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POSTMODERNITY + POSTMODERNISM ‘a glance backwards is part of the way we go forwards’

POSTMODERNITY + POSTMODERNISM ‘a glance backwards is part of the way we go forwards’

E l l e n Pe i r s o n 1 2 0 5 5 2 3 2 8 Newcastle University A dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of the degree of BA in Architecture, 2016

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to thank Professor Prue Chiles for her support, constructive criticism and encouragement. Also, Sean Griffiths of FAT, Patrick Burke of Michael Graves and Robert Adam of ADAM Architecture for their advice and sharing their experiences.

P R E FA C E Postmodernism: a style or an attitude? Is it defined by leaving the modern age or by entering a new age? A movement surrounded by contention, it was frequently criticised for its intentions and aesthetics. With enough time having elapsed since postmodernism’s controversial height of popularity, we can begin to evaluate objectively the events that transpired before, during and after the movement. This hindsight is instrumental in asking whether these criticisms were valid or rooted in misconception. Fundamentally, what legacy has postmodernism left us to move forwards with?






Po s t m o d e r n i t y

1 9 8 0 Ve n i c e Biennale




Modernism Vs Po s t m o d e r n i s m

Th e S a i n s b u r y Wi n g

W hy d i d w e H a t e Po s t m o d e r n i s m ?




T V- a m S t u d i o s

Th e U g l y a n d Ordinary

Th e L e g a cy a n d t h e Future




Concluding Comments


B i b l i o g ra p hy

131 List of Illustrations




In the most basic sense of the word, we are today living in the Post Modern world. Modernisation is complete and through the process of globalisation we have now left the Modern world and progressed to something else. Since the popular use of the term, it has come to define itself outside of its relationship with Modernism. It has come to encompass a movement which was defined by a strong departure from Modernism and a release from the strict doctrines that Modernism pursued.

Modernism arose at the beginning of the twentieth century out of a rebellious attitude amongst architects, designers, authors and artists. This paired with the modernisation that came with the industrial revolution created the Modernist movement in architecture. The style was simple, devoid of ornament and had a clarity of form. It rejected the use of traditional form, enlightenment thinking and religious belief. The Modernists believed that design should be directly linked to purpose. However, Modernist architecture was often declared soulless and bleak. In the late 1960s, with the failures of Modernism beginning to come apparent, many began to revolt. From this context, came Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown’s writings on what would later be known as Postmodern architecture. They went against all that Modernism was and at the time were rejected by many architects and thinkers. For Venturi, architecture had to have an ambiguity for it to be of worth. He raised his concerns with Modern architecture and looked to the past to fix them. Modernism was closely related to an International Style, which is irrespective of location. Postmodernism sought an architecture which was directly linked to the site, the surroundings and the region.


It is only now that many of Modern architecture’s failures have been realised that we can see how in hindsight Postmodernists ideas were revolutionary, with many seeing Venturi as the ‘father of Postmodernism’.1 It is now decades since the rise of Postmodernism and, at this stage, we can begin to look at what kind of a legacy Postmodernism has left us and how much value we place on this as a society. In this dissertation, my aim is to discover how useful the ideas of Postmodern architecture are and how architecture can benefit from them in the future. I will attempt to define what Postmodernism is and whether it existed as a movement. I will also be looking at the validity of the criticisms of Postmodernism and whether this has affected the recent attempt to revive the movement as ‘Radical Post-Modernism’.2

Methodology It is clear that Postmodern is a difficult term to define. Therefore, I will consider to what extent Postmodern is worth defining and whether a better explanation would be ‘Post-1970s architecture’, a period where architecture began to branch off into many different forms and languages and architects stopped being defined by a style. To many Postmodernism was a rejection of following rules and definitions of architecture. In this school of thought, to define Postmodernism would be futile and against the principles it promotes. To properly consider this, firstly it is necessary to look at the wider context of Postmodernism outside of architecture. I will be considering how 1

Nan Ellin, Postmodern Urbanism, 1st edn (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1999), p. 74. 2 ‘Radical Post-Modernism’, by Charles Jencks and FAT, Architectural Design, 81 (2011) <>.



relevant Postmodern architecture is as an aspect of the wider Postmodern culture and vice versa. Secondly, I will look backwards to see the conditions that Postmodernism was borne out of and in which ways it was a reaction to this. Thirdly, I will analyse the criticisms of different forms of Postmodern architecture to try to better understand why Postmodernism has been so strongly criticised. This is a contentious, issue as Postmodernism comes in many different forms but it is often confused as just being Postmodern Classicism, a style which makes use of historical references. Fourthly, I will go on to investigate whether the everyday and the ‘ugly and ordinary’ was the real saviour for contemporary architecture and how architects learnt from the failings of Modernism to develop what we have today and reject ‘heroic originality’.3 4 Finally, I shall evaluate the legacy that Postmodern architecture has left behind and what we can take from this to move forward. Throughout, I will be analysing buildings and events which were of significant relevance to the Postmodern movement. In order to thoroughly research this topic, I recognise that it is important to read outside of books written by the main theorists and polemicists of the movement. These are largely the supporters and proponents of the cause. Therefore, to arrive at a balanced and informed opinion, it is necessary to also look at newspaper articles, blog, videos and other sources which will provide an insight into arguments from either side. I will also interview practitioners who lived and worked through the movement to provide more authentic and practical knowledge on how Postmodernism was, and still is applied in practice.


Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas: The Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form, 15th edn (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997), p. 93. 4 Jencks and FAT, p. 21.




‘What is that unforgettable line?’5


The Wider Context 5 Postmodernism in architecture was just one sector of a very expansive set of beliefs that spans much further across the arts. The wider cultural context is important to analyse as, whilst critics were rejecting the work of Postmodern architects, they were simultaneously embracing the art of Warhol and Lichtenstein, and the writings of Lyotard and Jameson.6 There are architects who recognise that they are Postmodernists for the fact that they ‘live in Post Modern times’.7 Yet there also remain those who are wary of the term due to the connotations and the host of ‘mediocre architects [who were] copying’ Postmodernist architecture.8 Although some may be aware of the wider context of Postmodernism, there is still a recognition that the term is ‘loaded’.9

Broadly, Postmodernism across genres is a reaction or development upon Modernism and a feeling that you have ‘you have put the nineteenth century behind you’.10 It is ‘what you have when the modernisation process is complete and nature is gone for good’.11 This is strongly linked to the development of capitalism. Culture was originally separate from the market. However, in Marxist analysis, culture has become a commodity in itself and architecture is a part of this. Discussions and reviews of architecture have become a product and service in themselves. Culture and the economy are now irreversibly intertwined. This is the idea of the

5 Samuel Beckett, Happy Days: A Play in Two Acts, 1st edn (New York: Grove Press, 1961), ii. 1. 1. 6 Jencks and FAT, p. 21 7 Sean Griffiths, Interviewing Sean Griffiths, by Ellen Peirson, Appendix, 2016. 8 Patrick Burke, Interviewing Patrick Burke, by Ellen Peirson, Appendix, 2016. 9 Robert Adam, Interviewing Robert Adam, by Ellen Peirson, Appendix, 2016. 10 John Barth, The Friday Book: Essays and Other Nonfiction (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997), p. 198. 11 Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, Or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999), p. ix.



‘commodity fetishism’ which is a result of late-capitalism and is not just relevant to architecture.12 It can be seen across many industries. Goods and services which used to be essential necessities now meet other other non-essential needs, e.g. fashionable clothes. Due to the fact that society has become richer, these goods and services can now take different forms. Architecture used to be mainly about just a shelter or often gratuitous (e.g. a cave). The main aims were refuge and protection. It is now a commercial good and is therefore subject to fashions. This is the state of Postmodernity from which Postmodernism was borne as a response.13 When looking at Postmodernism as a result of these such things, we must see both Modernism and Postmodernism as larger cultural and social movements, as opposed to just specifically related to architecture.

Similarities Postmodernism varies across all art forms in both terms of its values and the era in which it was prominent. However, there are certain themes that run through all genres. One of these is the reactionary way in which the movement was formed. It could be said that one of the leading causes of Postmodernism was globalisation. Globalisation and the accessibility of information both promotes similar and diverse cultural movements. The information world means that information has become more accessible. It allows ideas to come into existence very rapidly, ‘ideas travel from Tokyo to London and back’ again.14 It is this availability of information which made the duality and double-coding that Postmodernism is known for


Jameson, p. 9. Michael J. Welton, ‘The Legacy of Postmodernism’, Huffington Post (The Huffington Post, 23 November 2011) <> [accessed 7 January 2016]. 14 Charles Jencks, The Language of Post-Modern Architecture, 5th edn (London: Academy Editions, 1988), p. 5. 13



possible. The information world allows a diversity and therefore, ‘‘This’ versus ‘that’ no longer exists. Instead ‘this’, ‘that’, ‘them’, ‘those’ and ‘these’ all happen simultaneously in a great horizontal flux’.15 The era of just one architectural style was over; the end of ‘the grand narrative’ is seen and the beginning of lots of ‘metanarratives’.16

Outside of architecture, this duality could thrive. Art, literature and philosophy do not have the restraints that architecture does. In Postmodernist literature for example, Samuel Beckett used non-linear and fragmented narratives, leading him to be called ‘one of the fathers of the Postmodern movement in fiction’.17 Bold statements such as Becket’s are easier in the arts as there is the freedom to create the impossible and there are very few restraints other than the power to offend and shock. In architecture, you must constantly refer back to what is mechanically and physically possible. As well as this, architecture is further restrained by the client. Originally, the architect, the client and the user of a building could all have been the same person. This is now much rarer as architecture has now evolved into a profession. An architect could have grand ideas that are altered to suit a client’s needs and budget. With architecture, there comes a responsibility to the client or customer. Unlike most arts, architecture is predominantly in the public realm. However strong the desire is to be radical, the burden of criticism and ridicule will be just as strong.


Jencks and FAT, p. 26 Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984), pp. xxiii – xxiv. 17 Hans-Peter Wagner, A History of British, Irish, and American Literature (Trier: WVT, Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2003), p. 194. 16



Led by Architecture With this being said, Postmodernism is still considered to be ‘one of the few global and cultural movements to be initiated and led by architecture’.18 With Postmodernism arguable being a reaction to Modernism, this is understandable as the effect that Modernism had on architecture was much greater. It affects the people directly. However, due to architecture being a slow moving phenomenon, this took more time to be realised than in the other arts. Architectural theorists began writing in the late 1960s, yet the effect on architecture was not to be seen for another decade. Also, as will be discussed in Chapter 2, Modernist architecture can have a very negative affect on the city as a whole, not just the individual building. Architecture encounters problems on a much greater scale than the other arts, such as ‘the dilemmas of bigness, mass production, anonymous living and neutral agnosticism’.19

18 19


Jencks, The Story of Post-Modernism, p. 19. Ibid.


