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Postmodernism

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.

Spotlight: Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown

10:30 - 25 June, 2018
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).

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.

Spotlight: James Stirling

06:00 - 22 April, 2018
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

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

Was the AIA's Failure to Give its Twenty-Five Year Award In 2018 a Snub to Postmodernism?

09:30 - 16 January, 2018
Was the AIA's Failure to Give its Twenty-Five Year Award In 2018 a Snub to Postmodernism?, Michael Graves' Team Disney Building. Image © <a href='https://www.flickr.com/photos/lorenjavier/3600380204'>Flickr user lorenjavier</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/'>CC BY-ND 2.0</a>
Michael Graves' Team Disney Building. Image © Flickr user lorenjavier licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

This article was originally published by Common Edge as "Did the AIA Take a Pass on Postmodernism?"

People perceive architecture in different ways. “Style” is often an easy classification, traditional or modern. Popular residential work is often categorized dismissively by architects as “vernacular.” The branding of the product of the profession, an oeuvre of work embodied in buildings and their meaning in our culture as celebrated by the American Institute of Architects, has many levels of recognition, from local AIA Chapter Awards, to national Awards.

No AIA Award has more meaning or lustre inside the profession than the “Twenty-five Year Award” for buildings that have “stood the test of time.” The award has been given continuously for the last 56 years. This year, the Design Jury chosen to select a seminal building has opted not to give an award to anything, any building 25-35 years old.

Demolition Begins on Lobby of Philip Johnson's AT&T Building

08:00 - 16 January, 2018
Demolition Begins on Lobby of Philip Johnson's AT&T Building, Demolition is now underway on the lobby interiors. Image © DBOX
Demolition is now underway on the lobby interiors. Image © DBOX

While the exterior of Philip Johnson’s iconic AT&T awaits its fate in an upcoming New York City landmarks designation hearing, demolition of its granite-clad interior lobby has already begun.

Citing the fact that the lobby had already been altered in the 1990s – including the removal of the “Golden Boy” statue – when the building switched tenants from AT&T to the Sony Corporation, the Landmarks Preservation Commission decided last month that the interiors were not deserving of landmark status.

Postmodern Post-Mortem: Why We Need To Stop Using Architecture's Most Misunderstood Word

09:30 - 11 January, 2018
© Giacomo Pala
© Giacomo Pala

We were hoping for it to happen in the early 2000s. We saw it coming with the opening of the exhibition “Postmodernism: Style and Subversion, 1970 – 1990” at the V&A in London in 2011. But now, after recent discussions on the umpteenth supposed “postmodern revival,” it is finally sure: the word “postmodernism” is back and it’s here to stay. But as clear as it is that the word “postmodernism” is once again fashionable, it is not really clear what we mean when using it. Indeed, this word has been used to imply every possible meaning: architects have used it to describe fashionable and “cute” designs, some critics have used it to categorize everything that is colorful, while some theorists have been using it to affirm that, because of this concept, architecture has surrendered to technology or form, becoming nothing more than a caricature of its own presupposed moral values.

Whether we agree with such commentaries or not, there is one thing that we still need to discuss: what does “postmodern” mean? And, even more urgently: what could it mean today? After all, if we have to deal once again with one of the most misinterpreted and contradictory words ever introduced in our field, we should at least discuss what it means, before using it.

Why Postmodernism's New-Found Popularity Is All About Looking Forward, Not Back

09:30 - 15 December, 2017
Why Postmodernism's New-Found Popularity Is All About Looking Forward, Not Back, Team Disney Building / Arata Isozaki. Image © Xinai Liang
Team Disney Building / Arata Isozaki. Image © Xinai Liang

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.

Les Espaces d'Abraxas / Ricardo Bofill. Image © RBTA - Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura Residence and Poolhouse in Llewelyn Park / Robert A M Stern. Image © Norman McGrath Gate for a Maritime City / Massimo Scolari. Image © Massimo Scolari Housing De Piramides / Soeters Van Eldonk Architecten. Image © John Lewis Marshall + 12