Dictionary of Art
Part II. ARCHITECTURE -
Part III. ARCHITECTURE -
Post-modernism in art was first coined to denote an eclectic mode of
architecture that arose around
Because it is a style, we shall capitalize it to
distinguish it from the larger phenomenon of post-modernism, to which it
is intimately related. As the term implies, Post-Modernism constitutes a
broad repudiation of the mainstream of twentieth-century architecture.
Although it uses the same construction techniques, Post-Modernism
rejects not only the vocabulary of Gropius and his followers, but also
the social and ethical ideals implicit in their
lucid proportions. Looking at the
Seagram Building (fig. 1196), we can well understand why: as a
statement, it is overwhelming in its authority, which is so immense as
to preclude deviation and so cold as to be lacking in appeal. The
Post-Modernist critique of the International Style was, then,
essentially correct: in its search for universal ideals, it failed to
communicate with people, who neither understood nor liked it.
Post-Modernism represents an attempt to reinvest architecture with the
human meaning so conspicuously absent from the self-contained designs of
High Modernism. It does so by reverting to what can only be called
pre-modernist architecture. The chief means of introducing greater
expressiveness has been to adopt elements from historical styles rich
with association. All traditions are assumed to have equal validity, so
that they can be combined at will; but in the process, the compilation
itself becomes a conscious parody characterized by ironic wit. This
eclectic historicism is nevertheless highly selective in its sources.
They are restricted mainly to various forms of classicism (notably
Palladianism) and some of the more exotic strains of Art Deco, which, as
we have seen, provided a viable alternative to modernism during the 1920s and 1930s.
Architects have repeatedly plundered the past in search of fresh ideas.
What counts is the originality of the final result.
"Now they're decorating the box." Such or similar words opened many
of the articles written after the completion of the new office tower of
American telephone company AT&T in New York. Architect Philip Johnson
employed 1 32,000 metric
tons of pink granite to give the 195-metre-high building a magnificent, individual facade.
Above the publicly-accessible ground floor, behind whose huge arched
portal reigns the gilded genius of electricity, rise
28 identical floors of offices,
fused by slim, profiled pillars into a dynamic, soaring gesture.
However, the climax is a rounded notch in the pointed roof, a
self-confident departure from the convention of the flat roof. After
many long and lean years, the New York skyline was thereby given a
striking new landmark, in which Johnson revived Louis Sullivan's idea of
an articulated skyscraper featuring "base, shaft and capital".
Thus the lobby of the AT&T Building corresponds to the two massive
bottom floors of the Guaranty Building built by Adler and Sullivan in
Buffalo in 1894 to
1896. Similar, too, is the
"office pile", the stack of identical office floors above, although here
three times as high. The Guaranty Building concluded with a crowning
wreath of oculi, behind which were hidden a variety of technical
systems. The exploded gable contours of the AT&T Building further served
to promote corporate identity by making an unmistakable contribution to
the skyline. In their analysis of buildings by the Johnson and Burgee
partnership, Marc Angelil and Sarah Graham described the characteristic
division of technical and formal specifications: "Building volume,
supporting structure, elevator shafts, installations, ceiling heights
and other matters are determined on the basis of economic factors.
Articulating volume at a formal level in an interesting manner and
defining the design of the outer covering is the architect's role."
the public area at street level, Philip Johnson -
like Edward Larrabee Barnes in his almost
contemporaneous IBM Building, and the Trump Tower by the Swanke, Hayden,
Connell partnership -
adopted the new building regulations for midtown Manhattan which came
into force in 1982. For
installations serving the public interest, owners are thereby permitted
to increase floor surface area and thus their usable office space. In
order to preserve unbroken the continuity of avenue walls, plazas such
as that in front of the Seagram Building are no longer approved.
Buildings must extend as far as the development limit but are thereby
required to incorporate subway station entrances. Covered squares, inner
courtyards and passages bring bonuses in terms of site use. Complicated
calculation procedures are designed to guarantee adequate lighting in
the narrow streets, since schematic regulations have, in the past, led to
undesirable ziggurat solutions. By exploiting all their options, clients
can now obtain a total commercial area which is approximately
22 times the surface area of the
property. Meanwhile, provisions for pedestrian precincts in Manhattan
are out of the question; against the background of increasing
competition between motorized traffic and pedestrians, however,
increasing importance is being assigned to freedom of movement for
people on foot. Public space is incorporated into buildings as winter
gardens, shopping malls and covered walkways. Architects respond with
arcades, generous portals and advancing base zones.
