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Postmodern architecture

1000 de La Gauchetière, Montreal, with ornamented and strongly defined top, middle and bottom. Contrast with the modernist Seagram Building and Torre_Picasso Messeturm in Frankfurt by Helmut Jahn. Bank of America Center in Houston by by John Burgee and Philip Johnson.
San Antonio Public Library, Texas. Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels by Rafael Moneo. Harold Washington Library in Chicago by Hammond, Beeby and Babka.
 
  The McCormick Tribune Campus Center at Chicago's IIT Campus by Rem Koolhaas. The Milwaukee Art Museum by Santiago Calatrava.
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Comerica Tower in Detroit by John Burgee and Philip Johnson. The City Hall in Mississauga, Canada conveys a post-modern architectural style depicting the concept of a "futuristic farm" Chifley Tower, Sydney, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates  and Travis Partners, 1988.
     
Postmodern architecture

Postmodern architecture is an international style whose first examples are generally cited as being from the 1950s, and which continues to influence present-day architecture. Postmodernity in architecture is generally thought to be heralded by the return of "wit, ornament and reference" to architecture in response to the formalism of the International Style of modernism. As with many cultural movements, some of postmodernism's most pronounced and visible ideas can be seen in architecture. The functional and formalized shapes and spaces of the modernist movement are replaced by unapologetically diverse aesthetics: styles collide, form is adopted for its own sake, and new ways of viewing familiar styles and space abound.

Classic examples of modern architecture are the Lever House and the Seagram Building in commercial space, and the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright or the Bauhaus movement in private or communal spaces. Transitional examples of postmodern architecture are the Portland Building in Portland, OR and the Sony Building (New York City) (originally AT&T Building) in New York City, which borrows elements and references from the past and reintroduces color and symbolism to architecture. A prime example of inspiration for postmodern architecture lies along the Las Vegas Strip, which was studied by Robert Venturi in his 1977 book Learning from Las Vegas celebrating the strip's ordinary and common architecture. Venturi opined that "Less is a bore", inverting Mies Van Der Rohe's dictum that "Less is more".

Postmodern architecture has also been described as "neo-eclectic", where reference and ornament have returned to the facade, replacing the aggressively unornamented modern styles. This eclecticism is often combined with the use of non-orthogonal angles and unusual surfaces, most famously in the State Gallery of Stuttgart (New wing of the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart) and the Piazza d'Italia by Charles Willard Moore.

Modernist architects regard post-modern buildings as vulgar and cluttered with "gew-gaws". Postmodern architects often regard modern spaces as soulless and bland. The divergence in opinions comes down to a difference in goals: modernism is rooted in minimal and true use of material as well as absence of ornament, while postmodernism is a rejection of strict rules set by the early modernists and seeks exuberance in the use of building techniques, angles, and stylistic references.

Brief discussion

New trends became evident in the last quarter of the 20th century. Some architects started to turn away from Modern Functionalism which they viewed as boring, and which most of the public considered unwelcoming and even unpleasant. These architects turned towards the past, quoting past aspects of various buildings and melding them together (even sometimes in an inharmonious manner) became a new means of designing buildings. A detail example of this was that Post Modernism saw the comeback of the classical pillar and other elements of premodern designs, sometimes adapting (but not aping, as was done in the 19th century) classical Greek and Roman examples. In Modernism the pillar (as an design feature) was either replaced by other technological means such as cantilevers, or masked completly by curtain wall façades. The revival of the pillar was not a technological necessity, rather an aesthetic one. Modernist high-rise buildings had become in most instances monolithic, rejecting the concept of a stack of varied design elements for a single vocabulary from ground level to the top, in the most extreme cases even using a constant "footprint" (with no tapering or "wedding cake" design), with the building sometimes even suggesting the possibility of a single metalic extrusion directly from the ground, mostly by eliminating horizontal elements from the visual presentation — this was seen most strictly in the World Trade Center buildings of Minoru Yamasaki.

Another return was that of “wit, ornament and reference”, seen in older buildings in terra cotta decorative facades and bronze or stainless steel embelishments of the beaux arts and art deco periods. In post-modern structures this was often achieved by placing very contradictory quotes of long ago building styles alongside each other, and even the incorporation of furniture stylistic references at a huge scale. Surprisingly, the buildings manage to (most of the time) retain a generally pleasing aesthetic. However, as with any new aesthetic it would take some time to be accepted by the general public.

Contextualism, a trend in thinking in the later parts of 20th Century, influences the ideologies of the Post Modern movement in general. Contextualism was centred on the belief that all knowledge is “context-sensitive”. This idea was even taken further to say that knowledge cannot be known without considering its context. This influenced Post Modern architecture to be sensitive to context as discussed below.

