Robert Venturi's Vanna Venturi House is now for sale. According to reports on Curbed, the postmodern home could be yours for just $1.75 million! Said to be one of the top 10 buildings that "changed America," the house was originally designed and built by the Pritzker Prize laureate for his mother in 1964. The home's most recent owner, University of Pennsylvania professor Dr. Thomas P. Hughes passed away February, leaving the historic residence to his daughter who is now selling the home.
This article is part of ArchDaily Essentials, a series of articles which give you an overview of architecture's most important topics by connecting together some of our best articles from the past. To find out more about ArchDaily Essentials, click here; or discover all of our articles in the series here.
By the mid point of the twentieth century, the clean lines of the International Style and the stripped utilitarianism of functionalism were becoming increasingly common in American and European cities. Created out of a wholesale rethink of core modernist values, Postmodern architecture came as part of a philosophical shift that was just as all-encompassing as the Modernism it sought to replace; aiming to revive historical or traditional ideas and bring a more contextual approach to design. A critical elite who never really left modernism often condemned postmodernism as tacky, regressive or pandering to popular opinion; but after something of a resurgence of modernism in recent years, what’s the value of postmodernism to contemporary thinking?
As a firm believer in the importance of making good design accessible to the public, Michael Graves (July 9, 1934 – March 12, 2015) produced an enormous body of work that included product design alongside his architecture. Graves brought Postmodernism to the public eye through his emphasis on ornament and aesthetics, and stood firmly behind his design philosophy even as it went out of vogue.
In March of this year, two of the world’s great architects died in the same week. The coincidence was unusual not because of the similarities between these two men - the advanced stage of their careers, their age and relative success - but because of the marked differences. In the few days between their mutual passing, one of the two was awarded architecture’s highest medal, the Pritzker Prize. This year’s winner, Frei Otto, had been notified of his triumph in the months prior to his death. Someone you might call his alter ego – stylistically that is – the late, great Michael Graves, died shortly after the prize was awarded to Otto.
Otto was a leading light of a particular strain of European modernism, whose most lauded works were mainly completed in his youth; on the other side of the pond, Michael Graves ran a busy commercial practice with more than 350 completed buildings, but was reviled by some for his revisionist, classical style.
In some exceptional cases, an architect can be just as monumental as the buildings they design. Michael Graves, who passed away in March, certainly had a huge influence over the architecture of the late 20th century, with works ranging from the geometric icons of early post-modernism such as the Portland Building, to the slightly more staid Denver Central Library, to the outlandish kitsch of his Swan and Dolphin resorts for Disney. Though his death brought well-deserved attention to his work, it's just as important to remember Graves as a person, and the influence he had on people throughout his lifetime. As such, Metropolis Magazine has brought together a group of Graves' friends, colleagues and collaborators to remember Michael Graves.
We will be publishing Nikos Salingaros’ book, Unified Architectural Theory, in a series of installments, making it digitally, freely available for students and architects around the world. In Chapter 13, Salingaros begins to conclude his argument by discussing its counterpart, explaining how post-modern theorists such as Peter Eisenman came to eclipse the ideas of Christopher Alexander – and why Eisenman’s theoretical hegemony is not based upon sound architectural thinking. If you missed them, make sure to read the previous installments here.
Natural and Unnatural Form Languages
The concept of living structure, and the support for the theory offered by both direct experience and science, offers a basis for designing and understanding architecture. This platform is a sensible way of approaching design and building, because it is beholden neither to ideology, nor to individual agendas. Moreover, it should be contrasted to the irrationality of other schemes that currently appear in and seem to drive architectural discourse.
This past Thursday Michael Graves, the famed member of the New York Five and one of the Postmodern movement's great icons, passed away at age 80. With a legacy spanning more than 350 buildings and 2,000 product designs for companies like Alessi, Target and J.C. Penney, Graves will be remembered as a prolific designer, but for many within the profession his 50-year career will be memorable for so much more. Since news of Graves' death broke on Thursday, tributes have been posted all around the internet, starting with his company's official statement which said:
"Since founding the firm in 1964, Michael transformed the role of architects and designers, and even the place of design in our everyday lives. For those of us who had the opportunity to work closely with Michael, we knew him as an extraordinary designer, teacher, mentor and friend. For the countless students that he taught for more than 40 years, Michael was an inspiring professor who encouraged everyone to find their unique design voice."