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La Strada Novissima


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Unveiling Postmodernism 20 In 1980, the first independent architectural exhibition at the Venice Biennale took place. Titled ‘La Presenza del Passato’ or ‘The Presence of the Past’, the exhibition saw leading architects of the Postmodern movement create Portogehsi's ‘Strada Novissima’, an imagined street of twenty facades.21 Each façade was to ‘announce to passing visitors what was on offer inside’.22 The street was about communication and ‘a new attitude to architecture’.23 The exhibition truly opened up discussion of the movement and whether this was good or bad, it indicated a time when history of architecture was seen to be of great significance to emerging architects. This was Postmodernism’s chance to be shown to the world and it became ‘a symbol of the movement itself’.24 For a movement that rejects using a set of rules to design, it is near impossible to display a definitive Postmodern building. Perhaps Postmodernism is a term that can only be used in hindsight as premiering ‘Postmodernism’ at the Biennale misled the public in what the real values of the movement were. Those displaying work were mostly from one school of Postmodernism. However, the exhibition was still branded as Postmodern, when a more appropriate description may be Postmodern Classicism. The work of Classicists is very much distinguished from that of Postmodern practitioners as there are many who have left the Modernist


Jencks and FAT, p. 99 ‘La Presenza Del Passato’, La Biennale Di Venezia <> [accessed 16 January 2016]. 22 Jencks, The Story of Post-Modernism, p. 74. 23 Ibid. 24 Karissa Rosenfield, ‘A History of the Venice Architecture Biennale’ (ArchDaily, 2012) <> [accessed 7 January 2016]. 21



movement without embracing Classicism.25 However, the Biennale of 1980 saw Postmodernism ‘pulled towards historicism’.26 While it still had a ‘commitment to a plural language and plural audience’ that was supposedly the root of Postmodernism, it was brought to the fore as a Classicism revival of sorts.27 With the term Postmodernism still being relatively new, to many, this is what it came to be known as. Many dismissed the work as just being ‘signs stuck on sheds’.28 Although, this was the aim of Venturi Scott Brown & Associates (VSBA), Postmodernism had a much wider and varied context. For those who disliked this revival of Classicism, they were within their right to criticise the Biennale. However, to criticise the movement of Postmodernism all together could be seen as an uninformed opinion. Misunderstood The







of a

host of

misunderstandings and misrepresentations of the Postmodern movement. To even say that it is a movement is perhaps too broad as Postmodernism sought to reject any set of rules and called for more diversity in architecture. This can help us to understand why so many refuse to accept the term ‘Postmodernist’. The term is so broad and has been widely misused. It has come to bring false associations with it. The Biennale brought Postmodernism to the foreground and this could have been a time of great education and publicity. As an exhibition of


Charles Jencks, ‘La Strada Novissima: The 1980 Venice Biennale’, Domus, 610 (1980) <> [accessed 7 January 2016]. 26 Jencks and FAT, p. 17 27 Ibid. 28 Ibid.


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FIGURE 1: La Strada Novissima, an imagined street of twenty facades.



FIGURE 2: La Strada Novissima, Hans Holleinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s facade.


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Postmodern Classicism it was extremely successful; it failed in showing the public that pluralism is the true ideal of Postmodernism.29 This was arguably the beginning of the criticisms of Postmodernism.


Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, 2nd edn (New York: Museum of Modern Art in association with the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, Chicago, 1977), p. 16.




‘ To b e n o t - a t - a l l c o n t e x t u a l i s t o b e a b o o r ; t o b e o n l y c o n t e x t u a l i s t o b e a b o r e ’ 30



Defining Postmodernism through Modernism 30 Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown are sure of themselves as Modernists and completely reject the term Postmodernists as Modernism is their ‘point of departure’.31 The ‘decorated sheds’ that they created are essentially Modernist buildings which have had signs and ornament added to them. Therefore, to understand Postmodernism, it is important to look at what came before to see the environment that it was created out of. With definitions of Postmodernism being highly contested, this may also give a more satisfying explanation, defining it as a product of the past as opposed to a movement in itself with a set of rules which is the exact thing that Postmodernists strived to avoid. The word Postmodernism has become to mean something in itself; the original hyphenated version (postmodernism) was first used by Charles Jencks to mean ‘after Modernism’, describing ‘where we had left rather than where we were going’.32 Still now, Jencks defines Postmodernism as Modernist structures and ‘something else’, whether that be Classicism, pop or pluralism in general.33

Modernism was borne out of a feeling that traditional styles of art, literature, philosophy, architecture and religion had become outdated with the emergence of the new industrial world. It was a rebellion against bourgeois values with the aim of creating a new social order.34 Although often being seen as a capitalist invention, the Modern movement was


Denise Scott Brown and Ellis Woodman, ‘In Defence of the Sainsbury Wing’, Bdonline (Building Design, 2011) <> [accessed 15 November 2015]. 31 Stanislaus von Moos, Venturi, Scott Brown, and Associates: Buildings and Projects, 19861997 (New York, NY: Monacelli Press, 1999), Cover. 32 Ingeborg Hoesterey, Zeitgeist in Babel: The Postmodernist Controversy (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991), p. 4. 33 Ibid., p. 4. 34 Barth, p. 199.



FIGURE 3: A brief history of architecture, its intentions and its causes.



started by ‘idealistic, left-leaning and good healthy men’.35 Architects such as Mies van der Rohe, Ernst May, Walter Gropius, Aalvar Alto and Le Corbusier all helped create The International Style. Their intentions and values were good and it was seen as ‘the architecture of social democracy’.36 However, this was overtaken by the Reactionary Modernism of the Nazi Party. The impact of Modernisation and technology saw a shift in human relations. Joseph Goebbels, a close associate of Adolf Hitler, stated that ‘it is the most essential principle of our victoriously conquering movement that the individual has been dethroned’.37 This shows a strong belief in the zeitgeist which was shared by many Modernist architects. The zeitgeist means ‘the spirit of the age’ and Le Corbusier, one of the leading Modernist architects frequently voiced his views on a similar form of determinism.38 In his Modernist manifesto








overwhelming us like a flood which rolls on towards destined ends has furnished us with new tools’.39

The aim of Modernism was an International Style. Modernists believed that by following a set of rules and ideals, you could create inherently good architecture. Le Corbusier created five rules which he believed that when followed








Jencks, The Story of Post-Modernism, p. 19. Griffiths, Appendix, 2016. 37 Elaine S Hochman, Architects of Fortune: Mies van Der Rohe and the Third Reich (New York: Fromm International Publishing Corp.,U.S., 1990), p. 316. 38 Glenn Alexander A. Magee, The Hegel Dictionary (London: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2010), p. 22. 39 Le Corbusier, Towards A New Architecture, ed. by Frederick Etchells (Oxford: Butterworths Architecture, 1970), p. 6. 40 Karissa Rosenfield, ‘VIDEO: Villa Savoye, the Five Points of a New Architecture’ (ArchDaily, 2013) <> [accessed 16 November 2016]. 36



Postmodernism rejected this idea and advanced a style of architecture which was specifically concerned with the site and a strong belief in regionalism. It reacted to the ‘banality of the architecture of the 50s and 60s’.41 With this came a wish for ‘vitality’ in architecture.42 To many Postmodernists, an International Style would lead to repetitive streets of ‘boxes’. Norman Mailer asserted that architecture was the first casualty of totalitarianism, with Modern architecture cutting us off from the past and leaving us with ‘empty landscapes of psychosis’.43 This failure of Modernism is only recognised when seen as part of the wider context and not in individual buildings. Whether or not Postmodernism saved architecture, it could be said that it saved the city and I shall consider this argument next. Postmodernism in the City Jane Jacobs was an architectural theorist who wrote the influential book The Death and Life of Great American Cities which considered Postmodernism in planning and attacked Modern planning. It highlights the failures of Modernism in specific relation to the city. With Modernism being arguably a product of capitalism, the books marks the shift both in values and the greater state control that Modernism brought, moving from ‘producers rather than consumers, bureaucrats rather than inhabitants, the state not the people and the corporation not the neighbourhood’.44 Jacobs asserted that a city cannot be planned and built in the same way as a suburb or town as they are more complicated than just larger versions them. There are different social relationships such as cities being ‘full of


Burke, Appendix, 2016. Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, p. 16. 43 Norman Mailer, The Presidential Papers, 11th edn (New York: Berkley Pub. Corp., 1976), p. 206. 44 Jencks, The Story of Post-Modernism, p. 27. 42



FIGURE 4: The layered city. Various styles, ages and states of repair



strangers’ and it is the job of architects and planners to overcome this isolation.45 Therefore, an International Style cannot apply. The city is complex and layered and Modernism rejects this for a more ordered design. Jacobs believed in a more animated city with variation both in age and condition as opposed to a strictly organised city. Cities should be for mixed use, and the zoning of residential, commercial and industrial buildings rejects the possibility of a layered city. She believed that cities should possess ‘social and economic vitality’.46 The book was a complete








Postmodernism was more than just Modernist technology with ornament. The Postmodern set of values meant that the city was more than the total of its component parts. A diversity in architecture creates vitality and a sense of belonging to a neighbourhood that is distinct from others. Modernist values meant that all neighbourhoods were a copy of each other. The Death of Modernism Jencks asserts that there are ‘four forces’ that dictate architectural style – ‘social, economical, technical and ecological’. However much an architect can attempt to alter these with architecture, any changes made by architecture are unlikely to be great. These forces control the architecture.47 By looking at the state of society at the time Postmodernism was beginning to be considered and written about, we can better understand the shift from Modernism to Postmodernism.

45 Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (Modern Library Series), 4th edn (New York: Random House Publishing Group, 1993), p. 38. 46 Jacobs, p. 5. 47 Jencks, The Story of Post-Modernism, p. 11.



After WWII, there was a period of great economic growth. The development of technology and the beginning of concern with the environment all enabled us to think outside functionality. The then Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan gave a speech in 1957 telling Britons that they ‘have never had it so good’, telling of how industrial towns and farms had gained from economic prosperity.48 There had been two world wars and with this came a wish for something better. It took a period of time for the world to recover from WWII. This contributes to explaining why Modernism slowly came to an end as the dominant form of design.

Due to architecture being a slow moving phenomenon we see Modernism come to an end in the 1970s. Jencks suggests the time and place of the death of Modernism is St Louis, Missouri on July 15, 1972, at 3.32pm, the moment that the Pruitt-Igoe housing estate in St Louis was demolished.49 Many saw it as the epitome of the failures of Modernist architecture. The architect, Minoru Yamasaki, took most of the criticism for this. However, it seems that there were many other forces at play which led to the early demolition of the estate. There were problems related to the building, many of which were due to lack of maintenance. Lifts often fell into disrepair and wide open shared spaces became lawless. It consisted of 33 separate 11 storey blocks. The hugeness of the residential estate resulted in a development that was not mixed use, a value that Jacobs asserted was important in the city. However, similar places have worked across America and Europe. The problems were more social, economy political and political. Maintenance was meant to be funded by rents. However, it 48

Martin Evans, ‘Harold Macmillan’s “Never Had It So Good” Speech Followed the 1950s Boom’, The Telegraph (, 19 November 2010) <> [accessed 10 December 2015]. 49 Jencks, The Language of Post-Modern Architecture, p. 9.



FIGURE 5: The Pruitt-Igoe development.

FIGURE 6: ‘Boom, boom, boom’


FIGURE 7: The ruin, serving as a reminder and a warning


housed many low-income families who couldn’t afford high rents. The city of St. Louis also had problems with racial discrimination and this was a cause of a lot of the tension and lawlessness within the development. If the design was at fault, then it’s main fault was a disregard of context. Lowrise blocks would not have required lift maintenance. The development could have also been designed in such ways to minimalize vandalism and crime. However, its design was following an International Style and followed the doctrines of Modernism precisely. A more user-centric design may have been beneficial. Although Jencks later admits that the exact time was made up, this is arbitrary as it illustrates that the seemingly ‘eternal’ Modernist movement could die. In his words, ‘boom, boom, boom’.50 51 Prosperity Vs Austerity In the 1970s, when the Modernist era came to an end, ‘the economy collapsed’.52 This was arguably one cause of the ‘heroic Modern system’ ending.53 There was a loss of trust in authority brought on by key events such as Watergate and this ‘political and economic system’ is what ‘underpinned’ Modernism.54 The oil price rise induced recession of the mid-1970s resulted in a decline in building and the ‘young architects had no work’.55 However, they were still theorising and imagining a type of architecture different to that of the Modernist era. Many were ‘starving artists’ but still kept their commitment to want to design what they believed


Jencks, The Story of Post-Modernism, p. 27. Rowan Moore, ‘Pruitt-Igoe: Death of the American Urban Dream’, The Guardian (The Guardian, 4 June 2014) <> [accessed 14 December 2016]. 52 Burke, Appendix, 2016. 53 ADAMarchitecture’s channel, ‘Robert Adam Talks at “Reconsidering Postmodernism” Conference’, YouTube (YouTube, 2013) <> [accessed 11 January 2016]. 54 Ibid. 55 Burke, Appendix, 2016. 51



to be better than what had come before.56 Therefore, in the Reagan/Thatcher era of the 1980s when there was an economic boom, there came an ‘explosion of design’.57 This coincided with the preservation movement and a culture that was respect the past more. What resulted was a interest in history in a time of prosperity. This was an important contribution to the rise of Postmodern Classicism.58 After over a decade of wealth, a ‘huge recession’ ended this economic boom, taking Postmodernism and it’s ‘association with the excess’ with it.59 Since then, Postmodernism ‘came to be associated with Thatcherism’.60