No discussion of Post Modernism Architecture could possibly exclude Robert Venturi. He was surely at the forefront of instantiating this movement. His book, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (published in 1966), was instrumental in Post Modernism and was fiercely critical of the dominant functional Modernism.

Post Modernism began in America around the 1960’s/70’s and then it spread to Europe and the rest of the world, to remain right through to the present.

The aims of Post Modernism begin with its reaction to Modernism; it tries to address its predecessor’s failures. This list of aims is extended to include communicating ideas with the public often in a then humorous or witty way. Often, the communication is done by quoting extensively from past architectural styles, often many at once. In breaking away with modernism it also strives produce buildings that are sensitive to the context within which they are built.

Post Modernism has its origins in the failure of Modern Architecture. The failures of its predecessor were manifold. Its obsession with functionalism and economical building meant that ornaments were done away with and the buildings were cloaked in a stark rational appearance. The buildings failed to meet the human’s need for comfort both for body and for the eye in aesthetic. Most humans enjoy looking at beautifuly decorated buildings. Modernism didn’t account for this and the problem worsened when the already monotonous apartment blocks degenerated into slums. Post Modernism sought to cure this by reintroducing ornaments and decoration for its own sake. Form was no longer to be defined solely by its functional requirements; it could be anything the architect pleased.

The move away from away from Modernism’s functionalism is well illustrated by Venturi’s witty adaptation of Mies van der Rohe’s maxim “Less is more”. Venturi instead said “less is a bore”. Along with the rest of the Post Modernists he sought to bring back ornament because of its necessity. He explains this and his criticism of Modernism in his Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture by saying that:

Architects can bemoan or try to ignore them (referring to the [ornamentaland decorative] elements in buildings) or even try to abolish them, but they will not go away. Or they will not go away for a long time, because architects do not have the power to replace them (nor do they know what to replace them with).

Robert Venturi was possibly the foremost campaigner of the rebellion against Modernism Architecture which became known as Post Modernism. His two books Complexity and Contradiction (1966) and Learning from Las Vegas (1972) (although not actual manifestoes of Post Modern Architecture) do well to express many of the aims embodied in Post Modernism. The latter book he co-authored with Steven Izenour and his wife, Denise Scott Brown.

Complexity and Contradiction highlights an aim that ornamental and decorative elements “accommodate existing needs for variety and communication”. Here Venturi stresses the importance of the building communicating a meaning to the public (which necessitates non-functional elements of the building). The Post Modernists in general strive to achieve this communication through their buildings.

This communication is not intended to a direct narrating of the meaning. Venturi goes on to explain that it is rather intended to be a communication that could be interpreted in many ways. Each interpretation is more or less true for its moment because work of such quality will have many dimensions and layers of meaning.

This pluralism of meaning is intended to mirror the similar nature of that contemporary society.

The pluralism in meaning was also echoed in the Post Modern Architects striving for variety in their buildings. Venturi reminisces in one of his essays, A View from the Campidoglio, to that effect when he says that:

When [he] was young, a sure way to distinguish great architects was through the consistency and originality of their work...This should no longer be the case. Where the Modern masters' strength lay in consistency, ours should lie in diversity.

Postmodernism with its diversity possesses sensitivity to the building’s context and history, and the client’s requirements. The Postmodernist architects considered the general requirements of the urban buildings and their surroundings during the building’s design. This could be better explained with the aid of an example: Venice Beach House designed by Frank Gehry(figure needed). In the picture a glimpse can be gained of the neighbouring house’s similar bright flat colour. This vernacular sensitivity is evident in some Post-modern buildings.

The aims of Postmodernism can mostly be explained through the writings of its champion, Robert Venturi. These include solving the problems of a legacy of Modernism, communicating meanings with ambiguity, and sensitivity for the building’s context. These aims are surprisingly unified for a period of buildings designed by architects who largely never collaborated with each other. The aims do however leave room for various implementations as can be illustrated by the diverse buildings created during the Movement.

The characteristics of Postmodernism allow its aim to be expressed in diverse ways. These characteristics include the use of sculptural forms, ornaments, anthropomorphism and materials which perform trompe l’oeil. These physical characteristics are combined with conceptual characteristics of meaning. These characteristics of meaning include pluralism, double coding, irony and paradox, and contextualism.


Detail of Abteiberg Museum

The sculptural forms, not necessarily organic, were created with much ardour. These can be seen in Hans Hollein’s Abteiberg Museum (1972-1982). The building is made up of several building units, all very different. Each building’s forms are nothing like the conforming rigid ones of Modernism. These forms are sculptural and are somewhat playful. These forms are not reduced to an absolute minimum; they are built and shaped for their own sake. The building units all fit together in a very organic way, which enhances the effect of the forms.


