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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
The "architectural pilgrimage" is much more than just everyday tourism. Studying and admiring a building through text and images often creates a hunger in architects, thanks to the space between the limitations of 2D representation and the true experience of the building. Seeing a building in person that one has long loved from a distance can become something of a spiritual experience, and architects often plan vacations around favorite or important spaces. But too often, architects become transfixed by a need to visit the same dozen European cities that have come to make up the traveling architect's bucket list.
The list here shares some sites that may not have made your list just yet. Although somewhat less well known than the canonical cities, the architecture of these six cities is sure to hold its ground against the world's best. The locations here make ideal long weekend trips (depending of course on where you are traveling from), although it never hurts to have more than a few days to really become immersed in a city. We have selected a few must-see buildings from each location, but each has even more to offer than what you see here—so don't be afraid to explore!
In the 1960s James Stirling asked Ludwig Mies van der Rohe why he didn’t design utopian visions for new societies, like those of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Broadacre City or Corbusier’s Cité Radieuse. Mies replied that he wasn’t interested in fantasies, but only in “making the existing city beautiful.” When Stirling recounted the conversation several decades later it was to the audience of a public enquiry convened in London – he was desperately trying to save Mies’ only UK design from being rejected in planning.
It couldn’t be done: the scheme went unbuilt; the drawings were buried in a private archive. Now, for the first time in more than thirty years, Mies’ Mansion House Square will be presented to the public in both a forthcoming exhibition at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)—Mies van der Rohe and James Stirling: Circling the Square—and, if it is successful, a book currently being funded through Kickstarter by the REAL foundation.