A Departure Before Postmodernism, architectural movements had always had a set of values and principles, a ‘grand narrative’.61 With Postmodernism, came the move from a ‘rational paradigm’ to an ‘irrational paradigm’ and the ‘collapse of the grand narrative’ was seen.62 The beginning of a series of ‘meta-narratives’.63 In this sense, it is difficult to see Postmodernism as an architectural movement as opposed to a rebellion. It was a sheer rejection of architectural rules and, therefore, it can be difficult to draw a set of characteristics from Postmodern architecture that makes it Postmodern. To say that a building is implicitly Postmodern would be to misunderstand the ideals of Postmodernists. From here, the most appropriate definition of Postmodernism would be to describe it as a departure from Modernism. However, architects take inspiration from their peers and predecessors,


Burke, Appendix, 2016. Ibid. 58 Robert Adam Talks at “Reconsidering Postmodernism” Conference 59 Adam, Appendix, 2016. 60 Griffiths, Appendix, 2016. 61 Lyotard, p. xxiii. 62 Griffiths, Appendix, 2016. 63 Lyotard, p. xxiv. 57



and, therefore, this could be a recipe for anarchy. After all, Postmodern architects will have all trained at the time of the Modernist movement and this would have helped to form their beliefs. This can be where the line between Modernism and Postmodernism blurs and we can see that ‘one critic’s Postmodernism is another critic’s Modernism’.64 This is shown explicitly in the work and careers of Michael Graves and Philip Johnson. Graves was originally a part of The New York Five, a group of influential Modern architects mainly working in the 1960s and 1970s and Philip Johnson was also closely related to them. They both went on to depart from Modernism and to subsequently design Postmodern buildings. This suggests that for some Postmodernism was a natural extension of Modernism.65 66 Postmodernism was a return to being concerned with the individual ‘just like a lawyer would support the concerns of a client’.67 This refers back to the notion that the relationship between architect and client has changed. It was the belief that architecture is a part of the bigger picture and cannot be viewed on the basis of individual pixels. Central was the notion that context and design are closely intertwined. Whilst also recognising your place in the timeline of architectural history as a designer.


Andreas Huyssen, After the Great Divide: Modernism, Mass Culture and Postmodernism (language, Discourse, Society) (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1988), p. 59. 65 David J Hoeveler, The Postmodernist Turn: American Thought and Culture in the 1970’s, 1st edn (Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1996), p. 95. 66 Jencks, The Story of Post-Modernism, p. 27. 67 Ibid., p. 28.



Venturi, Scott Brown & Associates



The Contested Shed Since the Blitz, Trafalgar Square had had one last empty site occupied by a car park. The National Gallery sought to expand into it and ran a competition in 1982. The extended competition contrasts the work of Modernists and Postmodernists. Modernist architects Ahrends, Burton and Koralek won with a radical Modernist proposal to include a tower. Prince Charles stepped in to stop this from going through, describing the scheme as ‘monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend’.68 The term ‘monstrous carbuncle’ has now come to be used to describe Modernist architecture that disregards its context. Three years later, another competition was held following funding from the Sainsbury family. The winning proposal was that of VSBA. Having already been a topic of contempt before its conception, the National Gallery addition continued to be a controversial topic. It was heavily criticised for making use of many of the defining features of VSBA’s work. Its historical references were said to be ‘arbitrary’, so ‘reminiscent’ that it does not ‘achieve architectural status’ itself.69 For VSBA, the criticism was highlighting all the aspects of a building that they had strived to create. The ‘arbitrary’ was ‘irony’. The ‘decoration’ was ‘ornament’. The site that it ‘exploits’ was ‘contextualism’. The Sainsbury Wing can be seen as a ‘decorated shed’.70 A concept that VSBA wrote of in Learning from Las Vegas. A building is either a ‘duck’ or 68

‘A Speech by HRH the Prince of Wales at the 150th Anniversary of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), Royal Gala Evening at Hampton Court Palace’, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, 1984 <> [accessed 7 January 2016]. 69 Roger Kimball, ‘Clipper-Class Classicism: Robert Venturi’s London Adventure’, The New Criterion, 1991 <> [accessed 7 January 2016]. 70 Venturi, Scott Brown and Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas, p. 87.



FIGURE 8: The Sainsbury Wing serving as a back drop to the main building

FIGURE 9: Non-structural columns


FIGURE 10: The building makes use of the whole site, making for unusually shaped rooms


a ‘decorated shed’. A ‘duck’ is a building where the form describes the function that it serves. A ‘decorated shed’ conveys its message using signs and ornament.71 The Sainsbury Wing is an example of ‘billboard architecture’. It is essentially a Modern building which contains a non structural façade of historical references and signs in the same Portland Stone of the main building. This communicates its message to the public.72

Old to New The extension constantly refers back to the main building. The cornices of the columns are mirrored. However, the non loadbearing columns appear to fold out like a concertina, often overlapping. To some, this was insulting and a mere pastiche. To others, it was a nice gentle nod to the extension’s surroundings creating a fluidity between the old and the new. VSBA’s intentions were to ‘connect to and reflect’ the original building.73 Denise Scott Brown describes it as ‘an ancient-modern mannerism that veils what it reveals and suggests what it conceals’.74

The huge steps up to the National Gallery, whilst giving it a huge sense of grandeur, made it incredibly inaccessible. It may be experiential to climb up to view the paintings. However, for some this is impossible. The Sainsbury Wing brought the artwork onto the street level. You could be ‘from the bus stop to the Botticelli’s in two minutes’.75 It put the artwork into the public realm and made it more accessible than ever before. It also


Venturi, Scott Brown and Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas, p. 87. Scott Brown and Woodman, In Defence of the Sainsbury Wing. 73 Stanislaus von Moos, Venturi, Scott Brown, and Associates: Buildings and Projects, 19861997 (New York, NY: Monacelli Press, 1999), p. 122. 74 Scott Brown and Woodman, In Defence of the Sainsbury Wing. 75 Neil MacGregor, ‘What a Difference a Decade Makes’, The Guardian (The Guardian, 11 July 2001) <> [accessed 7 January 2016]. 72



gave London the facilities to house greater travelling exhibitions. The artwork was moving away from the elite and towards the ordinary public and the everyday.

Inside, the galleries are minimal. They are on a much smaller scale than in the main building. On the exterior, the Sainsbury Wing allows the original building to be the main spectacle, and on the interior the artwork is the main spectacle. The building facilities the exhibits within it, it is not the exhibit. This quality makes it truly Postmodern. The Sainsbury Wing was purpose built to house the early Renaissance collection and this is evident in the layout of the paintings. Certain paintings are framed by doorways and arches. The variation between square doorframes and archways seems to echo the difference in the shapes of paintings throughout the rooms. VSBA make use of diminishing perspective to create a sense of grandeur and scale. When entering the main gallery spaces, the reducing archways elongate the space. However, a sacrifice of this effect is that when you look back in the opposite direction, it has the opposite effect. Modern Technologies, Postmodern Values The Sainsbury Wing strives to find a balance between respecting and reflecting the surroundings. VSBA believe that â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;buildings and context define each otherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; and will always be intertwined.76 Although it was contested at the time, this is what they have achieved in their design. The walkway from the old building to the new is seamless to the user due to the use of references from the old building to the new. From the view of Trafalgar Square, the extension does well in its aim to not overshadow the



Scott Brown and Woodman, In Defence of the Sainsbury Wing.


FIGURE 11: The extension referncing the original cornices and heights

FIGURE 12: Diminsihing perspective and the effect in reverse



iconic building that it adjoins. It blends itself into the existing building by constantly quoting back to the original and referencing the existing heights. Nevertheless, it still maintains its status as being a new addition by utilising Modern technologies such as glass curtain walling to mark the threshold between the old and new. It is a prime example of a â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Classical decorated shedâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;.77



Scott Brown and Woodman, In Defence of the Sainsbury Wing.




‘The most radical thing to do at any given time i s t h a t w h i c h w a s m o s t r e c e n t l y f a s h i o n a b l e ’ 78



Communication over Historicism 78 Postmodern architecture often gets dismissed with such criticisms as pastiche, unoriginal and irrational. With Postmodernism being such a broad topic, it is difficult to judge the whole movement on just a few buildings. For VSBA, their idea of Postmodernism was the use of signs to communicate through architecture – essentially Modernist buildings ‘decorated’ with signs: the ‘decorated shed’.79 However, although Venturi is often referred to as the ‘father of Postmodernism’, neither Venturi or Scott Brown will accept the title of Postmodernist.80 In an interview with Rem Koolhas and Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Scott Brown stresses that the aim of their writing was never revivalism of past styles. She believes that you should not ‘design like Borromini, but learn from Borromini’.81 The misunderstanding of their work is partly what came to give Postmodernism its definition today. This was helped by certain events such as the 1980 Venice Biennale where the entries were certainly Postmodern, but only comprised one sector of the movement. With the concern of the exhibition being the ‘lost language of architecture’, the judging committee did favour those who were more inline with historicism.82 Against many Postmodernists will, Postmodernism was ‘pulled towards Classicism’.83 For this reason, many felt the need to reject the title as it was merely seen as a way of ‘mimicking history in a whimsical way’.84 In reality, there were 78

Dan Graham, ‘Art in Relation to Architecture/ Architecture in Relation to Art’, in Rock My Religion: Writings and Projects 1965-1990 (writing Art), by Dan Graham, ed. by Brian Wallis (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1994). 79 Venturi, Scott Brown and Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas, p. 87. 80 Ellin, p. 74. 81 Rem Koolhaas and Hans Ulrch Obrist, Re-Learning from Las Vegas, ed. by Rem Koolhaas, Interview with Robert Venturi & Denise Scott Brown, 1st edn (Cologne: Taschen, 2004), p. 156. 82 Charles Jencks, ‘La Strada Novissima: The 1980 Venice Biennale’, Domus, 610 (1980) <> [accessed 7 January 2016]. 83 Jencks and FAT, p. 17 84 Burke, Appendix, 2016.



still many architects who had ‘left Modernism but not necessarily embraced the Free Style Classicism’.85

Indefinable Part of the constant criticism of Postmodernism lies in its refusal to define itself and it continues to be ‘misunderstood as an aesthetic issue’.86 Postmodernism is rooted in the idea that architecture should be diverse and, therefore, to create a set of rules to follow such as in the International Style would negate diversity. This rejection of Modernist dogma means that there can be no archetypal Postmodern building and, therefore, it cannot be defined in terms of style. However, ultimately, it continues to be defined by aesthetics; this ‘approach was merely a tactic’ to make a broader comment on what architects should be doing.87 If Postmodernism is still about aesthetics, it is on the wider scale. It calls for a diverse cityscape, ‘where the Modern masters’ strength lay in consistency, ours should lie in diversity’.88 Postmodernism’s downfall is that it was considered in the same manner as other architectural movements when in reality it is impossible to define as a movement or a style. In a wider social and cultural context, Postmodernism outside of architecture has the characteristics and rules of a movement (as discussed in Chapter 1). However, specifically in relation to architecture, it rejects any form of universal style. There is not a specific set of characteristics and aesthetics that can be seen throughout Postmodern architecture; just a set of ideologies and beliefs.


Jencks, La Strada Novissima: The 1980 Venice Biennale. Griffiths, Appendix, 2016. 87 Ibid. 88 Antonio Sanmartin, Venturi, Rauch and Scott Brown, 1st edn (London: Academy Editions, 1986), p. 7. 86



The term Postmodern has been used so widely and erratically (often by critics of the movement) that people can now read a variety of definitions within the term. However, the term was first only used to mean ‘aftermodern’. The term ‘post-1970s architecture’ may better describe how Postmodernism was the moment at which architecture branched off into a number of different aesthetics with a preference for plurality and communication. Now, on the cusp of a possible revival of Postmodernism, with the discussion being recently opened up again by such publishers as Architectural







Postmodernism hold this revival back. The attitude of Postmodern design is being revived though some architects continue to reject the term as a description because of its previous connotations.

