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Postmodernism: The Latest Architecture and News

Spotlight: Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown

06:00 - 25 June, 2019
Spotlight: Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, Franklin Court, Philadelphia. Image © Mark Cohn
Franklin Court, Philadelphia. Image © Mark Cohn

Through their pioneering theory and provocative built work, husband and wife duo Robert Venturi (born June 25, 1925) and Denise Scott Brown (born October 3, 1931) were at the forefront of the postmodern movement, leading the charge in one of the most significant shifts in architecture of the 20th century by publishing seminal books such as Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (authored by Robert Venturi alone) and Learning from Las Vegas (co-authored by Venturi, Scott Brown and Steven Izenour).

Spotlight: James Stirling

04:30 - 22 April, 2019
Spotlight: James Stirling, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, Germany (1977–1984), 1984. Alastair Hunter, photographer. Image Courtesy of Canadian Centre for Architecture
Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, Germany (1977–1984), 1984. Alastair Hunter, photographer. Image Courtesy of Canadian Centre for Architecture

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, and 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 "nonconformist," consistently caused annoyance in conventional circles.

University of Cambridge History Faculty. Image © <a href='https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:History_Faculty_University_of_Cambridge.jpg'>Wikimedia user Solipsist</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en'>CC BY-SA 2.0</a> Clore Gallery, Tate Britain, London. Image © <a href='https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Clore_Gallery_London_Dec07.JPG'>Wikimedia user Elekhh</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en'>CC BY-SA 3.0</a> The Florey Building at Queen's College, Oxford University. Image © <a href='https://www.flickr.com/photos/seier/5107210108'>Flickr user seier</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/'>CC BY 2.0</a> Department of Engineering at the University of Leicester. Image © <a href='https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Leicester_University_Engineering_Building_2.jpg'>Wikimedia user NotFromUtrecht</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en'>CC BY-SA 3.0</a> + 13

Venturi Scott Brown's Sainsbury Wing, National Gallery London Receives AIA 25 Year Award

11:00 - 13 January, 2019
Venturi Scott Brown's Sainsbury Wing, National Gallery London Receives AIA 25 Year Award, © Valentino Danilo Matteis
© Valentino Danilo Matteis

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has selected Venturi Scott Brown's Sainsbury Wing at the National Gallery of London as the recipient of the 2019 AIA Twenty-five Year Award. Designed by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown in an international competition, AIA commended the project for its ability to “...make its context better than it found it” - a citation borrowed from Venturi himself.

The award is presented annually to a project that has "stood the test of time by embodying architectural excellence for 25 to 35 years."

Will Snøhetta's Redesign Calm the Outcry From Its Original Controversial Proposal?

09:30 - 12 December, 2018
Will Snøhetta's Redesign Calm the Outcry From Its Original Controversial Proposal?, Courtesy of LMNB & Snøhetta
Courtesy of LMNB & Snøhetta

Labeled as "vandalism" and "murder" of an icon of postmodernism, Oslo-based firm Snøhetta's redesign proposal for Phillip Johnson and John Burgee's AT&T Headquarters was received with instantaneous backlash across the architectural community last year. Architect Robert A. M. Stern, marched alongside a protest outside 550 Madison Avenue, and even critic Norman Foster, who never claimed to have any sympathy for the postmodern movement, still vocalized his sentiments that "[the building] is an important part of our heritage and should be respected as such."

A rejection of the bland and cold functionality of Midtown's crystal skyscrapers, the AT&T building was intended to encourage a more playful approach architecture in the corporate world; the crazy socks beneath a three-piece suit. It was not without controversy. Upon its completion, the building was derided for its decorative and outsized pediment and occasionally dark interior spaces. Indeed, the building's arched entry spaces were among the only architectural elements to be met with praise from both critics and the public. 

Courtesy of LMNB & Snøhetta Courtesy of LMNB & Snøhetta Courtesy of LMNB & Snøhetta Courtesy of LMNB & Snøhetta + 6

James Stirling's Postmodern No 1 Poultry Building Reopens as WeWork Offices

11:00 - 23 October, 2018
James Stirling's Postmodern No 1 Poultry Building Reopens as WeWork Offices, Courtesy of WeWork
Courtesy of WeWork

No 1 Poultry, the iconic Grade II* listed landmark in London designed by James Stirling, has opened its doors as WeWork’s 28th London location. The Postmodern masterpiece now serves as a WeWork space for 2300 members, as well as shops, a roof garden, and a restaurant.