One of the buildings approaching the new concept of urban space is
the headquarters of the Humana Corporation. Michael Graves designed an
eight-storey loggia combining areas of private and public use, with its
frontal arcades forming a "part of the city". Their height is matched to
that of neighbouring houses, while the line of the street is continued
in three upper floors. Behind these soars the office block proper. The
distinctive helmet of the roof, with its projecting bay and gable,
offers an interesting response to the axes determined by Main Street and
the avenues crossing it. The scale of the elements employed gives the facade an almost anthropomorphic appearance,
without denying its classical borrowings. Many comparable buildings
share the preference here revealed for expensive materials, in
particular granite, for the emphasis upon windows recesses instead of
their concealment in continuous grids and glazed surfaces, and for clear
structural articulation. Unattractive cities in economic decline have
become the particular object of attempts to synthesize city culture with
elaborate building projects, not least in order to attract further
investment. The competition for capital between America's communities
allows for many a successful experiment, as demonstrated in Richard
Meier's Bridgeport Center, for example. The town now imprints itself
upon the memory with a striking piece of architecture, turned with its
"best side" to the highway, which passes through Bridgeport on stilts.
The site is filled not by a single body but by a complex addition of
volumes subtly differentiated by colour, which intersect and overlap
each other and incorporate a small historical museum building with tower
and onion dome. From the welcoming forecourt in front of the
semicircular, concave main facade facing downtown, the visitor enters a
brightly lit atrium, whose ramps and vistas invite exploration. Sadly,
they reveal only a bank.
With European cities generally governed by different conditions,
American solutions cannot simply be adopted without intruding on mature
urban structures. Nor have they yet addressed adequate attention to the
design of housing, an area in which deficiencies in urban planning
emerge particularly clearly. In Germany, nevertheless, the new
developments built for the
Internationale Bauausstellung in Berlin offered examples
of identificatory housing, not least because their planning phase
coincided with the discussion on Post-Modernism and the return of
visible historical references. Sadly, many subseguent projects, while
attempting to capture the same spirit, remained uninspired apartment
blocks deploying decorative elements to evoke a superficial sense of
homeliness. There was one sphere, however, in which Post-Modern ideas
and urban planning were frequently married with dazzling results
- the museum. The site on which
pieces of historical evidence assemble to speak to the visitor of the
past, or where avant-garde works of art exude their aura, naturally
communicates identity in a particularly elegant fashion. And when it
interfaces with its surroundings as intelligently as James Stirling's
Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart and Hans Hollein's Museum Abteiberg in
Monchengladbach, it establishes, at least at the level of lavish civic
architecture, a model for successful urban repair.
The immediate antecedents of Post-Modernism can be found in the work of
Robert Venturi (born 1925) and his wife, Denise Scott Brown (born 1931).
They realized that architecture in America had become so laden with
pictorial and commercial imagery that they advocated overturning the
modernist credo of "form follows function" by divorcing the symbolic
quality of a facade from the building's purpose and structure. To
accomplish that end, they created an architecture of banality, whose
very triteness was proclaimed by ironic paraphrases of historical cliches from both the recent and distant past. Although few architects
followed their lead in design, the theories of Venturi and Brown were
important for opening the debate that led to Post-Modernism.
Robert Venturi, in full Robert Charles Venturi (born June
25, 1925, Philadelphia, Pa., U.S.), American architect who
proposed alternatives to the functionalist mainstream of
20th-century American architectural design. He became the
unofficial dean of the eclectic movement known as
Venturi studied at the
Princeton University School of Architecture in New Jersey
(1947–50). After further study at the American Academy in
Rome (1954–56), he worked as a designer in the architectural
firms of Oscar Stonorov (Philadelphia), Eero Saarinen
(Bloomfield Hills, Mich.), and Louis I. Kahn (Philadelphia).
After holding partnerships in several firms, he opened a
longer-lasting architectural firm with John Rauch in 1964.
Venturi’s wife, Denise Scott Brown, became a partner in the
firm in 1967. From 1957 to 1965 Venturi was a member of the
faculty at the University of Pennsylvania School of
Architecture in Philadelphia.