Fashion In a late-capitalist culture, we are in a constant state of change.89 This flux is an inherent characteristic of late-capitalism, but is still what architects wish to defy in their attempts to be timeless. Architecture is now inevitably open to fashion and subject to being adopted by capitalism in the same way as other commodities.90 In AD's Radical Post-Modernism issue, FAT asserts that, in a capitalist culture, Postmodernism had had its time as the fashionable style and with new styles emerging, it was of little value. It became ‘abruptly unfashionable’.91 Architecture has become a service in its own right, as discussed in Chapter 1.92


Jencks and FAT, p. 18. Jameson, p. 4. 91 Jencks and FAT, p. 5. 92 Ibid., p. 18. 90



With the proposed revival now being known as Radical Postmodernism, it is apparent that it has moved a way from being a style and towards its original intentions of being a general attitude to design. The original idea of ‘Postmodernism as an architectural style may have died, but Postmodernism as a pervasive cultural condition certainly has not’. It is architects’ awareness of the wider culture of Postmodernism that makes them ‘radical’, the radical Postmodernists such as FAT are willing to accept the term.93 However, Postmodernism cannot discard its past and many architects still reject the title as a result of this. To accept the title could lead to a burden of following its rules precisely and this is not the aim of the Postmodern approach. It could be said that the title of Postmodernism has held it back from the moment of its conception and ‘the blossoming of PoMo’ began with ‘the disappearance of the term’.94 For it to begin again, postmodernism must go with out this title and be ‘called something different’ and ‘this will be the ultimate liberation’ for the movement.95

Misuse of the Title The ideologies of Postmodernism were new and radical. Because they were severely misunderstood, this lead to the misuse of the term Postmodern. It is possible that even if architects of the time understood the idea of not having a set of rules to design by, they may have continued to work in this manner whilst following some of the more stylistic aspects of Postmodernism. It was an expansive way of thinking to be used wherever appropriate and never intended to be used as an answer to every design problem. For it to be used universally ‘would be as grotesque as any style applied universally’ – the exact problem that Postmodern architectural


Jencks and FAT, p. 18. Ibid., p. 15. 95 Adam, Appendix, 2016. 94



theorists were striving to avoid. Their aim was for vitality. When the opposite of their intentions had resulted, they had created a ‘Postmodern rule book. Time to move on’.96 FAT’s Sean Griffiths expressed that this commodification of architecture, along with the shift in client to ‘private developers’ is ‘why [they] quit’.97


David Byrne, ‘Postscript’, in Postmodernism: Style and Subversion, 1970-1990, by Paola Antonelli, ed. by Glenn Adamson and Jane Pavitt (New York: Distributed in North America by Harry N. Abrams, 2011), pp. 286–89 (p. 286). 97 Griffiths, Appendix, 2016.






Postmodernism Goes Pop The Television Studios in Camden were built by Farrells for TV-am, a new independent TV company that broadcasted breakfast television across the UK. As Farrells has often done in London, the building was a part conversion of an existing 1930s industrial building and part extension. What was created was a building to show that Postmodernism is much more than just historicism. ‘What the language of Postmodernism has needed is refinement, a pruning away of the excess, a polishing of phrase and diction’, this is where Farrells was successful.98 It was an archetypal Pop Architecture building. It took historicist elements such as the urn often used as decoration in London architecture and portrayed them in a pop way to create the egg cup. This irony is significant in the Postmodern movement and this ‘mix of history and pop culture can be see as a metaphor for the building itself’.99

Farrell saw the design as ‘an opportunity to create a representation of the TV channel through a building’.100 It is clear that the building was a direct reflection of its user. The coloured sheet metal of the façade imitated the sunset of the logo and the egg cups became a symbol of the company, often given away as prises. The design is anything but unified, and this double-coding is part of the building’s charm. The front façade is detached, being reminiscent of the station’s logo and also following the curve of the street – ending on ‘TV-am’. Opposing this, the back façade

98 Johnathan Glancey, ‘From the Archives: TV-Am Studios by Terry Farrell Partnership’, Architects Journal (Emap Ltd., 2011) <> [accessed 5 November 2016]. 99 Amy Frearson, ‘Postmodern Architecture: TV-Am Studios by Terry Farrell’, Dezeen, 2015 <> [accessed 7 November 2016]. 100 Ibid.



FIGURE 13: The refurbished back facade with the original egg cups

FIGURE 14: The original front facade echoing the identity of TV-am



Top: fkdsfnksdf. Above: jsdfhjskdofnckx.

FIGURE 15: The atrium which also served as a studio



retained the industrial language of what occupied the site previously, quietly accented by the yellow and blue egg cups. The interior was certainly double-coded as well, taking influences from many different cultures and styles in the atrium space. It featured a ‘Japanese temple’, ‘Mesopotamian ziggurat’, ‘a Classical temple’ and a ‘far western desert’.101 This creates a language of the company being multicultural – ‘news from all over the world’. The atrium runs from East-West to follow the path of the sun. For the TV station, this space was defining. It was first an ‘overflow’ studio, but became so recognisable as being of TV-am that news reports would be filmed there.102 The Temporality of Architecture The building has since had an extensive internal refit, so much so that it is unrecognisable. Whilst campaigns went on to preserve the exterior from being changed, Farrell chose not to support them. He argued that it was the transient nature of the project that gave it such value and made it a success. This allows a ‘freedom to experiment’.103 It is the permanent nature of architecture which makes it difficult to design something out of the ordinary and perhaps this is why Postmodernism triumphed in other areas more so than in architecture. Farrell could design things which were ‘fun’ in the 1980s as the temporary nature of them made the consequences much less. This is an interesting concept, as it creates an image of a society that has a surplus of resources and, therefore, we can afford to lose things. Architecture can be temporary, as we can afford to allow it to decay.

101 Sir Terry Farrell, Terry Farrell: Interiors and the Legacy of Postmodernism, 1st edn (United Kingdom: Laurence King Publishing, 2011), p. 126. 102 Ibid. 103 Frearson, Postmodern Architecture: TV-Am Studios by Terry Farrell



FIGURE 16: The original facade laid over the recently refurbished facade

FIGURE 17: The building and stations iconic egg cup laid over a traditional London decorative acorn




What have we learnt from Las Vegas?



The Everyday Postmodernism is often deeply rooted in values. It has a strong social aspect and is concerned with the everyday and the ‘ugly and ordinary’.104 This means it disqualifies those who strive to be a celebrity architect and to win awards and acclaim. This is not to say that Postmodern works cannot be celebrated and enjoyed in this same way. However, this is not the end. The ‘interest in reusing and remaking familiar, everyday and sometimes wilfully unoriginal elements’ means sacrificing the ‘heroic originality’ that brings fame.105 It could be said that this borrowing from previous designs is yet more heroic as to some it is rejecting hope of fame and originality. In VSBA's Sainsbury Wing, the National Gallery was allowed to be the main spectacle as discussed earlier. The Sainsbury Wing complements and presents the original building in the way its façade peels back from the street. Venturi and Scott Brown dismissed the ‘heroic and original’ architecture of Modernism, choosing to design what they deemed to be inherently good as opposed to a lot of the corporate architecture of the time.106 At the time, they were described as designing ‘the most anti-corporate architecture in the world’.107 They were not concerned with achieving fame. They were concerned with the ‘ugly and ordinary’ architecture.108 Focusing on the everyday requires you to look beyond the ‘immediate situation’ for a concern with the ‘cultural and historical continuity’. 109 It is about placing 104

Venturi, Scott Brown and Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas, p. 93. Jencks and FAT, p. 21. 106 Venturi, Scott Brown and Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas, p. 93. 107 Paul Davies, ‘Denise Scott Brown (1931- ) and Robert Venturi (1925- )’, Architectural Review, 2014 <> [accessed 7 January 2016]. 108 Venturi, Scott Brown and Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas, p. 93. 109 Christian Norberg-Schulz, Intentions in Architecture, 9th edn (Cambridge, MA: M.I.T. Press, 1966), p. 126. 105



FIGURE 18: The ‘duck’ and the ‘decorated shed’



ourselves into architectural history as opposed to rejecting it as in the Modernist movement. For them, this ‘simulation of simulation that should result in an overload of irony seems to create a deep sincerity’.110 This is shown in the previous discussion of their design for the Sainsbury Wing. In a way, this created an even more heroic from of architecture. They were about creating architecture that worked and meant something. As a result of this, they did not receive as much recognition as they deserved and sacrificed many contracts they may have deserved as their style went against the grain of the architecture at the time. As examined in Chapter 3, this can be a source of frustration for many architects and artists who often have an inherent wish to be bold in their work and make a name for themselves. In an interview with Patrick Burke, he expressed that designing to win awards and notoriety is important in the early life of a practice to ‘put your name on the map’. However, since being an established practice they ‘don’t design to win awards’. 111 This is where there comes an inherent struggle between the commercial need to survive as a practice and the more altruistic goals to create good architecture. This rejection of the ‘heroic and original’ appears that it must also be a rejection of the possibility of innovation.112 This goes together with the opinion that Postmodernism copies as opposed to references. The true concept of innovation is often ‘confused with novelty’ when it is more closely related to modification.113 To achieve this, requires to ‘borrow from others and the past’.114 Although it may not seem as innovative as the icons


Jencks and FAT, p. 31. Burke, Appendix, 2016. 112 Venturi, Scott Brown and Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas, p. 93. 113 Adam, Appendix, 2016. 114 Griffiths, Appendix, 2016. 111



of Modernism, innovation can still be achieved ‘in a small way’.115 However, to innovate for ‘innovations sake’ does not make for ‘responsible architecture’.116 Learning What Ought Be from What Is Venturi and Scott Brown believed that by looking at the built environment in a critical yet non-judgemental way we could derive what ‘ought’ to be from what ‘is’.117 In Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, Venturi explores the conventional architectural language, using Main Street as an example.118 They chose it as an example of architecture which is not heroic or iconic, to see how it can still be of worth. This detailed analysis of Main Street led him to say ‘Main Street is almost alright’.119 In Learning from Las Vegas, Venturi and Scott Brown do the opposite. They analyse the extraordinary, concentrating on the signs and symbols. From this book, their phrase ‘I am a monument’ came to exist to illustrate the pervasiveness and importance of communication in everyday architecture.120 Venturi and Scott Brown did not choose Las Vegas because they admired or respected it. They never reveal their opinion on the city. They chose it as it was a place where they could learn a great deal on what ‘ought’ be from what ‘is’. They believed that learning to ‘question how we look at things…is a way of becoming revolutionary’.121


Burke, Appendix, 2016. Ibid. 117 David Hume, Treatise of Human Nature, ed. by L. A. Selby-Bigge, 15th edn (London: Oxford Univ Press, 1888), p. 469. 118 Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, p. 124. 119 Ibid., p. 10. 120 Venturi, Scott Brown and Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas, p. 156. 121 Ibid., p. 3. 116






Morality in Postmodernism Venturi has ‘leftist core values’. 122 Therefore, when Postmodernism shifted towards the mainstream and corporate, it went against these values. This goes towards explaining why he so often rejected the term Postmodernist. By the 1980s, Postmodernism was becoming commercial and against the values he promoted. It moved towards the iconic as opposed to the everyday. These icons are still Postmodernist in the sense that they are highly communicative and make use of signs. However, they dismiss Venturi’s strong concern with the everyday and the social aspects of design that he promoted.

Everyday architecture must be defined by the users. This is where we see the strong social concerns of Postmodernism again. The architect should be designing for the users and not a developer or client. This means that regionalism must always be applied as opposed to drawing inspiration from an International Style. Postmodernism does not have a specific code to design to. The site, surroundings and user must all be considered to choose the most appropriate code.