After being saved from a major renovation that would have eliminated its iconic Postmodern façade, No 1 Poultry building was carefully renovated by WeWork’s in-house team of designers, featuring bold colors, homely furnishing, and artwork inspired by the surrounding area.

Courtesy of WeWork Courtesy of WeWork Courtesy of WeWork Courtesy of WeWork + 10

AD Classics: Dutch Parliament Extension / OMA

22:00 - 11 October, 2018
AD Classics: Dutch Parliament Extension / OMA, via OMA
via OMA

This article was originally published on April 22, 2016. To read the stories behind other celebrated architecture projects, visit our AD Classics section.

Designed shortly before Zaha Hadid left the Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA)—led by Rem Koolhaas—to found her practice, Zaha Hadid Architects, the proposed extension for the Dutch Parliament firmly rejects the notion that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Rather than mimic the style of the existing historic buildings, OMA elected to pay tribute to the complex’s accretive construction by inserting a collection of visibly postmodern, geometric elements. These new buildings, unapologetic products of the late 1970s, would have served as unmistakable indicators of the passage of time, creating a graphic reminder of the Parliament’s long history.

"The Final Push". Image Courtesy of A.D.A. EDITA Tokyo Co., Ltd. Courtesy of A.D.A. EDITA Tokyo Co., Ltd. "The Podium: Accommodation for Orgies of Speech". Image Courtesy of A.D.A. EDITA Tokyo Co., Ltd. Elevations. Image Courtesy of A.D.A. EDITA Tokyo Co., Ltd. + 9

Robert Venturi and the Difficult Whole: How Architecture's Enfant Terrible Changed Design Forever

09:30 - 4 October, 2018
Robert Venturi and the Difficult Whole: How Architecture's Enfant Terrible Changed Design Forever

This article was originally published on CommonEdge as "Robert Venturi and the Difficult Whole."

Robert Venturi (1925-2018) was the most influential American architect of the last century, though not primarily for his built work, or because of his stature as a designer. He will never stand beside Wright, or Kahn, or even Gehry in that regard. Between 1965 and 1985 he and his collaborator, Denise Scott Brown, changed the way all architects look at buildings, cities, and landscapes, much in the way that Marshall McLuhan, Bob Dylan and Andy Warhol changed our view of art, media, and popular culture during the same period.

I worked with Bob Venturi during my apprenticeship in the 1970s; I also grew up with his books, buildings and paternal influence. He and my father were one year apart; Denise is the same age as my mother.

AD Classics: Sainsbury Wing, National Gallery London / Venturi Scott Brown

16:30 - 3 October, 2018
AD Classics: Sainsbury Wing, National Gallery London / Venturi Scott Brown, The Sainsbury Wing as seen from Trafalgar Square. Image © Valentino Danilo Matteis
The Sainsbury Wing as seen from Trafalgar Square. Image © Valentino Danilo Matteis

Venturi Scott-Brown’s National Gallery Sainsbury Wing extension (1991) was born into a precarious no-man’s land between the warring camps of neo-Modernists and traditionalists who had been tussling over the direction of Britain’s cities for much of the prior decade. The site of the extension had come to be one of the most symbolic battlefields in British architecture since a campaign to halt its redevelopment with a Hi-Tech scheme by Ahrends Burton Koralek had led to that project’s refusal at planning in 1984.

The 'Echo Façade'. Image © Valentino Danilo Matteis Ground floor lobby with rustication. Image © Valentino Danilo Matteis © Valentino Danilo Matteis Stairway. Image © Valentino Danilo Matteis + 17

Sin City Embellishment: Expressive or Kitsch?

09:30 - 20 September, 2018
Sin City Embellishment: Expressive or Kitsch?, Randy’s Donuts shop and sign (a “decorated shed”) by Extra Medium (CC BY 2.0). Image via 99 Percent Invisible
Randy’s Donuts shop and sign (a “decorated shed”) by Extra Medium (CC BY 2.0). Image via 99 Percent Invisible

Though the Las Vegas Strip may be garish to some, with its borderline intrusive décor and “pseudo-historical” architecture, some professional architects, most notably Robert Venturi and Denise Scott-Brown, have become captivated by the “ornamental-symbolic elements” the buildings present. The two architects developed the curious design distinction between a “duck” and a “decorated shed”, depending on the building’s decorative form. In his essay for 99% Invisible, Lessons from Sin City: The Architecture of “Ducks” versus “Decorated Sheds”, Kurt Kohlstedt explores how the architects implemented their knowledge of ornamentation in their own works and began an architectural debate still ongoing today.

