant-garde lines although the last Britannic and Georgic look stunted with short stacks. I always found the stacks on the United States and America very tubby and over powering, and sometimes three stacks look a little awkward. I think the old Ile de France looked much better with two. What a difference a funnel makes- and how I wish QE2 and QM2 had at least one proper one.
Every funnelÂ´s design has an accordance with the age it was done. At the beginning of the 20th century the four stacks design showed power in a ship, but after WW1 that design became outdated. However we cannot forget that funnels are also functional, and with the introduction of oil and diesel engines they were not longer needed. That is why the one funnel desing predominant today. we also have to remeber that funnels take up a lot of space in the deck!