Read on after the break for more reactions and tributes to Michael Graves.
Being such a recent movement in the international architectural discourse, the reach and significance of post-modernism can sometimes go unnoticed. In this selection, chosen by Adam Nathaniel Furman, the "incredibly rich, extensive and complex ecosystem of projects that have grown out of the initial explosion of postmodernism from the 1960s to the early 1990s" are placed side by side for our delight.
From mosques that imagine an idyllic past, via Walt Disney’s Aladdin from the 1990s, to a theatre in Moscow that turns its façade into a constructivist collage of classical scenes, "there are categories in post-modernism to be discovered, and tactics to be learned." These projects trace forms of complex stylistic figuration, from the high years of academic postmodernism, to the more popular of its forms that spread like wildfire in the latter part of the 20th century.
On show until April 5th at the Grounds for Sculpture in New Jersey, Michael Graves: Past as Prologue celebrates the fifty-year career of one of the United States' best-known and prolific architects. Graves is known for his unapologetic postmodernism which often divides opinion the profession. However in this review of the exhibition, originally published by Metropolis Magazine as "Shape Shifter," Samuel Medina finds that while it is easy to criticize in Graves' design style, it is hard to find fault with the noble intentions underlying his work.
“It’s been fifty years of more is more,” says Karen Nichols, a principal of Michael Graves & Associates, reiterating an aphorism Graves has taken a liking to in recent years. She is standing in front of an exhibition board in the retrospective, Michael Graves: Past as Prologue, which is currently on show at the Grounds for Sculpture in New Jersey. Nichols joined the firm in 1977, precisely the time when her employer made the fateful and rather lucrative pivot towards Postmodernism. The text on the exhibition wall behind her pinpoints The Big Break to the same year, depicting it with two like-minded projects. The first is the built Plocek House (1977), which originated the hide-the-keystone game Graves has been playing ever since. The other, the unrealized scheme for the Fargo-Moorhead Cultural Center Bridge (1977–1978), intended to enlighten the twin midwestern communities with a dose of the Enlightenment architect Claude Nicolas Ledoux’s architecture parlante.
To hear Nichols (and Graves) tell it now, it’s as if Graves were always more Venturian than Venturi, from his earliest neo-Corbusian villas, up through the pedimented temple he built for Disney in 1988. The truth is, Graves—the Cubist, the classicist, and the caricaturist—has always had a hard time saying “No.”
The Portland Building will be saved from the wrecking ball and undergo renovation, Michael Graves, the architect behind the postmodern masterpiece, told A/N blog. “It’s going to be saved,” Graves said to AN. “They told me… They said they are saving the building and not only that but we want you to sit on a committee for the redesign. I would imagine in the next year we’ll do something.”
New York City is home to a plethora of Postmodernist designs — from the impressive Sony Tower to the diminuative Central Park Ballplayers' House — but most remain unprotected by traditional heritage registries. The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission is at the threshold of its 50th anniversary but has yet to recognize the architectural successes of 1970 up to the most recent eligible year for landmarking, 1984. The commission has been unnecessarily slow to recognize Postmodernist structures in New York City, say Paul Makovsky and Michael Gotkin writing for Metropolis Magazine, who argue that the absence of historical recognition for Postmodernism has come at a high cost, citing the recladding of Takashimaya Building on Fifth Avenue as a "wake-up call" for the Commission.
The 20th Century Society was founded in the 1970s, to protect British architectural heritage which was built from 1914 onwards - following from the protection of the Victorian Society, which protects architecture from the 19th century up until 1914. This year, to celebrate the one hundred years of architectural heritage which they are sworn to protect, they have selected one building from each year, presenting one hundred of the best, most interesting or most loved buildings from the last century with their 100 Buildings 100 Years project.
The 100 selected buildings are featured in an ongoing exhibition at the Royal Academy in London, and also feature in a new book published by Batsford Books. Read on after the break to learn more about 100 Buildings 100 Years, and see a selection of the chosen buildings from the past hundred years.
