When discussing postmodern architecture, adjectives such as eclectic, colorful,
and blended are likely to come up.
It’s a style, or perhaps better described as a movement, that was prominent in the late 1970s and 1980s,
as Owen Hopkins, an architectural writer and author of several books, explains.
Including “Postmodern Architecture: Less is a Bore and” Architectural Styles: A Visual Guide .
The aesthetic, filled with fascinating history and compelling philosophy, is one of Western design’s most appealing.
Postmodern architecture is a style of building design that emerged in the 1970s and 1980s as a reaction against the doctrines and ideals of Modernism and the International Style.
“I’ve seen a whole group of architects looking back at the architectural past and thinking about how to spread references to these times through quotations, through references, through sampling,” Hopkins explains.
Some postmodern architects designed more serious buildings, says Hopkins.
Others are more playful, but they were all “underpinned by an attempt to reconnect architecture with the public.”
Postmodern buildings often feature elements from both classical and contemporary architecture styles as a way to create something completely new.
History of postmodern architecture
According to Hopkins, to properly understand postmodern architecture, it is first necessary to understand modern architecture.
“Modernism is perhaps best understood as the broader architectural and cultural attempt to develop styles of architecture that reflect the new spirit of industrial modernity,” he explains.
The aesthetic was defined by new materials – such as steel, concrete and glass – and new building techniques and was led by architects such as Mies van der Rohe.
It was also about a style that was pared down, was abstract, and did away with the decorative schemes of nineteenth-century architecture in a way that could be seen as reflecting this new spirit of modernism.
Its events take place in the period between the late nineteenth century and the middle of the twentieth century.
It was not just the appearance of modernity that attracted people, but also the ideals it reflected.
As Hopkins says: “Architecture was seen as a way to achieve a more equal world through things like lots of new public housing, hospitals, schools and libraries.” ”
Modern architecture was an embodiment of this in many ways.
The difference between modern and postmodern architecture
In general, postmodernism was seen as a reaction against modernist architecture.
Beginning in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Hopkins adds, “the idea that one could simply build a better world had largely come to an end.”
People no longer believe that architecture can solve many deep-rooted social,
political, social and racial injustices.
There was a very dramatic shift, and that’s what postmodernism was about.
In 1966, architect Robert Venturi published a book called Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, in which he explored the ways in which he hoped a new style would replace Modernism. ”
It is a complex and contradictory structure based on the richness and mystery of modern experience, including that experience inherent in art.
Postmodern design welcomed exploration, and many of the style’s notable buildings feature an irreverent mix of styles, shapes, and humorous details.
Objectives of postmodern architecture
In addition to complexity and contradiction in architecture, theorists have argued that modernism erased the use of ornament to convey meaning, and faulted style for this crime.
Through many of these criticisms, postmodernist ideologies and goals were born.
Much of the postmodern movement was about creating buildings that told,
rather than merely expressed, their function.
The designers reacted against what were seen as misguided attempts by modernist architects to remake the world through architecture, instead settling for the world as it is.
Instead of trying to solve the contradictions in the world, they enjoyed and explored them.
Elements and characteristics of postmodern architecture
Because of its origins as a contradiction to modernism’s perceived formalism and lack of variety and ornament, postmodernism can be viewed as the opposite.
Postmodern buildings are often described as looking “cluttered”, and this is generally intentional.
Quoting or referencing historical styles is a large part of postmodern architecture.
It is not about trying to recreate the buildings of the past,
but about taking elements out of context and putting them together in a slightly fragmented way, but always in unexpected ways.
It would not be unusual in postmodern design to see things like columns or cornices,
which have been historically associated with Greek and Roman architecture,
and to see them placed within a high-tech building, for example.
One of the modern ideals was the idea that materials should look the way they do,
and postmodernism has thrown that idea out the window.
Designers will embrace the use of materials that look different than they actually are,
and thus pay more attention to the surface and veneer.
This leads to further interests in intense color and pattern, as Modernism is said to have been about paring things back, reducing architecture to its sort of essentials.
Postmodernism was taking the opposite approach and building things,
layering them and adding more ideas, symbols and references in a way that would communicate what it was doing.
Characteristics of postmodern architecture
Postmodern buildings often include:
- A variety of shapes and materials
- References to classical motifs
- Use bright colors and patterns, both outside and inside
- A mixture of different architectural styles, often combined in unconventional ways
- Displays of humor or sarcasm
- Segmentation models
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