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Postmodernism

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

Facing Major Renovations, Philip Johnson’s AT&T Building Gets Hearing for Landmark Designation

14:45 - 28 November, 2017
Facing Major Renovations, Philip Johnson’s AT&T Building Gets Hearing for Landmark Designation, Renovation plans would significantly alter the building's street presence. Image © DBOX
Renovation plans would significantly alter the building's street presence. Image © DBOX

Facing plans for a major renovation that would significantly alter the street presence of the building, Philip Johnson’s Postmodern icon, 550 Madison (formerly AT&T Building) has now cleared the first stage in the process of becoming a designated New York City landmark.

Today, an application to schedule a hearing to landmark the building was approved unanimously by the city’s Landmarks and Preservation Commission (LPC). In a few months time, the LPC will hold a public forum for the building, followed by a deliberation on whether or not the tower deserves official landmark status.

WeWork to Become Primary Tenant of James Stirling's No 1 Poultry After Renovations

12:00 - 21 November, 2017
WeWork to Become Primary Tenant of James Stirling's No 1 Poultry After Renovations, © Flickr user merula. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
© Flickr user merula. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

After being saved from a major renovation that would have eliminated its iconic Postmodern facade, James Stirling’s No 1 Poultry building is now receiving a gentler retrofit that will upgrade its spaces to house 110,000-square-feet of contemporary office space. 

Fitting right in with the update, coworking giant WeWork has now been announced as the building’s first tenant, and the company has revealed some details of how the building will work for its users.

© Flickr user merula. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 Courtesy of WeWork. via The Spaces Courtesy of WeWork. via The Spaces © Flickr user Robert Moore. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 + 4

Postmodern Revivalism Doesn't Exist; Now Is Not the Time to Be Criticizing It

11:30 - 2 November, 2017
Postmodern Revivalism Doesn't Exist; Now Is Not the Time to Be Criticizing It, The Democratic Monument: Adam Nathaniel Furman's Manifesto for a New Type of Civic Center. Image © Adam Nathaniel Furman
The Democratic Monument: Adam Nathaniel Furman's Manifesto for a New Type of Civic Center. Image © Adam Nathaniel Furman

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.

Spotlight: Michael Graves

14:00 - 9 July, 2017
Portland Building (1982). Image © <a href='https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Portland_Building_1982.jpg'>Wikimedia user Steve Morgan</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en'>CC BY-SA 3.0</a>
Portland Building (1982). Image © Wikimedia user Steve Morgan licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

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.

Spotlight: Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown

14:00 - 25 June, 2017
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).

AD Classics: Kafka's Castle / Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitecturas

04:00 - 9 May, 2017
AD Classics: Kafka's Castle / Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitecturas, © Ricardo Bofill
© Ricardo Bofill

Standing on a rise overlooking the Spanish Mediterranean coast, there is an odd structure which could easily be mistaken for an vast pile of forgotten blocks. Kafka’s Castle, built in 1968, was one of the earlier projects completed by Ricardo Bofill, a Spanish Postmodern architect known for apartment buildings as monumental as they were thought-provoking. While his later work indulged in Postmodern historicism, the modular and mathematically-derived Kafka’s Castle was an unabashed break from any local or global tradition – as much the case now as it was in the 1960s.

© Ricardo Bofill © Ricardo Bofill © Ricardo Bofill Once the physical model of Kafka’s Castle was completed, RBTA managed to condense all necessary construction information into only five drawings. Image© Ricardo Bofill + 19

Understanding British Postmodernism (Hint: It’s Not What You Thought)

04:00 - 29 March, 2017
Understanding British Postmodernism (Hint: It’s Not What You Thought), Staff Accommodation block at St Paul’s Girl’s School, by John Melvin (1985), photographed by Martin Charles. Image © John Melvin
Staff Accommodation block at St Paul’s Girl’s School, by John Melvin (1985), photographed by Martin Charles. Image © John Melvin

In this essay by the British architect and academic Dr. Timothy Brittain-Catlin, the very notion of British postmodernism—today often referred to as intimately tied to the work of James Stirling and the the thinking of Charles Jencks—is held to the light. Its true origins, he argues, are more historically rooted.

I grew up in a beautiful late Victorian terrace with ornamental brickwork, shaped ‘Dutch’ gables and pretty arts and crafts stained glass windows – and so I didn’t think then, and I don’t think now, that I had much to learn from Las Vegas. It turns out that I wasn’t the only one. Of British architects who made their names as postmodernists in the 1980s, not a single one would say now that they owed much to Robert Venturi, the American architect widely considered to be a grandfather of movement.

Mercers’ House, Essex Road, Highbury, London, by John Melvin (1992), photographed by Martin Charles. Doctors’ Surgery frontage to Mitchison Road. Image © John Melvin Mercers’ House, Essex Road, Highbury, London, by John Melvin (1992), photographed by Martin Charles. Image © John Melvin Epping Forest Civic Offices, by Richard Reid (1984-90). Axonometric by Richard Reid. Image © Richard Reid & Associates Mercers’ House, Essex Road, Highbury, London, by John Melvin (1992), photographed by Martin Charles. Image © John Melvin + 6