Vanna Venturi House by Robert Venturi featuring playful and non-structural ornamentation. Image via 99 Percent Invisible Longaberger Basket Building image by Barry Haynes (CC BY-SA 3.0). Image via 99 Percent Invisible Guild House by Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates. Image via 99 Percent Invisible “Duck” versus “decorated shed, with Big Duck in Long Island (upper right). Image via 99 Percent Invisible + 5

What is Deconstructivism?

09:30 - 12 August, 2018
What is Deconstructivism?, Tschumi's Parc de la Villette . Image Courtesy of The Architectural Review
Tschumi's Parc de la Villette . Image Courtesy of The Architectural Review

If we define “deconstructivism” (although it is not a verified word in the dictionary), it literally translates to the breaking down, or demolishing of a constructed structure, whether it being for structural reasons or just an act of rebellion. It is perhaps for this this reason that many misunderstand the Deconstructivist movement.

Deconstructivism is, in fact, not a new architecture style, nor is it an avant-garde movement against architecture or society. It does not follow “rules” or acquire specific aesthetics, nor is it a rebellion against a social dilemma. It is the unleashing of infinite possibilities of playing around with forms and volumes.

The City of Culture in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Image Courtesy of Eisenman Architects Frank Gehry House. Image © Liao Yusheng Port offices of Antwerp, Zaha Hadid Architects. Image © Helene Binet Eisenman's The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Image Courtesy of Flickr user dalbera licensed under CC BY 2.0 + 15

Controversial Snøhetta Plans for Philip Johnson's AT&T Headquarters Halted by Landmark Designation

12:00 - 2 August, 2018
Controversial Snøhetta Plans for Philip Johnson's AT&T Headquarters Halted by Landmark Designation, Proposed alteration . Image Courtesy of DBOX
Proposed alteration . Image Courtesy of DBOX

Work on the Snøhetta-designed renovation of 550 Madison Avenue, better known as the AT&T Headquarters, has ground to a halt in New York City. The controversial postmodernist icon, designed by Philip Johnson and John Burgree, has become the youngest building in New York to receive "Individual Landmark" status by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), striking a blow to controversial efforts to renovate the building.

Under major renovation plans designed by Snøhetta, the scheme was set to be transformed at street level with a more transparent base, with the existing stone façade removed. Meanwhile, the signature ground floor element, an enormous arched entry, would be rendered a shadowy profile of its former self behind a fritted glass curtain wall. The plans attracted wide criticism, such as an intervention on film by Robert A M Stern, and grassroots campaigns including docomomo and change.org.

Love in Las Vegas: 99% Invisible Illuminates Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown’s Postmodern Romance

08:00 - 24 May, 2018
Love in Las Vegas: 99% Invisible Illuminates Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown’s Postmodern Romance, © <a href='https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/view-image.php?image=223416&picture=las-vegas-at-night'>Public Domain user Jean Beaufort</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/'>CC0 Public Domain</a>
© Public Domain user Jean Beaufort licensed under CC0 Public Domain

Which building is better, the duck or the ornamented shed? More importantly, what kind of architecture does the average American prefer? In their landmark 1972 publication Learning From Las Vegas, Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi probed these questions by turning their back on paternalistic modernism in favor of the glowing, overtly kitsch, and symbolic Mecca of the Las Vegas strip. From a chance encounter during a meeting in the Library of Fine Arts at the University of Pennsylvania and shared trips to the strip to critically shaping a new generation of architects, discover the hidden details of the romance and city that defined postmodernism in this latest episode from 99% Invisible.

Historic England Celebrates Postmodernism with 17 New Heritage Listings

14:00 - 11 May, 2018
Judge Business School / John Outram (Grade II* Listing). Image © <a href='https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cambridge_University_Judge_Business_School_interior.jpg'>Wikimedia user Cmglee</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en'>CC BY-SA 3.0</a>
Judge Business School / John Outram (Grade II* Listing). Image © Wikimedia user Cmglee licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Historic England has given protection to 17 Post-Modern buildings through their new listing publication. The bold, playful examples of a critical reaction to Modernism, designed between 1970 and 1990, have been listed to stem losses for the valued architectural style, following a recommendation from the UK government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport.

The listed schemes vary in terms of location and use, encompassing culture, housing, education, civic, commercial, and law. From Crown Courts in Cornwall and warehouses in Slough to libraries in Cambridge and housing schemes in London, the listings reflect a revived interest in Post-Modernism, which was spurred by the 2011 “Style and Subversion” exhibition at the V&A in London.