It's not often that a major design project by a bevy of superstar architects is forgotten to history. But this seems to be what happened in the 1980s, when Italian designer Cleto Munari commissioned a stable of world-famous architects to design a new jewelry collection. The (unashamedly PoMo) results were documented in a now almost forgotten book by Barbara Radice called simply "Jewelry By Architects," which included interviews with each designer. Originally published by Monica Khemsurov of Sight Unseen, this article shows off just some of the contents of this fascinating work.
Until about six months ago, there was only one Munari we idolized: Bruno, one of our favorite 20th-century designers and design theorists. (If you haven’t read Design As Art, we suggest you hop to it!) But then, one fateful day this past spring, we were wandering aimlessly around the internet when we stumbled upon the biggest editorial coup we've scored in years, and thus began our love affair with Cleto Munari. The Italian designer—who, as far as we can tell, is unrelated to Bruno—commissioned a dream-team of architects like Ettore Sottsass and Peter Eisenman in the early ’80s to create a jewelry collection for his eponymous company, and the project had almost no coverage anywhere on the web. After immediately snapping up a copy of the incredible out-of-print book that documented it, which we’re excerpting a small portion of here, we set about doing more research on Munari himself. Turns out he’s a bit of a Sight Unseen patron saint, who dreamed up all kinds of cross-disciplinary projects for the precious metals–focused design brand he founded in the ’70s with Carlo Scarpa. “It is most interesting to me to have a poet design a table, a painter design a credenza, and an architect design a spoon,” Munari told the Huffington Post in an interview two years ago.
Last week, Michael Graves attended a public conversation with Randy Gragg, director of The University of Oregon's John Yeon Center to discuss the Portland Building, America's first postmodern building. The discussion centered around the famed, 1980s building’s many problems - “dark, leaky and claustrophobic” interiors,” pedestrian-unfriendly parking garage, and more - asking Graves for his advice on whether the city should update it or tear it down. His response, “The whole idea of tearing the building down, it's like killing a child… I don't know how to react to that.” Read all of Graves’ responses to tenant complaints here on the Oregon Live.
As modernist architects broke free from vernacular architecture and developed a homogenized international style, many created sterile spaces and places out of touch with the decorative warmth of historical forms of human inhabitation. Negative reactions to the brutality of Modernist spaces encouraged architectural movements such as post-modernism and deconstructivism, but these never managed to usurp the rational modernist box as a dominant architectural paradigm.
However, the intended machine-like precision of these buildings has often become unintentionally humanized over time, through the addition of curtains, coloring, or even through accidental breakage and imperfect repairs or alterations. I believe that building on the successes and failures of modernism has spawned a new and previously unclassified architectural style: Pixelism. Find out what this new phenomenon is after the break.
As a student of architecture, the formative years of study are a period of wild experimentation, bizarre use of materials, and most importantly, a time to make mistakes. Work from this period in the life of an architect rarely floats to the surface - unless you're Zaha Hadid or Frank Gehry, that is. A treasure trove of early architectural drawings from the world's leading architects has recently been unearthed from the private collection of former Architectural Association Chairman Alvin Boyarsky. The collection is slated to be shown at the Kemper Art Museum, Washington University, St. Louis, as a part of the exhibition Drawing Ambience: Alvin Boyarsky and the Architectural Association from September 12th to January 4th, 2015.
Take a look at the complete set of architects and drawings for the exhibition after the break.
Robert Venturi, the architect famous for "less is a bore," turns 89 today. Venturi started his firm in 1964 and ran it with his wife and partner Denise Scott Brown from 1967 until 2012. Today the Pritzker Prize winner's legacy lives on as the firm continues under the name VSBA (Venturi Scott Brown Associates).
British architect and Pritzker Laureate Sir James Stirling (22 April 1926 – 25 June 1992) grew up in Liverpool, one of the two industrial powerhouses of the British North West, and began his career subverting the compositional and theoretical ideas behind the Modern Movement. Citing a wide-range of influences - from Colin Rowe, a forefather of Contextualism, to Le Corbusier, from architects of the Italian Renaissance to the Russian Constructivist movement - Stirling forged a unique set of architectural beliefs that manifest themselves in his works. Indeed, his architecture, commonly described as "non-comformist", consistently caused annoyance in conventional circles.