From this analysis of the everyday, it is apparent that Postmodernisms concern with the everyday is about making sacrifices. If we sacrifice ‘heroism’ to be ‘ordinary’, we can create architecture which has a meaning much greater than receiving praise, awards and further contracts.123 The architect should be seen only by ‘the back he turns to us as he bends over his work’.124 It also requires us to learn from what already exists, even that


Davies, Denise Scott Brown (1931- ) and Robert Venturi (1925- ) Venturi, Scott Brown and Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas, p. 93. 124 Henry James, The Tragic Muse, Google Books (Penguin UK, 1995) < &q&f=false> [accessed 8 January 2016]. 123



which we do not believe is good. It is as much about learning from mistakes as it is about repeating successes. Focusing on the everyday means you are focused on the individual as opposed to the corporation.




‘A r o a d t r i p – w e c o u l d t h i n k o f t h e r o l e t h e rear view mirror plays: a glance backwards is p a r t o f t h e w a y w e g o f o r w a r d ’ 125



Revaluing the Remnants 125 The relevance of Postmodernism being a highly contested topic and it may be said that it never quite got the fair evaluation it deserved. Both sides had strong and opposed views on the movement. Being ‘associated with Thatcherism’ a dislike was created amongst architects who ‘tend to be liberal/left’.126 The ‘architectural world turned it’s back on Postmodernism’ and for this reason perhaps it never got a fair critical appraisal at the time.127 Those who lived through the period may struggle to ‘see it critically’ as everyone was either ‘so for or against it’.128 Now, with hindsight and a generation that did not experience it, perhaps it can objectively assessed The first Postmodern buildings are now coming to the age that they can be considered for listing. Therefore, it is now that we will begin to see what kind of legacy the defining architects of the culture have left and how we value this legacy as a society. Very few Postmodern buildings are already protected, one being the Sainsbury Wing which presumably gained its protection because it is attached to a building already of great importance. However, many iconic Postmodern buildings are facing demolition or being altered beyond recognition.129

Postmodernism’s first aim was always to end the ‘grand narrative’ and to dismiss the idea of working towards a prescribed single look or a style.130 125

Jencks and FAT, p. 22. Griffiths, Appendix, 2016. 127 Burke, Appendix, 2016. 128 Ibid. 129 Rowan Moore, ‘Are These PoMo Palaces Really Worth Saving?’, The Guardian (The Guardian, 20 December 2015) <> [accessed 7 January 2016]. 130 Lyotard, p. xxiii. 126



However, in doing this, to the general public some of the ideas seemed so extreme that it created a recognisable aesthetic. As previously considered, the discussion on Postmodernism has been recently opened up again with a revival of sorts a possibility. This revival is more concerned with the attitude of Postmodernism as opposed to any connotations of a particular style or aesthetics. In AD’s Radical Post-Modernism, architects and thinkers polemicize on the possibility of this. From these discussions, the most resonant phrase seems to be: ‘sometimes history repeats itself better if the architects don’t know it’.131 A successful revival may rely on the misconceptions of the movement to be forgotten and for just the relevant values to be taken forward. The movement was expansive and unrestrained, and produced a wide range of architecture that cannot be compared stylistically. It offered many opportunities for reform and improvement which are still relevant today such as its user centred and site specific approach to design. However, as with movements that have gone before, it has been judged mainly on aesthetics. In truth, there can be no completely Postmodern building. Therefore, for it to flourish, it may be better for it not to be considered a movement but more an approach or attitude to design. In truth, although many may see Postmodernism as historicism, as discussed in the analysis of the 1980 Venice Biennale, Postmodernism was the total fragmentation of style in architecture and an attempt to define it by style would be futile. No longer must there be a singular ‘zeitgeist’, styles could exist together and what resulted was a diversity in cities and an end to the unity of design that lies at the heart of Modernism.132

131 132


Jencks and FAT, p. 17. Jencks, The Story of Post-Modernism, p. 203.


However, this multiplicity of styles remains the unseen legacy of Postmodernism. Postmodernism is still judged on aesthetics when ethical and social issues where much more central to the movement. Icons Postmodernism continues to be held back by some architects concern with the iconic over the everyday. This is against Postmodern values. Since iconic buildings became common in ‘the credit bubble of 2000-7’, they have continued to rise in popularity. Clients want them to put themselves ‘on the map’.133 ‘Late-Capitalist forces’ ensure that iconic buildings will continue to exist due to the large commissions that the transnational corporations who occupy the icons require.134 Schemes of this size cannot be hidden. Although this may not be amongst the original intentions of Postmodern architects and thinkers, this is a reaction to the condition of Postmodernity from which Postmodernism arose.

Saving the City Since his attack on the original design of the National Gallery extension, Prince Charles has continued to criticise the Modernist movement, favouring a more holistic approach to design. In 2005, he spoke at a conference on the healing environment in London of the effect that bad design is having on our health, not just the health of the city. He suggested that RIBA's preference to make iconic buildings, that exist on their own as opposed to as a part of the city’s fabric, is damaging the environment. A city must function as a whole and is more than the sum of functioning components. He asserted that as we continue to design our cities around cars we are contributing to ‘obesity, respiratory problems, asthma and heart disease’. Postmodern design is about looking ‘at the whole - the 133 134

Jencks, The Story of Post-Modernism, p. 203. Ibid., p. 204.



person, the street, the town and city and our natural inheritance – together’.135

One of the implications of Postmodernism is that, as discussed in Chapter 2, it was in part a reaction to post WWII prosperity. Now, in times of austerity, there are difficulties that may have not been realised at the time. The concern with everyday architecture means that schemes may have significantly smaller budgets for things such as social housing. Consequently, designs must sometimes pay attention to value in order for the projects to be feasible and the design can lose some of its original intent. Fragmenting Style Broadly, it is possible to see that what Postmodernism has given us is a fragmentation of architectural style. Although Postmodernism may have died, now many styles can still exist side by side. No longer is there a need to design to the style of the period. This was part of the aim – to not design to a set of rules and doctrines. However, in striving for this, a set of rules was created and this paradox saw the end of Postmodernism. What we have left is a ‘vitality’ in architecture.136 Subsequently, ‘‘this’, ‘that’, ‘them’, ‘those’ and ‘these’’ can all exist at the same time and in harmony. We can see the end of the ‘grand narrative’.137.138


‘A Speech by HRH the Prince of Wales to the Royal College of Physicians Conference’, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, 2005 <> [accessed 7 January 2016]. 136 Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, p. 16. 137 Jencks and Fat, p. 26. 138 Lyotard, p. xxiii.






Postmodernism was a wide cultural movement. However, it was architecture that seemed to lead this. Modernism had a much bigger affect on architecture than the other arts and consequently the reaction was bigger and more noticeable. The earlier writings of Venturi, Scott Brown, Jencks and others suggested that Postmodernism was expansive and much more liberating than previous architectural styles. For them, it marked the end of restricting architectural design rules. However, this was misrepresented in the 1980 Venice Biennale when the definition of Postmodernism took a seemingly irreversible turn towards historicism. The intention at the beginning was that Postmodernism saw a return to being concerned with the previously ‘dethroned’ individual.139 There was a strong belief that design must be central to both the user and the context. Venturi and Scott Brown demonstrated that in order to progress, it is necessary for us to look back. Showing how ‘revolutionary’ ideas are not completely new, rather they come from developing on what we already have.140 Postmodernism saw buildings as one pixel and the importance of individual users as part of a big picture. The idea that a well functioning city means a healthy individual rather than an efficient infrastructure. What you do with the pixel will always have an affect on the whole picture. Sometimes, this means simulating surrounding pixels with references like VSBA did for the Sainsbury Wing. Postmodernism was intended to be an expansive way of thinking. However, misuse of the term and the formulation of a set of rules meant that it began to be judged stylistically. The real aim was for ‘vitality’ and, although Postmodernism has come to

139 140

Hochman, p. 316. Venturi, Scott Brown and Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas, p. 3.


an end, it has made architecture much more diverse than during the Modernist movement.141 It ended the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;grand narrativeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; of architecture and, since then, we can see many styles coming to exist simultaneously.142 Without Postmodernism, our cities would not have the diversity that they do today and they would have lost some of their sense of identity and community.

141 142


Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, p. 16. Lyotard, p. xxiii.





[Ellen Peirson] Do you call yourself a Postmodernist? If so, how do you believe you fit into the Postmodern tradition?

[Sean Griffiths] Isn't everyone, in one way or another, a Post Modernist these days? Do we not live in Post Modern times? My definition of PM is based on the transition from a rational paradigm based on an industrial culture with strong grand narratives and clear structures, to an irrational paradigm based on media, the dominance of the image and the collapse of grand narratives and clear structures. What is happening in politics for example is emblematic of that as well as in culture.

FAT's relation to PM is generally misunderstood as being an aesthetic issue. FAT was conceived as a conceptual project whose aim was to question what architecture is. It sought to undermine the conceits of the architectural profession and its limited engagement with issues of taste, politics and the reality of the emergence of new electronic technologies. We wanted to ask what are architects for, what should they do, do they need even to exist?

The aesthetic approach was merely a tactic, which drew out the lies architects tell themselves about "good design" and what is or what is not architecture. Another tactic was the media strategy which used the internet, magazine publishing, writing, lecturing as agitprops or little Molotov cocktails to chuck in to the architectural debate and liven things up a bit. It is in this sense that we belong to a wider PM tradition that encompasses Barthes, Foucault, Debord, Deleuze and others. Proof of the



success of this tactic was the BTL comments from other architects about works published online which generally revealed the apoplexy of many architects. It was extremely funny.

[EP] To me, Postmodernism means a commitment to a plural language and a much more liberating approach to design that was formed very much in a reactionary way to Modernism [SG] I think it started out like that, but languages of architecture signify nothing in themselves and are merely indicative of the roles that fashion and taste play in architecture's engagement with capitalism. [EP] What is your opinion on this? Do you think that Postmodernism has been held back by misconceptions about what it is?

[SG] I don't know about held back, it seems to be coming back into fashion (see above). It is certainly a misunderstanding that PM has something to do with the intrinsic qualities of a particular aesthetic. Post Modern Architecture in the 70's and 80's was disliked on the grounds of taste and symbolism. This was mostly political. When Modernism held sway in the 50's and 60's, it was seen as being an expression of a leftist political position, the architecture of social democracy as it were. The original ideals of Post Modernism were anti authoritarian, a rejection of the top down provision of housing, schools and other public buildings by the state which had resulted in a kind of architecture that people didn't like and which become associated with sink estates and such like. In the 80's PM was appropriated by developers and as such was seen to be related to the new political order heralded by the ascendency of Margaret Thatcher, as



a style it thus came to be associated with Thatcherism. Notwithstanding this misapprehension - architectural styles do not have intrinsic political meanings - this association is a major reason it came to be disliked as architects tend to be liberal/left.

[EP] FAT clearly left an enormous legacy in its time as a high profile firm. What legacy do you think that is? [SG] I think FAT is an unacknowledged influence on certain architects. I'll let you guess who they might be. Others have acknowledged FAT's influence including Assemble. I'd like to think that Assemble's winning of the Turner Prize is a legacy of FAT but that might be claiming too much credit. (I think they're brilliant by the way)

[EP] Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s obvious that as a firm you had a strong design ethic, has this changed much over the years? How? [SG] It didn't change enough in the end - became a style, a commodity that certain clients wanted and demanded. That's why we quit.

[EP] Is it difficult to keep control of the end product? [SG] It is always difficult to keep control of the end product when something is created by so many parties, none of whom have complete control over the process. That's true for any large scale project involving many hands and is not limited to FAT, or indeed architecture.



[EP] Do you think that when you are designing you are deliberately trying to create a particular image? Or is this a by-product and a result of shared ethics and values? [SG] No, there was an approach and a set of tactics and concerns. What each project looked like and signified was the result of a long process of experimentation within certain parameters, which came out, in each case, from the particularities of client, context, programme. [EP] As a practice were you concerned with being innovative? Do you believe that innovation can still be achieved whilst also borrowing from others and referencing the past? [SG] All innovation borrows from others and from the past. I think innovation is also the inevitable outcome of an experimental design process. [EP] To what extent did your reputation as being a Postmodern practice affect the type of client you might receive?