Portland Public Service Building

After many years of being neglected, ornament returned. This can be seen in Frank Gehry’s house, The Venice Beach house (image needed) built in 1986. The house is littered with small details, that would’ve have been considered excessive and needless in Modernism. These are the ornamental features. The Beach House has an assembly of circular logs which exist mostly for decoration. The logs on top do have a minor purpose of holding up the window covers. However, the mere fact that they could have been replaced with a practically invisible nail, makes their exaggerated existence largely ornamental. For a more prominent ornament, Michael Graves' Portland Public Service Building (1980), proves wholly adequate. The two obtruding triangular forms are at most largely ornamental features. They exist for aesthetic or their own purpose. The return of ornament was a necessary one.

Postmodernism, with its sensitivity the building’s context, did not exclude the anthropomorphic needs of humans from the building. Carlo Scarpa’s Brion Nega Cemetery (1970-72) (fig. 2) exemplifies this. The human requirements of a cemetery is that it posses a solemn nature, yet it must not cause the visitor to become depressed. Scarpa’s cemetery achieves the solemn mood with the dull grey colours of the walls and neatly defined forms, but the bright green grass prevents this being too overwhelming. This sensitivity becomes more obvious when thinking about how a Modern architect would have solved this need. He would have most likely neglected the human element and paved the area with concrete slabs.

Post-modern buildings sometimes perform the age old trompe l'oeil. This involves the illusion of forms or depths where none actually exist and has been used by the renaissance painters. The Portland Public Service Building (1980) has pillars represented on the side of the building that to some extent appear to be real, yet they aren’t.

The Hood Museum of Art (1981-1983) (image needed) has a typical symmetrical façade which was at the time prevalent throughout Post-Modern Buildings.

Robert Venturi’s Vanna Venturi House (1962-64) (image needed) illustrates Postmodernist aim of communicating a meaning and the characteristic of symbolism. This façade is , according to Venturi, a “symbolic picture” of house, looking back to the 18th century . This is partly achieved through the use of symmetry and the arch over the entrance.


Piazza d'Italia by Charles Willard Moore, New Orleans.

Perhaps the best example of irony in Post-modern buildings is Charles Moore’s Piazza d’Italia (1978). Moore quotes (architecturally) elements of Italian renaissance and Roman Antiquity. However he does so with a twist. The irony comes when it is noted that the pillars are covered with steel. It is also paradoxical in the way he quotes Italian antiquity for away from the original in New Orleans.

Double coding meant the buildings convey many meanings simultaneously. The AT&T Building does this very well. The building is a tall skyscraper which brings with it connotations of very modern technology. Yet, the top contradicts this. The top section conveys elements of the antiquity. This double coding is a prevalent trait of Postmodernism.

The characteristics of Postmodernism were rather unified given their diverse appearances. The most notable among their characteristics is their playfully extravagant forms and the humour of the meanings the buildings conveyed.

Influential Architects
Some of the most well-known and influential architects in the postmodern style are:

John Burgee
Michael Graves is perhaps the most well-known figure in the postmodern movement.
Jon Jerde
Philip Johnson
Ricardo Legorreta
Richard Meier
Charles Willard Moore
Cesar Pelli
Antoine Predock
Robert A.M. Stern
James Stirling
Robert Venturi

Changes in History Teaching
The rise of interest in history that came as a consequence of the general Postmodernist turn had a profound impact on architectural education. History courses became increasingly regularized and insisted upon. With the demand for professors knowledgeable in the history of architecture, one saw the emergence of several Ph.D. programs in schools of architecture, Ph.D. programs that differentiated themselves from art history Ph.D. programs, where architectural historians had previously trained. In the US, MIT and Cornell were the first, created in the mid 1970s, followed by Columbia, Berkeley, and Princeton. Among the founders of new architectural history programs were Bruno Zevi at the Institute for the History of Architecture in Venice, Stanford Anderson and Henry Millon at MIT, Alexander Tzonis at the Architectural Association, Anthony Vidler at Princeton, Manfredo Tafuri at the University of Venice, Kenneth Frampton at Columbia University, and Werner Oechslin and Kurt Forster at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule, ETH.

The creation of these programs was paralleled by the hiring, in the 1970s, of professionally trained historians by schools of architecture: Margaret Crawford (with a Ph.D. from U.C.L.A) at SCI-Arch; Elisabeth Grossman (Ph.D., Brown University) at Rhode Island School of Design; Christian Otto[2] (Ph.D., Columbia University) at Cornell University; Richard Chafee (Ph.D., Courtauld Institute) at Roger Williams University; and Howard Burns (M.A. Kings College) at Harvard, to name just a few examples. A second generation of scholars then emerged that began to extend these efforts in the direction of what is now called “theory.” One thinks of K. Michael Hays (Ph.D., MIT) at Harvard, Mark Wigley (Ph.D., Auckland University) at Princeton (though he now teaches at Columbia University), and Beatriz Colomina (Ph.D., School of Architecture, Barcelona) at Princeton; Mark Jarzombek (Ph.D. MIT) at Cornell (though he is now at MIT), Jennifer Bloomer (Ph.D., Georgia Tech) at Iowa State and Catherine Ingraham (Ph.D., John Hopkins) now at Pratt Institute.