Venturi’s own architectural
philosophy, set forth in the influential book Complexity and
Contradiction in Architecture (1966), called for an eclectic
approach to design and an openness to the multiple
influences of historical tradition, ordinary commercial
architecture, and Pop art. He championed the ambiguity and
paradox, the “messy vitality” of the great architecture of
the past over the simple, unadorned, cleanly functional
buildings of the International style. Venturi’s manifesto
had a profound impact on younger architects who were
beginning to find similar constraints and limitations in the
Modernist architectural aesthetic.
In Learning from Las Vegas
(1972), Venturi and coauthors Denise Scott Brown and Steven
Izenour took this critique several steps further and
analyzed with wry appreciation the neon-lit urban sprawl and
the automobile-oriented commercial architecture of Las
Vegas. They questioned the Modernists’ rejection of the use
of applied ornament and decoration and ended the book with a
discussion of their own work. In the second volume of the
Supercrit series, which is based on live debates, Venturi
and Brown revisited the work (2007).
frequently exhibit the ironic humour of his theoretical
pronouncements. His early buildings incorporated materials
and visual references standard to the shopping centre and
subdivision but previously shunned by so-called serious
architects. During the late 1970s and ’80s he turned to
historical precedent in his work, which often makes studied
allusions to building styles of the past. Formal and
stylistic elements are combined with a willful inconsistency
that can seem playful, quirky, or even bizarre. Among
Venturi’s more important commissions were various buildings
for Yale University, Princeton University, and Ohio State
University. He designed several museums, notably the Seattle
Art Museum (1985), the Sainsbury Wing (1986) of the National
Gallery in London, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in San
Diego (1996). In 1991 Venturi won the Pritzker Architecture
Guild House Retirement Home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1960-1963
Guild House Retirement Home in Philadelphia. Plan of the ground floor
Vanna Venturi House in Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania, 1962-1964
Brant House in Greenwich, Connecticut, 19702-19734
Vanna Venturi House in Chestnut Hill.
Plan of the ground floor
Dixwell Fire Station, New Haven, Connecticut, 1967-1974
The Public Services Building in Portland, Oregon (fig. 1247), by
Michael Graves (born 1934) is exemplary of Post-Modernism.
Elevated on a pedestal, it mixes classical, Egyptian, and assorted other
motifs in a whimsical building-block paraphrase of Art Deco,
which shared an equal disregard for historical propriety. In this way.
Graves relieves the building of the monotony imposed by the tyranny of
the cube that afflicts so much modern architecture. Although the lavish
sculptural decoration was never added, the exterior has a surprising
warmth that continues inside. At first glance, it is tempting to dismiss
the Public Services Building as mere historicism. lo do so. however,
ignores the fact that no earlier structure looks at all like it. What
holds this historical mix together is the architect's personal style.
It is based on a mastery of abstraction that is as systematic and
inimitable as Mondrian's. Indeed, Graves was a skilled Eate Modernist
who first earned recognition in 1969
at the same exhibition held by the Museum of Modern Art
in New York that showcased Richard Meier.
Today Post-Modern buildings are being erected everywhere. They are
instantly recognizable by their ubiquitous reliance on keyhole arches,
round "Palladian" windows, and other relics from the architectural past.
They are also marked by their ostentation. Post-Modernism may be
characterized as architecture for the rich that has since been
translated downward to the middle class, surrounding it with an aura of
luxury bespeaking the egocentricity and hedonism that spawned the "me"
generation of the 1980s,
one of the most prosperous and extravagant decades in recent history.
Nevertheless, the retrospective eclecticism of Post-Modernism soon
became dated through the repetitious quotation of standard devices that
were reduced to self-parodies lacking both wit and purpose. In a larger
sense, however, this quick passage reflects the restless quest for
novelty and, more important, a new modernism that has yet to emerge to
replace the old.
1247. MICHAEL GRAVES. Public
Services Building, Portland, Oregon. 1980-82
1247. MICHAEL GRAVES. Public
Services Building, Portland, Oregon. 1980-82
Michael Graves, (born July 9, 1934, Indianapolis, Ind.,
U.S.), American architect and designer, one of the principal
figures in the postmodernist movement.