[SG] It kept them limited to a small number! All our best projects were as a result of that client approaching us because they wanted what we did. Most clients are extremely conservative.

[EP] Do you find there is a competition between the commercial need to survive as a practice and the more altruistic goals to create good architecture? How do you balance the two?



[SG] I think that is always the case and again is not limited to FAT. In architecture, unfortunately, it is increasingly so as the commissions come from private developers, very few of whom have any interest in architecture, and the normal practice of architecture (an office with X staff) requires taking on more "commercial" work. This is not the sort of work I want to do which is another reason we quit.





[Ellen Peirson] So, just to give you a brief overview of my dissertation, I’m researching how the ideas of Postmodernism remain to be relevant today and looking at the possibility of a revival of Postmodernism as an attitude but not necessarily stylistically. It would be really good just to ask you some questions to get a more real life point of view about how this operates in practice.

Patrick Burke: Okay sure.

[EP] Firstly, would you consider yourself a Postmodernist? [PB] I don’t think we every really did, I think it was a tagline that somebody came up with, probably Charles Jencks maybe was more responsible for it than anybody else. But, it was also a phrase being used in literary criticism and architects were looking to literary criticism at that time for other ways to think about their work. I doubt very many of the people who are labelled as Postmodernists would consider themselves that.

[EP] Yes, well that’s what I’ve been finding a lot within my research. It’s such a broad term and it’s hard to say that you fit in to that.

[PB] Well I think there were so many other mediocre architects copying, or trying to copy the work of some of the better ones that, I don’t know about in England, but certainly here in the United States, the country got filled with really dumb projects and so you just wanted nothing to do with that. You wanted to distance yourself as much as possible from that.



[EP] Did you find that you wanted to detract from the title as a practice?

[PB] We kind of just stayed away from it actually. We just never really thought of ourselves as that. I mean, Michael was always happy to be on stage. He would be invited to things so they would have these various symposiums where they would gather together these Postmodern architects. You know, Charles Jencks would write a couple of books on it, Michael was happy to be published. But at the same time, he wasn’t really that interested in the sort of whole idea of it.

[EP] Nevertheless, you still had this image as being Postmodernists and do you think that affected the type of client you received? [PB] Let me think about it. I’m sure it had to affect the type of client because the clients were hiring architects. We were quite a challenge to what was going on at the time. You know, looking back our work may look dated, especially from the 80s. But at the time it was really quite ground-breaking in a way. There’s actually a seminar class at Princeton university and they’re reassessing the work between 1968 in to, I don’t know when it stopped, lets say, 1991. We had a bit of a recession in the United States and it kind of stopped all of that work and they’re talking about it as a time of great change but what happened is in the 60s, particularly late 60s and the 1970s we were really in a flat state of recession. The 1960s while very exciting in many ways and the music was great and the social revolution was great, it was a very stressful decade. And in the 70s here in the united states it was a pretty bleak decade. The economy collapsed, nobody was building, interest rates if you were going to buy a house were 11 to 13%. You know, in recent years we have gotten



used to interest rates that are around 3%. After the 2008 economic collapse, we’ve had very low interest rates. Think of what it meant to have interest rates of 11 to 13 %. Nothing got built! It was a very cynical decade here in the United States and these young architects had no work. But they were teaching, they were talking about change, they were talking about how banal the architecture had become in the 1950s and 60s. So when the 80s came along and interest rates got lower, money started to flow, corporations were making money, wall street was making money, suddenly it was a party. It was a chance to get to build and all this stuff they’ve been talking about. They’d been looking back at history and getting excited about history and trying to do work that was unique to its location, they got a chance to do that stuff! So it was an explosion of design in a way. [EP] Yes, that’s interesting, that’s what I’ve been looking at, how the movement was a product of all these forces - social, economical, political.

So, it’s obvious that as a firm you have quite a strong design ethic, do you think this has changed much over the years? Or, do you try and keep very true to that? [PB] I think we’ve always had a strong design ethic; we’ve always cared about doing things better or making them interesting. I mean, what our work looks like has evolved over the years, I’m sure. But we still are only taking projects where we have an opportunity to do something with the design. We're not doing any, what we call ‘meat and potatoes architecture’, we're not doing any meat and potatoes architecture.



[EP] So, you try not to alter these ethics to suit the client. Do you try to still keep control of the end product always?

[PB] Try to, try to, yes. But we’ve had a couple of times over the years, we've had clients who, they hired us I suppose because of the name, but then they really weren’t on board and we’ve tried to find ways to back out of those project. You know it’s funny, I mean, last night I was talking to one of the kids who’s in this Princeton seminar and he’s writing a paper and he’s trying to find some way that our work was some political critique of what was happening in the 1980s and there was no political critique, we were just excited to get the work. We were excited to get to do better design and he was asking how much were we trying to do what the client wanted and the truth was, architects like Michael, Richard Meier, Peter Eisenman, they were trying to get the clients to do what the architect wanted. [EP] Yes, it’s interesting to look at it as the relationship between architect and client because I think that’s changed quite a lot over the years.

[PB] Yes. [EP] Because originally, you could have the architect, the client and the user could all be the same person, but now it’s just branching off.

Do you find that there’s a competition between the commercial need to survive as a practice and the more altruistic goals to create good architecture?



[PB] I think, some of the people I’ve just mentioned it was more about the producing good architecture. We were, close to starving artists. I mean, Michael definitely was a starving artist before I worked there, when I first started there we were making peanuts. I mean, I grew up in Chicago and I was working in an office in Chicago and then I came to Princeton to go to graduate school, so I came out of graduate school with a Master’s degree, went to work in Michael’s office and I was making just a little over a third of what I was making in Chicago.

[EP] Yes, it seems to be a lot about values as opposed to making money. [PB] I guarantee you we put in hundred weeks every week for a long time. We would kill ourselves and all that mattered was getting to do what we were designing. [EP] So, do you think that when you are designing you are deliberately trying to create a particular image or is it a result of shared ethics and values?

[PB] I would say in the beginning it probably was trying to create an image. As the office matured and even as Michael matured, you learn to introduce other values, you know to introduce other things. It wasn’t important when I first started there, to look at the local culture. But, as we started to work more different places we started bringing in a lot more of the local culture and character. [EP] It’s obvious that you’ve left a considerable legacy as a practice, what do you think that this legacy is?



[PB] I think that we’ve always done very joyful but responsible projects. When I say responsible, our projects actually work very well. You know, I go to visit other hot architects you know in the covers of magazines, especially in the last 15 years and they might have done some real wow project, but all the money went into the sculptural form and you realise, they never thought about how it worked. It didn’t actually function that well. So we’ve always been responsible to the function, and we’ve always tried to create very positive joyful projects.

[EP] I’ve been really interested in your work in healthcare actually, because that’s something that interests me, how you can use design as a catalyst to heal. So a happy patient, may not need as many painkillers.

[PB] Actually some of the more recent work we’ve been doing, right now I’m working on a couple of healthcare projects and one of them is a rehabilitation hospital. That’s exactly why they came to us. They thought that we could create a place that was better for recuperation, than a sterile institutional hospital.

[EP] And I suppose you have a reputation for doing that now. [PB] Yes.

[EP] So, as a practice, are you concerned with being innovative? Do you believe innovation can still be achieved whilst you’re borrowing from the past, using symbols and ornament?



[PB] We are innovative in a small way in our projects. But innovation, purely for innovations sake does not necessarily make for responsible architecture. It might make for interesting sculpture. But you know we, I mean, sure all of us who are practicing today, we’re blending current technologies into our work. I’m working on a project right now where they want to make sure all the technology is cutting edge and whatever is the latest and greatest technology. Sustainability has become a part of all of our work. Were all thinking about sustainable issues more, I mean it wasn’t that long ago maybe a decade in the United States where that was still something that was a nice idea but nobody was doing it. In Europe, they were paying more attention to it. But now in America, we're starting to blend in into our work. So those things are innovative, but they’re not wildly innovative. You’re probably thinking about design though, I mean I think our design work evolves, bit by bit by bit as we move along. I don’t think there’s any big transformation.

[EP] So, do you think that you’re designing to win awards and contracts or are you just designing to do good architecture?

[PB] We don’t design to win awards. In the 1980s, those things mattered to Michael and to us because it was a way of putting your name on the map. It was a way to get up there and we did a lot of competitions. That was how we got work. It's been along time since we’ve bothered to do a competition. We don’t submit for awards anymore. [EP] I guess it’s more important when you’re starting out to make that name for yourself.



[PB] Yes, and the awards are probably going to go to whoever the new young hip architects are. I mean, we live in a media obsessed world today and it’s always the latest and greatest. It’s always the newest thing. We had our 15 minutes of fame a couple of decades ago so now we're just in the background. [EP] That’s interesting because something that I’ve been looking at in my research is about designing for the everyday and not the iconic buildings. Just to make ordinary architecture for the normal person and how that contributes to the city as a whole as opposed to individual buildings.

[PB] And I think that word iconic has been sort of poisonous in the world of architecture anyway as the middle east, as Asia started to boom in the last 15 years, people with money, like governments or sheikhs in the Middle East, they’re hiring architects looking for the next new iconic work and sometimes it’s about showing off, it’s not about doing a responsible piece of architecture. [EP] So, lastly, to me Postmodernism means a commitment to plural language and more liberating approach to design. What’s your opinion on this and do you think Postmodernism has been held back by misconceptions about what it is? [PB] I think that’s an interesting definition and I would agree with it. I mean people sometimes simplistically think it’s just mimicking history in a whimsical way, and it was something bigger than that. It was a reaction to the kind of banality of the architecture of the 50s and 60s. Do I think it’s been held back? very much so. I think that by the late 80s early 90s it had



a stigma to it and as I mentioned there was a lot of really mediocre work done. Just generally, it was seen as kind of silly and the work of people like Frank Gehry came on the scene and instantly the world of architecture changed. Nobody wanted to touch Postmodernism and interestingly in this seminar they’re teaching at Princeton, the person who’s teaching is Sylvia Lavin and her point of view is that the architectural world turned its back on Postmodernism and Postmodernism became a dirty word and that maybe now it’s time to go back address that period and its influence on architecture. And she said, her take is that the people who lived through it can’t really see it critically and the critics who were around at that time, can’t see it critically because they either were so much for or against it. But, maybe now with a whole other generation that wasn’t around at that time, it can really be assessed fairly. [EP] Yes, that’s interesting because I think it did come to be that people were judging it stylistically and aesthetically when really it was more about values of design and making design user-centric and specific to the site.

[PB] The way I look at the 1980s was, it was there was an explosion of building as I mentioned and suddenly it was an opportunity to really rethink how to approach a design project, right. But they were baby steps in the beginning. I mean, there might have been some bold projects but they were the first few attempts at doing that. I think that that work actually got more and more mature as time went by. I mean, in some of that early work, I always think we were shouting. So for instance, the Portland building, was really the first big Postmodern building. Even by the time we went to go visit it when it was finished, we were all a little disappointed in how flimsy it all was. You can’t really say that publicly, you know because



you can’t say, oh that piece of work was a little bit weak, but I think we got better and better at it. Ten years later, we would have done a much better building. [EP] Okay well that’s all the questions that I had but did you have anything to add related to the topic? [PB] Do I have anything to add? Not really. When I was speaking with some of the students at Princeton, some of the things I was trying to get them to understand was how different the practice was before the computer. That it was just a whole other world, a whole other way of doing the work. [EP] Yes, it’s difficult for us to imagine these days. [PB] They can’t imagine. So I think, in looking at that work you would have to think, you would have to realise that back then, the people that came into the world of architecture, had artistic ability and that’s not, because I know I do the hiring for our firm, so I interview a lot of kids coming out of school, that’s not necessarily true in the computer era. There are some of them that still have the same talents but not necessarily. [EP] Yes, I know, I definitely would say that there’s been a shift in that.






