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Postmodernism: The Latest Architecture and News

Re-evaluating Critical Regionalism: An Architecture of the Place

In his 1983 now-classic essay Towards a Critical Regionalism, Six Points of an Architecture of Resistance, Kenneth Frampton discussed an alternative approach to architecture, one defined by climate, topography and tectonics, as a form of resistance to the placeness of Modern Architecture and the gratuitous ornamentation of Postmodernism. An architectural attitude, Critical Regionalism proposed an architecture that would embrace global influences while firmly rooted in its context. The following explores the value and contribution of Frampton’s ideas for contemporary architecture.

PC CARITAS by  architecten de vylder vinck taillieu. Image © Filip DujardinSäynätsalo Town Hall by Alvar Aalto. Image © Fernanda CastroBio-climatic Preschool . Image Courtesy of BC ArchitectsThe Building on the Water by Álvaro Siza + Carlos Castanheira.. Image © Fernando Guerra | FG + SG+ 6

What Is Postmodernism?

As the prefix already indicates, postmodernism is a turning point in history, thereby proving the willingness of scholars to define this new era based on the rejection of the previous movement. Postmodernism first emerged in the 1960s as a departure from modernism. As a reaction against the austerity, formality, and lack of variety of modern architecture, particularly in the international style advocated by Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe, postmodernism defends an architecture full of signs and symbols that can communicate cultural values. Postmodernism is a reaction to homogeneity and tediousness by praising difference and striving to produce buildings that are sensitive to the context within which they are built.

James Stirling's Postmodern No 1 Poultry Building Reopens as WeWork Offices. Courtesy of WeWorkAD Classics: Bonnefantenmuseum / Aldo Rossi © James Taylor-FosterAT&T Building / Philip Johnson. Image © David ShankboneTeam Disney Building / Arata Isozaki. Image © Xinai Liang+ 10

Berlin’s Architectural Transition to Postmodernism Gets an Overdue Examination

The Berlinische Galerie's exhibition Anything Goes? recounts how a global, contradictory Postmodernism took root on both sides of the Berlin Wall in the 1980s. Florian Heilmeyer in his piece originally published on Metropolis discusses the ambitious exhibition that was able to look simultaneously at both sides of the German city at that time.

Helmut Jahn, Architect of Chicago’s Thompson Center Passes Away at 81

Chicago’s most prolific architect, Helmut Jahn has passed away on Saturday afternoon in a cycling accident. He was struck by two vehicles while riding his bicycle in Campton Hills, in the Chicago suburbs. The German-American designer is best known for his postmodern Thompson Center, currently under threat of demolition and United Airlines Terminal 1 at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

Courtesy of Helmut JahnCourtesy of Helmut JahnPassenger Terminal Complex Suvarnabhumi Airport . Image © Rainer Viertlböckthe Thompson Center. Image © Rainer Viertlböck+ 12

Potential Demise of Chicago’s Thompson Center Inches Closer With Proposed Zoning Change

It would seem that the ongoing saga of the James R. Thompson Center, Chicago’s beloved but neglected governmental office building-slash-postmodernist mecca, might be reaching its final act.

Yesterday, Brendan Reilly, alderman of the city’s 42nd ward, announced a proposed rezoning ordinance that could kick the sale of the prized 3-acre site (12,140 m2) at 100 West Randolph Street into high-gear. The cash-strapped State of Illinois has been considering/trying to offload the property as early as 2003.

What is Deconstructivism?

If we define deconstructivism, 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 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.

Parc de la Villette / Bernard Tschumi Architects. Image © Peeradontax | ShutterstockLouis Vuitton / Gehry Partners. Image © Todd EberleAntwerp Port House / Zaha Hadid Architects. Image © Helene BinetThe City of Culture of Galicia / Eisenman Architects. Image Courtesy of Eisenman Architects+ 11

Spotlight: James Stirling

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

12 Important Modernist Styles Explained

Modernism could be described as one of the most optimistic styles in architectural history, drawing from notions of utopia, innovation, and the reimagination of how humans would live, work, and interact. As we reflected in our AD Essentials Guide to Modernism, the philosophy of Modernism still dominates much of architectural discourse today, even if the world that gave rise to Modernism has changed utterly.

As we say goodbye to 2019, a year that saw the centenary of the Bauhaus, we have collated a list of key architectural styles that defined Modernism in architecture. This tool for understanding the development of 20th-century design is complete with examples of each style, showcasing the practice of Modernism that lay behind the theory.

Café L’Aubette/ Theo van Doesburg. Image Courtesy of Wikimedia user Claude Truong-NgocBarcelona Pavilion / Mies van der Rohe. Image © Gili MerinVilla Savoye / Le CorbusierVitra Design Museum / Gehry Partners. Image © Liao Yusheng+ 13

Spotlight: Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown

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).

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

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?

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 & SnøhettaCourtesy of LMNB & SnøhettaCourtesy of LMNB & SnøhettaCourtesy of LMNB & Snøhetta+ 6

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

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 WeWorkCourtesy of WeWorkCourtesy of WeWorkCourtesy of WeWork+ 10

AD Classics: Dutch Parliament Extension / 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

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

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 MatteisGround floor lobby with rustication. Image © Valentino Danilo Matteis© Valentino Danilo MatteisStairway. Image © Valentino Danilo Matteis+ 17

Sin City Embellishment: Expressive or Kitsch?

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

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

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.