Postmodernism is back, it seems, and the architectural establishment has mixed feelings about it. This revival has been brewing for a while. In 2014, Metropolis Magazine created a “watchlist” of the best postmodernist buildings in New York that had been overlooked by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, and were therefore at risk of being altered or destroyed. Last year, the listing of James Stirling’s One Poultry in the City of London kicked off a discussion about the value of Britain’s postmodernist buildings from the 1980s, as they reach an age when they are eligible for listing for preservation by Historic England. More recently Sean Griffiths, co-founder of the former architectural practice FAT, warned against a postmodernist revival, arguing that a style that thrived on irony could be dangerous in an era of Donald Trump, when satire seems to no longer be an effective political tool. The debate looks set to continue as, next year, London’s John Soane museum is planning an exhibition devoted to postmodernism.
Adam Nathaniel Furman: The Latest Architecture and News
In this essay British architect and academic Dr. Timothy Brittain-Catlin presents the work of Space Popular, an emerging practice exploring the meaning of and methods behind deploying virtual reality techniques in the architectural design process.
Architectural practice, especially in the UK, is moving fast into a realm where history plays as much a part as medium. But the ways in which architects work have been transformed entirely from those of the past, generating a fundamental conflict: how in practice does design through virtual reality use history? In the earliest days of fly-throughs we all realised that we could show our work to clients in a way that even the least plan-literate could understand. We could develop details three-dimensionally and from different angles, even representing different times of day. But what next? How do we engage historical knowledge and experience of buildings?
This essay by the academic and writer Martin Lampprecht responds directly to an opinion piece penned by Sean Griffiths, a former partner of FAT, entitled "now is not the time to be indulging in postmodern revivalism".
Oh my. Where to begin? My first impulse was just to move on and shake my head in wonder, perhaps, that a well-established designer and architectural thinker would wish to publish an article so dyspeptic. It is, after all, a common pattern: the young pranksters of yesteryear, once their hairlines have started to recede, transform into schoolmasters as befitting their recently-acquired academic sinecures. It’s all just part of the normal generational cycle that keeps a culture moving forward. Business as usual.
Civic buildings are, as a rule, both austere and intimidating. They are often designed to represent authority above all, taking cues from Classical architectural language to construct an image of power, dominance, and civic unity. Adam Nathaniel Furman, a London-based architect and thinker, has at once eschewed and reengaged this typology in order to propose an entirely new type of civic center ("Town Hall") for British cities. The proposal, which was commissioned by the 2017 Scottish Architectural Fringe as part of a New Typologies exhibition in which architects are imagining "how our shared civic infrastructure will exist in the future, if at all", is currently on display in Glasgow.
By "re-grouping various civic functions into one visually symbolic composition of architectural forms," references and types of ornament and allusions have been configured "depending on the metropolitan area within which it is situated in and embodies." In short, Furman states, the Democratic Monument "is an expression of urban pride, chromatic joy, and architectural complexity" which has universal symbolism but remains a beacon to its vicinity.
“Re-Constructivist Architecture,” an exhibition now on show at the Ierimonti Gallery in New York, features the work of thirteen emerging architecture firms alongside the work of Coop Himmelb(l)au, Peter Eisenman and Bernard Tschumi. The title of the exhibition is a play on words, referring to the De-Constructivist exhibition of 1988 at the Museum of Modern Art that destabilized a certain kind of relationship with design theory.
This reconstruction is primarily of language. The architects draw from archives—mental, digital or printed on paper—distant from the typical parametric and highly schematic rationales that characterized the last thirty years of design in architecture. Within the theoretical system that drives architectural composition, these archives inevitably become homages, references, and quotes.
As the first month of 2016 draws to a close, we decided to tap into our network and ask an esteemed group of architects, critics, theorists and educators to tell us what they are looking forward to this year in architecture.
What are you looking forward to in architecture this year?
If there’s one thing that can get the architectural community up in arms, it’s the threat of demolition being placed over a much-loved building. Whether it’s a 44-year-old bus station, a 38-year-old hospital, or even a 12-year-old art museum, few other news stories can raise such a sustained outcry. And recently, some have started to turn their eyes toward the next wave of preservation battles: the upcoming crop of Postmodern buildings which are increasingly being placed under threat. But in all of these heated debates about preservation, do people really know what they’re arguing for?
Adam Nathaniel Furman's tenure as the recipient of the 2014/15 Rome Prize for Architecture at the British School at Rome has come to an end. The project that he has investigated over the past months, entitled The Roman Singularity, sought to explore and celebrate Rome as “the contemporary city par-excellence” – “an urban version of the internet, a place where the analogical-whole history of society, architecture, politics, literature and art coalesce into a space so intense and delimited that they collapse under the enormity of their own mass into a singularity of human endeavour.”
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.
Adam Nathaniel Furman, architect and winner of this year's Blueprint Award for Design Innovation, is currently undertaking his tenure as the recipient of the 2014/15 Rome Prize for Architecture at the British School at Rome. His ongoing project, entitled The Roman Singularity, seeks to explore and celebrate Rome as "the contemporary city par-excellence" - "an urban version of the internet, a place where the analogical-whole history of society, architecture, politics, literature and art coalesce into a space so intense and delimited that they collapse under the enormity of their own mass into a singularity of human endeavour."
In this short essay inspired by the work of Dietrich C Neumann, an architectural historian at Brown University (Providence, RI USA), Furman examines what would have been "the tallest building in the world [...] housing Italy’s new Parliament, lecture halls, meeting rooms, a hotel, library, enormous sports facilities, lighthouse, clock, astronomical observatory, telegraph and telephone stations, [reflecting] sunlight off its acres and acres of white Carrara marble." In the shadow of Italian Fascism, Mario Palanti saw an opportunity to transform the skyline of the Italian capital by pandering to the egotistical ambitions of a dictator. Ultimately the extent of his vision was matched only by his failure.