[Ellen Peirson] Just to give you brief overview of my dissertation, I am looking at how the ideas of Postmodernism remain to be relevant today and the possibility of a revival of Postmodernism as an attitude as opposed to a style. As well as, what we can take forward from Postmodernism. So I’ve just got a few questions here to ask you.

Robert Adam: Now yes, you had a look at my lecture that I sent you’

[EP] Yeah I did. [RA] Yes, that was really historical.

[EP] Yes, that was really helpful actually to look at the background socially and politically. [RA] Yes.

[EP] So firstly, would you consider yourself a Postmodernist? [RA] Well, now this could be a very long subject.

[EP] Yes, I know it’s a big question. [RA] Because, Postmodernism means various things. In the most basic sense, it means after Modernism so and Modernism is still around. I think it probably means after the moment that Modernism became completely



dominant. Because, Modernism was really dominant up until about the 70s. Ironically, almost in one sense almost everybody practicing after that time in the stronger sense is. In the other sense, Postmodernism as a sort of idea of as the end of the master narrative, yeah possibly I think probably all society is like that now. But I think possibly one of the more interesting things, first of all I think what I would call a Postmodern Classicist or particularly what I call the sort of straight Classicists, they didn’t like to call themselves Postmodernist but they actually in my view are the only survivors of it. They are the only ones that survived because it was never ironic. It was actually quite serious. So, and they actually believed in it so they actually survived. So of course there were Classicists practicing before that, Quinlan Terry and John Blatteau and so on, were very few and really it was really the 70s particularly the 80s that this became an accepted this came to the fore and started to be published etc. So, in one sense although most of them are my contemporaries in the traditional movement they would probably deny it. In my view we are the only survivors.

First of all, I mean this sort of post-Postmodernism if you like, all sort of happened in the 1990s. In the 1990s of course there was a huge recession. Not quite as bad as the one we’re just coming out of. But a huge recession and the whole idea of this sort of Reaganist/Thatcher boom in the 80s ended very suddenly and Postmodernism was associated with the excess that seemed to be a part of that and it crashed and of course really it almost sort of stopped as a major movement over night. Not quite overnight, you know it ended quite quickly but nothing in architecture happens overnight but, it ended quite quickly and people who had been Postmodern pioneers like Terry Farrell and so on just dropped it. So, that period I mean it’s really interesting. I wrote a book on globalisation which paints an economic



picture of this time after 2008 and I think really in that period that sort of huge period where everyone thought the building bust had ended Modernism again was really top of the agenda. Of course it takes various forms but it really became very significant. But I think the other thing that’s happening, you probably ought to confirm this better than me actually, that is that if you were trained as an architect and Modernism is sort of the dominant form of teaching. I mean people won’t actually necessarily call it that but it is. Really, if you were qualified any time after about 1993 or 4 you never really experienced a threat from anything like the traditional architecture movement, the survival. There’s never been a threat. Whereas, in the 1980s it definitely was a threat, with a lot of bad feeling out there and a lot of defensiveness on the behalf of surviving Modernists. So, I think the situation has changed quite significantly. I think there’s a sort of curiosity. I get routine abuse for what I do from architects, but you know, life’s too short. Err, I think that probably your generation and you can stop me if I’m wrong, I don’t think there’s that knee-jerk antipathy anymore. I think there’s a sort of, it’s just curiosity. I don’t know if that’s true or not but it’s what I perceive out there. I mean I find this, I mean even this morning funnily enough, you know a firm that I know quite well, which is a Modernist firm and we're doing a scheme together and this is not considered to be 'oh my god I couldn’t possibly work with him' and one of the directors of IDAS one of the really biggest architectural firms said to me well, somebody needs to be doing it'. So, I actually think there’s a shift taking place.



[EP] So do you think that Postmodernism as a term has become quite a poisonous word and and people had their misconceptions about what it actually meant? [RA] Yeah, it’s become very loaded you know. And maybe they’ll have to think up a new word.

[EP] Well yes because from what I’ve been reading, it seems like it’s this really expansive and liberating way to design and it kind of releases you from having to design to a certain style. But then, if you read about it in the press it seems quite different.

[RA] Yeah that's right, there was this sort of yuck period and of course Charlie Jencks who was a major theorist who I’m sure you realise. I mean, Charlie Jencks actually thought, he’s a very bright guy, I know him quite well, he saw Postmodernism as a much bigger phenomenon. He’s then identified this thing called Postmodern Classicism and Postmodernism to me became much more closely associated with that and he understood that Postmodernism meant a fragmentation of monolithic Modernism.

[EP] So he saw it in the sense of the word as being after Modernism? [RA] Yes, but of course it then got associated with this sort of bizarre sort of Charles Moore sort of weird stuff and that stuck. And it’s since come to mean that. I think, funnily enough I’ve just written a piece which is not even published on what’s going to happen now. I think that what happening is curiously enough a similar moment but in a slightly different way. It’s that Modernism itself has fragmented so much that it sort of begins



to lose its individual identity. I mean a lot of them don’t call themselves Modernists, they say well I’m a contemporary Modernist. Effectively it’s the same broad philosophy that you’ve got to be different if you want to be a Modernist. And then firms like FAT who really objected to being called Postmodernists. They’ve now disbanded of course, and they really objected to being called jokey but nonetheless, they were actually quite very well respected within the profession which is quite strange really given their sort of bizarre sort of weirdness and decorative stuff, they were very well respected. So, that tells us something and you know there are so many sub species of Modernism now and also Modernism is reviving itself from the 1920s and 30s. Well this is actually a self contradiction. Something that is actually about constantly being up to date and Modern in order to be different. To revive itself, well actually that’s contradiction. And equally bad, what they’re reviving is nearly a century old. So I think the idea of being progressive and avant-garde and innovative is very attractive and also this style called determinism is very attractive. And this sort of history thing, it was not a very attractive proposition and people carried on sprouting that stuff but the truth of the matter is it’s breaking up in my opinion and it ceases to be a useful definition. And in that moment, and that is pretty much where Postmodernism was in the 80s, it just broke up. And so in a funny way we are sort of in that place but it’s not going to be called Postmodernism [EP] On the subject of being innovative, do you believe that this innovation can still be achieved whilst also borrowing and referencing from the past?



[RA] Well yes, absolutely. I mean, the trouble is there’s a confusion. For some, if you look up innovation in the dictionary it will tell you it’s modifying something. But, it’s confused with novelty. I mean, innovation, there’s a thing called a quality transfer. And it’s quite interesting and I’ll give you a little bit on this, it’s one of my favourite subjects. Is that, if you see an advertisement for buying a washing machine, they'll tell you that it’s an investment, but, it’s not an investment. It drops in value immediately as soon as you buy it but nonetheless the idea that you use an adjective like investment, what you’re doing is that you’re transferring the quality of something that is obviously good that is an investment and applying it to something that isn’t really true. So innovation is basically very good for industry. Industrial innovation is good, that’s what industry does, that’s what capitalism produces. But, to say that it’s automatically good in architecture is simply not true. Just making things different for the sake of it is not necessarily good. But of course, I’ve had to argue this point because it comes in company regulations, is that innovation can be done with almost any vocabulary. For example, if I have a Classical building. You know that looks like a fairly straight Classical building and I modify that Classical vocabulary a bit, that’s innovation. It’s just not in your face. You know, it’s like, innovative to whom. Is it innovative to somebody who knows what they’re looking at or somebody who doesn’t know what they’re looking at? The short answer is yes, of course and in fact, recent architecture has always innovated and there’s a common mistake about what is traditional. Traditional means not history. History you can carry on interpreting it but it’s happened and it’s static. Traditions are things that come from the past and are closely related to the past. You can trace those sort of ancestries, but they modify. If they didn’t we'd sort of be building stone temples



[EP] That’s interesting because that’s kind of something where it’s more the language that we're using to define these different terms as opposed to what they actually are.

[RA] Oh yes, absolutely. I can roll the vocabulary out... 'of its time', 'optimistic', that’s Norman Fosters one, 'my architecture is optimistic'. All this stuff 'unapologetically Modern' and there’s all this guff that comes out, most of it’s crap basically. But people latch onto these things and use them and it makes them happy. This is the problem with Postmodernism. Although interestingly, the place, and I think I mentioned this in my lecture, is that Postmodernism, always in its original form, survives in the developing world. If you go to the middle east, you go to china, it’s still being built. It’s not even iconic buildings so much. It’s what I call second and third tier stuff. They’re just doing very average things. And in India they build these sort of new temples. So Postmodernism survives quite interestingly there. And then if you go to Shanghai, you see bizarre Classical buildings which is all amongst the Norman Foster stuff. They don’t care, they just do it. [EP] So on the subject again of referencing from the past, Postmodernism Classicism often gets dismissed as being just 'pastiche', do you think there is a point where too much referencing, particularly from one source stops being ironic and becomes pastiche?

[RA] Well, the word pastiche is, I’ll tell you the story on this, I had a client who said to me 'you’re a pastiche architect aren’t you?' and it wasn’t meant as an insult. Pastiche has become this sort of standard insult, but in fact



what it means is the use of references to other architects, well actually that means every architect is that. There’s no architect which can produce something which doesn’t reference another architect. It is actually called influence. But the word pastiche has become sort of insulting. And I mean every architect is influenced and therefore has references. Even when architects are referencing early Modernism. There is an Argentinian author, Borges, Jorge Luis Borges, who writes short stories. Very famous Argentinian author. They’re quit philosophical. There is one called Pierre Menard author of the Quixote, well clearly Pierre Menard wasn’t the author of the Quixote. And the story goes that Pierre Maynard wrote an exact, full stop to full stop, comma to comma, word for word version of the Quixote. But of course it was a completely original work. Because, he was the second person to write it and Cervantes was the first person to write it. So when he wrote it, what he was writing was ironic. And referencing. So the issue about even if you reproduce something completely from the past, it is an original phenomenon, unavoidably. So, I mean no one actually does that. Well people tried in the early 19th century. So, where does that begin and where does Norman Foster’s, Willis Faber Dumas building, to what extent is that a pastiche of Mies van der Rohe's tower block. So the answer is, I don’t know. There are no clear boundaries. But somewhere in that 'I’m using a reference from Mies van der Rohe' and 'I’m producing an exact copy of the Parthenon', where is the line, where one is a pastiche and the other is not? I don’t know. But what I do know is that anything you do now is Modern because you're doing it now. Because all of your intentions are Modern. So, you know, they feel somehow that it’s betraying history. Because history is obviously, you know what way history is going to go. So because you know what way history is going to go, you know I’d spend a lot of money on the races



if I did, then anything that you put into the way you think history is going to go, betrays history itself! So, this idea somehow, that because of referencing of the past you’re somehow betraying Modernity. It’s a very prevalent idea.

[EP] So, do you think there’s a competition between the commercial need to survive as a practice and the more altruistic goals to create what you consider to be good architecture? [RA] Always. early in Modernism, it was very much associated with social reform. They were all quite socialist. Well basically, Hitler and other right wing governments kicked out all the Modernists or told them to behave. So a lot of them went to America. Now, in America you simply could not sell your architecture on the basis that you were going to change society. There were people like Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe, who became tools of the capitalist system and built these huge office buildings and so on and so on. So basically that contradiction is locked in. So, then when the war was finished, the American commercial architecture, which was strongly influenced by Modernism, was brought back to Europe. So there is this constant contradiction. You hear people like Richard Rogers saying, oh you know 'great moral high ground' and do these god awful, commercial buildings to make loads of money. There’s this sort of very intrinsic contradiction that’s always there. I mean, actually creating good architecture is another matter all together. One of the arguments for good architecture is to satisfy the needs. And one of the satisfactions of these is financial. But, architecture with which one is satisfied with the architect, it’s always tricky. Sometimes it’s better and sometimes it’s worse. But you just have to manage that



[EP] Do you find that you have to alter your design ethics a lot to suit the client? [RA] Well, yes and no. My ethics are, when I believe I’m doing the right thing for the wider public. And if the wider public were to suddenly say that you shouldn’t be doing this, my ethical platform would go. But they don’t. And of course that’s the key to my commercial success to survive. I attend several debates, in fact if you look on YouTube you’d probably find them and architects love pretending they have got the moral high ground. Well, does that mean you’ve got to have a detective investigate the background of every client in case they’re a crook for moral reasons. And of course that ridiculous. In the end, people employ you to build buildings, not to tell you what is morally right. There’s deeply unpleasant people that I have worked for and the idea that architecture is somehow occupying another form of society by taking a moral view is pompous nonsense. [EP] So it seems that at the moment there’s a debate over whether many of the defining buildings of the Postmodern era should be listed or not. Why do you think there’s such opposition to this and do you think the legacy of Postmodernism is yet to be realised? [RA] Well, I’m not really keen on listing recent buildings anyway. I just think if they survive they survive and if they don’t they don’t. I think there should be a sort of 50-year threshold, I think it’s 30 years at the moment. [EP] Yes, it’s 30 at the moment.