Graves trained to be an architect at the
University of Cincinnati (Ohio) and at Harvard University
(Cambridge, Mass.), earning a master’s degree at Harvard in
1959. He then studied in Rome from 1960 to 1962 and upon his
return to the United States took a teaching position at
Princeton University (N.J.), becoming a full professor there
Graves began his career in the 1960s as a
creator of private houses in the abstract and austere style
of orthodox Modernism, his compositions influenced by the
work of Le Corbusier. In the late 1970s, however, Graves
began to reject the bare and unadorned Modernist idiom as
too cool and abstract, and he began seeking a richer
architectural vocabulary that would be more accessible to
the public. He soon drew remarkable attention with his
designs for several large public buildings in the early
1980s. The Portland Public Service Building (usually called
the Portland Building) in Portland, Ore. (1980), and the
Humana Building in Louisville, Ky. (1982), were notable for
their hulking masses and for Graves’s highly personal,
Cubist interpretations of such classical elements as
colonnades and loggias. Though somewhat awkward, these and
other of Graves’s later buildings were acclaimed for their
powerful and energetic presence.
By the mid-1980s Graves had emerged as
arguably the most original and popular figure working in the
postmodernist idiom. He executed architectural and design
commissions for clients around the world. In the early 1980s
he created a playful and iconic teakettle (as well as a
number of additional products) for the Alessi design firm,
and he later created a line of household items, including
kitchenware and furniture, for the discount retailer Target.
Among his later large-scale projects were
the restoration of the Washington Monument (2000) and the
expansion of the Detroit Institute of Arts (completed 2007).
In 2001 Graves was awarded the American Institute of
Architects Gold Medal (AIA) for lifetime achievement.
Michael Graves. Hanselmann House in Fort Wayne, Indiana, 1967
Michael Graves. Hanselmann House in Fort Wayne, Indiana, 1967
Plan of the second floor
Michael Graves. Humana Building in Louisville, Kentucky, 1982-1986
In its playfulness and complexity Post-Modernism has rightly
been compared to Mannerist architecture, which similarly introduced a
note of decadence into the classical vocabulary inherited from the
Renaissance. Both share an element of self-conscious burlesque as well
that reaches a climax in the designs by SITES Inc. for Best Stores, such
as one in a Houston mall
1248) that looks for all
the world to be crumbling into ruins (compare fig.
698). This droll takeoff on
standard commercial architecture is enhanced by the bleakness of the
The differences are equally profound, however. Post-Modernism arises
out of the general sense of disillusionment that bedevils our age and
prevents the architect from seeing either the past or the present with
innocent eyes. Such a claim might well be made of Mannerist
architecture, of course. But because architects today must design for
different "taste-cultures," the eclecticism of Post-Modernism is
intended as a reflection of our "social and metaphysical reality."
Historicism, then, is part of the new pluralism, which can even
incorporate a parody of modernism itself. But such parodies also change
old meanings into new ones through "double-coding," which combines
modernist techniques and traditional styles to communicate on a new
plane with the public and architects alike. The result is a content that
is entirely up-to-date, despite the apparent familiarity of its hybrid
SITES PROJECTS INC. with MAPLE-JONES ASSOCIATES.
Best Stores Showroom. Houston. 1975
SITES PROJECTS INC.
Notch Showroom in the Arden Fair Shopping Center, Sacramento,
SITES PROJECTS INC.
Peeling Project in Richmond, Virginia, 1972
with the Neue Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart (fig.
1249), which was
immediately recognized as a classic of Post-Modernism. The latter has the grandiose scale befitting a "palace" of
the arts, but instead of the monolithic cube of the Pompidou Center,
English architect James Stirling (born
incorporates a greater variety of shapes within
more complex spatial relationships. There is, too, an overtly decorative
quality that will remind us, however indirectly, of Garnier's Paris
Opera (fig. 935).
The Post-Modernist critique of Late Modernism is that the
latter is committed to the tradition of the new and therefore maintains
modernism's integrity of invention and usage. Moreover, it lacks both
pluralism and a complex relation to the past, so that it fails to
transform meaning. We may test this for ourselves by comparing the
Pompidou Center (fig.
similarity does not stop there. Stirling has likewise invoked a form of
historicism through paraphrase that is far more subtle than Garnier's
opulent revivalism, but no less self-conscious. The primly Neoclassical
masonry facade, for example, is punctured by a narrow arched window
recalling the Italian Renaissance (compare fig.