References


An example of an attempt at post-modernism (Shanghai), arguably overdone.

^ Mark Jarzombek, “The Disciplinary Dislocations of Architectural History,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 58/3 (September 1999), p. 489. See also other articles in that issue by Eve Blau, Stanford Anderson, Alina Payne, Daniel Bluestone, Jeon-Louis Cohen and others.
^ Cornel University dept. of Architecture website[1]

Other References
Postmodern Architecture: Restoring Context Princeton University Lecture
Postmodern Architecture and Urbanism University of California - Berkeley Lecture
Learning from Las Vegas: The Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form. Robert Venturi, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1977 ISBN 0-262-22015-6
History of Post-Modern Architecture. Heinrich Klotz, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998. ISBN 0-262-11123-3

Links
 
Postmodernity or postmodern architecture is a period whose first examples are generally cited as being from the 1950's, which runs through the present.

Postmodernity in architecture is generally thought to be heralded by the return of "wit, ornament and reference" to architecture in response to the formalism of the International Style of modernism.

As with many cultural movements, one of postmodernism's most pronounced and visible ideas can be seen in architecture. The functional, and formalized, shapes and spaces of the modernist movement are replaced by unapologetically diverse aesthetics; styles collide, form is adopted for its own sake, and new ways of viewing familiar styles and space abound.

Brief discussion
Classic examples of modern architecture are the Lever House and the Seagram Building in commercial space, and the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright or the Bauhaus movement in private or communal spaces. Transitional examples of postmodern architecture are the Portland Building in Portland, OR and Sony Building (New York City) (originally AT&T Building) in New York City, which borrows elements and references from the past and reintroduces color and symbolism to architecture. A prime example of inspiration for postmodern architecture lies along the Las Vegas Strip which was studied by Robert Venturi in the book Learning from Las Vegas for the strip's ordinary and common architecture.

Postmodern architecture has also been described as "neo-eclectic", where reference and ornament have returned to the facade, replacing the aggressively unornamented modern styles. This eclecticism is often combined with the use of non-orthogonal angles and unusual surfaces, most famously in the State Gallery Stuttgart (Staatsgalerie Stuttgart) and the Piazza d'Italia by Charles Willard Moore.

Modernist architects regard post-modern buildings as vulgar and loaded with "gee-gaws". Post-modern architects often regard modern spaces as soulless and bland. The divergence in opinions comes down to a difference in goals: Modernism is rooted in minimal and true use of material as well as absence of ornament, while Post-modernism is a rejection of strict rules set by the early modernists and seeks exuberance in the use of building techniques, angles, and stylistic references.
 

some recent Po-Mo

Wellness Center, Switzerland, Mario Botta & Associates, architect

Morse U.S. Courthouse, Eugene, Oregon, Morphosis, architects

 

TEN ROW HOUSES IN RUGINELLO-MILAN
Roccatelier Associati Architects

THEATRE STUDIO FOR UNIVERSITY
Brno, Czech Republic
ARCHTEAM
Architects

REHABILITATION OF SANTA CATERINA MARKET
Barcelona, Spain
Miralles Tagliabue-EMBT Architects

FEDERATION SQUARE
Melbourne, Australia
LAB Architecture Studio Architects

"Shard of Glass Tower," London, Renzo Piano, architect


Simmons Hall, MIT, Stephen Holl, 2003


New York - Queens West Housing Development proposal, 2004
Arquitectonica


New York (Queens) Housing Development proposal, 2004, Morphosis


New York, 80 South Street Housing, 2004,
Santiago Calatrava


UAE Tower, Dubai, Adrian Smith (SOM), 2005


Trump Tower, Chicago, Adrian Smith (SOM), 2004


New York World Trade Center Site Transit Station,
Santiago Calatrava, 2004


 

Freedom Tower, New York,
Daniel Liebskind and David Childs, 2004


 

Milwaukee Art Museum, Santiago Calatrava, 2001


Vatican Jubilee Church, Richard Meyer, 2004


Millenium Park Music Pavillion and Pedestrian Bridge,
Frank Ghery, 2004


 

 

Tenerife Concert Hall, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain
Santiago Calatrava, 2004


Walking-City extension to the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD),
Toronto, Canada

Will Alsop, 2004


 

Seattle Public Library
Seattle, Washington

Rem Koolhaus, 2004


 

Soldier Field, Chicago
Wood & Zapata, 2004

Images with thanks to http://academics.triton.edu/faculty/fheitzman