[RA] You know, put it this way, keeping Robin Hood Gardens and not keeping early Terry Farrell Modernism is contradictory. What are you doing? you are not looking to say is this an important historical moment. It clearly was an important historical moment. What you are saying is I don’t like that historical moment, so you’re not going to preserve it. That’s not taking a proper art historical view. If you really want to take a proper art historical view you make sure that any survivor of any significant artistic movement should be kept at least in representative form. So, if you start going well actually I think that Erno Goldfinger is worth preserving, if you then make the stylistic contribution in contrary to the social, I may not like it but this is an important part of history. Then it’s completely self contradictory.

I actually think they should be demolished. Well I don’t think they should be demolished just because they’re there. But if it’s necessary. The whole conservation issue, you need a considerable distance. The trouble is that people preserve things, like brutalist buildings, which actually nobody likes much except for the architects and not even that many of them, is that preserving them because they think that in the future someone will blame them for not preserving them and that’s an art historical view. They’re being preserved for art historians. [EP] I just have one last question, so to me, Postmodernism means a commitment to a plural language and a liberating approach to design. What is your opinion of this and do you think that Postmodernism has been held back by misconceptions about what it is?



[RA] That’s very good actually. Yes, I think it probably has. I mean, as I say, interesting you should raise it because oddly enough my recent book is actually that. What’s happening now is it’s becoming pluralism and it’s becoming plural because it sort of shadows Postmodernism in the past which is fading away. Right on the time that Modernism was breaking up. And actually pluralism is becoming significant in my mind. Do you think that’s the case?

[EP] Yes, I think so. I think architecture is much more expansive these days in terms of what people are producing. There is much more variation as opposed to just working to the specific style of the era. [RA] That’s very interesting. And I’m very glad to hear you say that because that confirms what I���ve been thinking. You know, one tries to evaluate what’s happening, but it’s very difficult because you don’t know where exactly things are going to go and I mean George Saumarez Smith, he's in the same view about what we are experiencing. And, well in the 1980s I would often be asked to lecture at universities, by students and by staff. In the 1990s, they wouldn’t let me through the door. I might poison people in their minds in some terrible way. But I’m being asked back now and there’s some schools like Kingston which is running a Classical program, so it’s clearer that something’s happening. And of course these things are moving very slowly. I had to write a lecture and it forced me to examine, that’s the nice thing about writing, it forces you to examine and you realise of course that really Postmodernism started at about 1968. That was the end of the post war conservatism. But in architecture obviously it took a lot longer to come around because it’s such a slow moving phenomenon. So, lets see if what you think and I think that too, is correct then we will



see the results in about 10 years’ time. And I think it will be the ultimate liberation and it will be called something different. Someone will write a piece in a magazine and call it something else.

[EP] So that’s all the questions I had, did you have anything else to add on the subject? [RA] Oh, I could go on forever and ever. Actually I’m terribly interested in what you’re writing because I think, I just thought you were doing a history of Postmodernism. But you’re not and I think it’s an extremely interesting subject.





Interviews Adam, Robert, Interviewing Robert Adam, ed. by Ellen Peirson, Appendix, 2016 Burke, Patrick, Interviewing Patrick Burke, ed. by Ellen Peirson, Appendix, 2016 Griffiths, Sean, Interviewing Sean Griffiths, ed. by Ellen Peirson, Appendix, 2016

Books Barth, John, The Friday Book: Essays and Other Nonfiction (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997) Beckett, Samuel, Happy Days: A Play in Two Acts, 1st edn (New York: Grove Press, 1961) Byrne, David, ‘Postscript’, in Postmodernism: Style and Subversion, 1970-1990, by Paola Antonelli, ed. by Glenn Adamson and Jane Pavitt (New York: Distributed in North America by Harry N. Abrams, 2011), pp. 286–89 Corbusier, Le, Towards A New Architecture, ed. by Frederick Etchells (Oxford: Butterworths Architecture, 1970) Ellin, Nan, Postmodern Urbanism, 1st edn (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1999) Farrell, Terry, Terry Farrell: Interiors and the Legacy of Postmodernism, 1st edn (United Kingdom: Laurence King Publishing, 2011) Graham, Dan, ‘Art in Relation to Architecture/ Architecture in Relation to Art’, in Rock My Religion: Writings and Projects 1965-1990 (writing Art), by Dan Graham, ed. by Brian Wallis (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1994) Hochman, Elaine S, Architects of Fortune: Mies van Der Rohe and the Third Reich (New York: Fromm International Publishing Corp.,U.S., 1990)


Hoesterey, Ingeborg, Zeitgeist in Babel: The Postmodernist Controversy (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991) Hoeveler, David J, The Postmodernist Turn: American Thought and Culture in the 1970â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s, 1st edn (Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1996) Hume, David, Treatise of Human Nature, ed. by L. A. Selby-Bigge, 15th edn (London: Oxford Univ Press, 1888) Huyssen, Andreas, After the Great Divide: Modernism, Mass Culture and Postmodernism (language, Discourse, Society) (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1988) Jacobs, Jane, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (Modern Library Series), 4th edn (New York: Random House Publishing Group, 1993) James, Henry, The Tragic Muse, Google Books (Penguin UK, 1995) < ontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false> [accessed 8 January 2016] Jameson, Fredric, Postmodernism, Or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999) Jencks, Charles, The Language of Post-Modern Architecture, 5th edn (London: Academy Editions, 1988) Jencks, Charles, The Story of Post-Modernism: Five Decades of the Ironic, Iconic and Critical in Architecture, 2nd edn (United Kingdom: Wiley, John & Sons, 2011) Koolhaas, Rem, and Hans Ulrch Obrist, Re-Learning from Las Vegas, ed. by Rem Koolhaas, Interview with Robert Venturi & Denise Scott Brown, 1st edn (Cologne: Taschen, 2004) Lyotard, Jean-François, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984) Magee, Glenn Alexander A., The Hegel Dictionary (London: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2010)



Mailer, Norman, The Presidential Papers, 11th edn (New York: Berkley Pub. Corp., 1976) McNeill, Donald P., The Global Architect: Firms, Fame and Urban Form (New York: Taylor & Francis, 2007) Moos, Stanislaus von, Venturi, Scott Brown, and Associates: Buildings and Projects, 1986-1997 (New York, NY: Monacelli Press, 1999) Norberg-Schulz, Christian, Intentions in Architecture, 9th edn (Cambridge, MA: M.I.T. Press, 1966) Sanmartin, Antonio, Venturi, Rauch and Scott Brown, 1st edn (London: Academy Editions, 1986) Scully, Vincent, The Architecture of Robert Venturi (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1989) Smart, Barry, Modern Conditions: Postmodern Controversies, 1st edn (London: Taylor & Francis, 1991) Smart, Barry, Postmodernity (New York: Taylor & Francis, 1992) Venturi, Robert, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas: The Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form, 15th edn (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997) Venturi, Robert, Denise Scott S. Brown, Peter Arnell, Ted Bickford, and Catherine Bergart, The View from the Campidoglio: Selected Essays, 1953-1984, 1st edn (New York: Joanna Cotler Books, 1985) Venturi, Robert, Frederic Schwartz, and Vincent Scully, My Motherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s House (United States: Rizzoli International Publications, 1990) Venturi, Robert, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, 2nd edn (New York: Museum of Modern Art in association with the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, Chicago, 1977) Wagner, Hans-Peter, A History of British, Irish, and American Literature (Trier: WVT, Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2003)


Journals ‘Free-Style Classicism’, by Charles Jencks, Architectural Design, 52 (1982) ‘Radical Post-Modernism’, by Charles Jencks and FAT, Architectural Design, 81 (2011) <>

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-Robert-Venturi-s-London-adventure-4463> [accessed 7 January 2016] Jencks, Charles, ‘La Strada Novissima: The 1980 Venice Biennale’, Domus, 610 (1980) <> [accessed 7 January 2016] MacGregor, Neil, ‘What a Difference a Decade Makes’, The Guardian (The Guardian, 11 July 2001) <> [accessed 7 January 2016] McDonald, Martha, ‘Feature: Postmodernism: A Look Back, and Ahead’, Traditional Building, 2012 <> [accessed 11 January 2016] Moore, Rowan, ‘Are These PoMo Palaces Really Worth Saving?’, The Guardian (The Guardian, 20 December 2015) < nism-historic-england-listing-no1-poultry-mi6-building> [accessed 7 January 2016] Moore, Rowan, ‘Pruitt-Igoe: Death of the American Urban Dream’, The Guardian (The Guardian, 4 June 2014) <> [accessed 14 December 2016] Rosenfield, Karissa, ‘A History of the Venice Architecture Biennale’ (ArchDaily, 2012) <> [accessed 7 January 2016] Scott Brown, Denise, and Ellis Woodman, ‘In Defence of the Sainsbury Wing’, Bdonline (Building Design, 2011) <> [accessed 15 November 2015] Tamas, Andrea, ‘Interview: Robert Venturi & Denise Scott Brown, by Andrea Tamas’, ArchDaily (ArchDaily, 2011) <> [accessed 11 January 2016]


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ADAMarchitecture’s channel, ‘Robert Adam Talks at “Reconsidering Postmodernism” Conference’, YouTube (YouTube, 2013) <> [accessed 11 January 2016]





FIGURE 1: Jencks, Charles, ‘La Strada Novissima: The 1980 Venice Biennale’, Domus (, 2012) <> [accessed 9 January 2016] FIGURE 2: Jencks, Charles, ‘La Strada Novissima: The 1980 Venice Biennale’, Domus (, 2012) <> [accessed 9 January 2016] FIGURE 3: Author, January 2016 FIGURE 4: Author, January 2016 FIGURE 5: Marshall, Colin, ‘Pruitt-Igoe: The Troubled High-Rise That Came to Define Urban America – a History of Cities in 50 Buildings, Day 21’, The Guardian (The Guardian, 24 April 2015) <> [accessed 9 January 2016] FIGURE 6: Jencks, Charles, The Language of Post-Modern Architecture, 5th edn (London: Academy Editions, 1988), p. 9. FIGURE 7: Jencks, Charles, The Language of Post-Modern Architecture, 5th edn (London: Academy Editions, 1988), p. 9. FIGURE 8: Author, December 2016 FIGURE 9: Author, December 2016 FIGURE 10: Author, December 2016 FIGURE 11: Author, January 2016 FIGURE 12: Author, January 2016 FIGURE 13: Author, December 2016 FIGURE 14: Farrell, Sir Terry, Terry Farrell: Interiors and the Legacy of Postmodernism, 1st edn (United Kingdom: Laurence King Publishing, 2011), p. 128.




FIGURE 15: Farrell, Sir Terry, Terry Farrell: Interiors and the Legacy of Postmodernism, 1st edn (United Kingdom: Laurence King Publishing, 2011), p. 130. FIGURE 16: Author, January 2016 FIGURE 17: Author, January 2016 FIGURE 18: Venturi, Robert, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas: The Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form, 15th edn (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997), p. 8889. FIGURE 19: Venturi, Robert, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas: The Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form, 15th edn (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997), p. 156.



Postmodernity + Postmodernism: 'a glance backwards is part of the way we go forwards'