Facade of Michael Graves' Postmodernist Portland Building Dismantled in Preparation for Recladding

16:20 - 9 March, 2018
The Portland Building under construction. Image © Iain MacKenzie. via Docomomo
The Portland Building under construction. Image © Iain MacKenzie. via Docomomo

Work has begun on the dismantling of the facade of Michael Graves’ iconic Portland Building, part of a $195 million project that could see the building lose its inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Portland Building under construction. Image © Iain MacKenzie. via Docomomo The teal tiles have been removed from the building podium.. Image © Joakim Lord. via Docomomo The facades signature classical elements will be replaced with reformed aluminum. Image © Joakim Lord. via Docomomo A rendering of the future Portland Building. Image via Next Portland + 5

The Revival of Postmodernism: Why Now?

09:45 - 3 March, 2018
Piazza D'Italia / Charles Moore. Image Courtesy of The Charles Moore Foundation
Piazza D'Italia / Charles Moore. Image Courtesy of The Charles Moore Foundation

The argument, made by architectural historian Charles Jencks in the introduction for the recently released book Postmodern Design Complete, that Postmodern styles never truly left the architectural profession is stronger than ever. The movement from the late 70s and 80s which began as a reaction against the utopian canon of modernism has recently been re-entering the architecture scene and defining our present moment of architectural culture.

This brings up an important question: What is the current movement of architecture? And what came directly after postmodernism? If anything, it was an immediate cry of “No more Po-Mo,” followed recently by a wave of “save Po-Mo” perhaps best demonstrated by the rallying to save Philip Johnson’s AT&T Tower from a Snøhetta makeover. Even Norman Foster claimed that although he was never a fan of the postmodern movement, he understood its importance in architectural history. Postmodernism is making its recursive return with Stirling-esque rule-breaking jokes and pictorial appearances.

Watch Robert A M Stern Make the Case for Preserving Philip Johnson's AT&T Building

09:30 - 24 February, 2018
Watch Robert A M Stern Make the Case for Preserving Philip Johnson's AT&T Building, Rendering of Snøhetta's renovation plans for the AT&T Building. Image © DBOX
Rendering of Snøhetta's renovation plans for the AT&T Building. Image © DBOX

In a recent film published by Metropolis Magazine, New York-based architect Robert A M Stern explains why we should care about Philip Johnson’s controversial AT&T building. As landmark designation hearings to protect the buildings external facade continue, demolition of the lobby of this iconic Postmodern New York City skyscraper has already completed.

The designs by Snøhetta for the renovation of the building at 550 Madison Avenue have launched the building to the forefront of the debate about the preservation of Postmodern heritage. The plans include replacing the stone facade with undulating glass in order to transform the building's street presence. Should plans progress, the once prominent arched entry will sit behind fritted glass and stone covered columns will be unwrapped to create a hovering datum.

How Slovakia's Soviet Ties Led to a Unique Form of Sci-Fi Architecture

09:30 - 19 February, 2018
Memorial and Museum of the Slovak National Uprising, by architect Dušan Kuzma, 1963-1970. Banská Bystrica, Slovakia. Image © Stefano Perego
Memorial and Museum of the Slovak National Uprising, by architect Dušan Kuzma, 1963-1970. Banská Bystrica, Slovakia. Image © Stefano Perego

The history of Slovakia is riddled with political unrest and unwanted occupation, with the Slovak people having repeatedly been denied a voice throughout history. In the years following World War I, Slovakia was forced into the common state of Czechoslovakia; the territory was dismembered by the Nazi regime in 1938 and occupied by the Nazis for most of the Second World War, before being eventually liberated by Soviet and Romanian forces in 1945. Over the next four decades of communist rule—first by communists within Czechoslovakia itself and then later by the Soviet Union—the architecture of Slovakia came to develop into a unique form of sci-fi postmodernism that celebrated the shift in industrial influence at the time.

Photographer Stefano Perego has documented the Slovakian architecture from the 1960s–80s and has shared some of his photos with ArchDaily.

Slovak Radio Building, by architects Štefan Svetko, Štefan Ďurkovič and Barnabáš Kissling, 1967-1983. Bratislava, Slovakia. Image © Stefano Perego "UFO", by sculptor Juraj Hovorka, 1979. Restored in 2014. Bratislava, Slovakia. Image © Stefano Perego Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising, by A. Tesár, J. Lacko and I. Slameň, 1967-1972. Bratislava, Slovakia. Image © Stefano Perego Fountain of Union, by sculptors Juraj Hovorka, Tibor Bártfay, Karol Lacko and architects Virgil Droppa and Juraj Hlavica, 1979-1980. Bratislava, Slovakia. Image © Stefano Perego + 18