605) and by a rusticated portal that has a
distinctly Mannerist look. At the same time, there is an exaggerated
quoting of modernism through the use of such "high-tech" materials as
painted metal. This eclecticism is more than a veneer—it
lies at the heart of the building's success. The site, centering on a
circular sculpture court, is designed along the lines of ancient temple
complexes from Egypt through Rome, complete with a monumental entrance
stairway. This plan enables Stirling to solve a wide range of practical
problems with ingenuity and to provide a stream of changing vistas that
fascinate and delight the visitor. The results have been compared not
inappropriately to the Altes Museum of Karl Friedrich Schinkel (fig.
924), among the most
insistently classical structures of the nineteenth century. By
comparison, the Pompidou Center is arguably a far more radical building!
1249. JAMES STIRLING, MICHAEL
WILFORD and ASSOCIATES.
Neue Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, Germany.
Timothy Hursley, courtesy House and Garden
(The Arkansas Office)
Sir James Stirling
Sir James Stirling, in full Sir James Frazer Stirling (born
April 22, 1926, Glasgow, Scot.—died June 25, 1992, London,
Eng.), British architect known for his unorthodox, sometimes
controversial, designs of multiunit housing and public
Stirling received his architectural
training at the University of Liverpool’s School of
Architecture (1945–50). He began practice in the early 1950s
in London and from 1956 to 1963 was in partnership with
James Gowan. From 1971 he worked with Michael Wilford. His
early work was mainly low-rise housing projects in the New
Brutalist style, which emphasized exposures of raw steel and
brick and the conscious avoidance of polish and elegance.
Stirling’s Engineering Department building for the
University of Leicester (1959–63) is perhaps his most
important work in this idiom.
After dissolving his partnership with
Gowan in 1963, Stirling evolved a rather playful variant of
postmodernism, making use of unconventional building axes,
complex geometric shapes, and brightly coloured decorative
elements. His New State Gallery, or Neue Staatsgalerie
(1977–84), in Stuttgart, Ger., a combination of classicism
and geometric abstraction, is considered by many to be his
finest achievement. Among his other works are a building for
the Fogg Museum (1979–84) and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum
(1985), both at Harvard University, and the Clore Gallery of
Tate Britain, London (completed 1987). In 1981 Stirling was
awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize. He was knighted
shortly before his death.
Michael Wilford CBE (born 1938) is an English architect from
Hartfield, East Sussex. Wilford studied at the Northern
Polytechnic School of Architecture, London, from 1955 to
1962, and at the Regent Street Polytechnic Planning School,
London, in 1967. In 1960, he joined the practice of James
Stirling and in 1971 together established the Stirling/Wilford
In 1960 Wilford joined the practice which James Stirling
created in 1956. The Stirling/Wilford partnership was
established in 1971 and continued until James Stirling's
death in 1992. From 1993 to 2001 Michael Wilford worked in
partnership under the name of Michael Wilford and Partners.
In England Michael Wilford now practices under the name of
Michael Wilford architects and in Germany has established
Wilford Schupp, based in Stuttgart.
Wilford's work has gained international
renown and includes significant public buildings such as
performing art centres, art galleries, museums and libraries
located around the world. These projects have won many
architectural awards, the most recent including The Royal
Fine Art Commission Building of the Year Award in 2001 for
The Lowry performing and visual arts centre in Salford,
He teaches extensively in schools of
architecture including posts at Yale, Harvard, Rice, the
University of Cincinnati in USA, the University of Toronto,
McGill University Montreal in Canada, University of
Newcastle, Australia, the Architectural Association in
London, and the University of Sheffield, England. He has
been an external examiner at many UK schools of architecture
and sits on juries for numerous international architectural
competitions and architectural awards.
Wilford is a member of the Royal Institute
of British Architects, the Singapore Institute of
Architects, Royal Institute of Arbitrators, Fellow of Royal
Society of Arts, and an Honorary Member of Bund Deutsche
Arkitecten. In 2001 he was made a Commander of the Order of
the British Empire.
Sir James Stirling with Michael Wilford. University of Leicester
Engineering Department, England, 1959-1963
Sir James Stirling with Michael Wilford. Cambridge University
History Faculty, England, 1964-1967
Sir James Stirling with Michael Wilford.
History Faculty building on the
Sidgewick Site of the University of Cambridge
Sir James Stirling with Michael Wilford.
Extension to the Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart, 1977-1984