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1. Architecture

Source: Oxford University Press

Early rejection of modernism came in the 1960s most notably in the USA in the work of Robert Venturi and in Europe in that of aldo Rossi, although they came from markedly different theoretical positions. Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966) attacked the institutionalized corporate modernism of the International Style, replacing Mies van der Rohe’s classic dictum ‘less is more’ with the sardonic ‘less is a bore’ and rejecting a ‘puritanically moral language’ in favour of ‘elements which are hybrid rather than “pure” … messy vitality … richness … rather than clarity of meaning’. This statement echoed Claes Oldenburg’s declaration of 1961: ‘I am for an art that is political-erotical-mystical … I am for an art that embroils itself with everyday crap and still comes out on top’. The Venturi practice celebrated these characteristics in such buildings as the Guild House Retirement Home (1960–62), Philadelphia, and the Vanna Venturi House (1962), Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia. From the beginning it also accepted and responded to locality, however unremarkable it might be. The work was labelled Post-modern by virtue of perceived historical as well as contextual allusions.

Rossi argued in L’architettura della città (also 1966) that the city was an organic work of art, the rhythms, history and context of which must be respected in any new architectural endeavour. This was to be achieved through a new formalism, founded on Renaissance values, the novecento and concepts originating in the Italian Rationalism of the 1920s and 1930s (see Rationalism (ii); see also Tendenza). Its polemic was aimed at reconciliation of people with their architectural environment: among its few controversial monuments are Rossi’s four-storey block of flats (1967–73) at Gallaratese 2, which was part of Carlo Aymonino’s Monte Amiata housing development in Milan; and Rossi’s San Cataldo Cemetery at Modena, designed in the 1970s (with Gianni Braghieri) but not executed until the early 1980s. Other Europeans subscribing to this paradigm included Oswald Mathias Ungers (work of the 1980s with Josef Paul Kleinhues), Mario Botta, the Krier brothers and Bruno Reichlin; although they contributed to the movement away from Modernism, they are Post-modernists only in the sense that they bring together rationalist and historicist attitudes.

From 1969 in the USA the propulsion towards Post-modernism was closely linked with the beginnings of Pop art. This was the prime motivation in the case of Venturi, and it was influential in the development of mainstream American Post-modernism in the work of Robert A. M. Stern, Charles W. Moore and Michael Graves, who, with Venturi, are referred to by Charles Jencks as the ‘Post-Modern School’; Moore’s whimsical, collage-like Piazza d’Italia (1977–8), New Orleans, LA, and Graves’s abstract, painterly composition for the Public Services Building (1978–82), Portland, OR , as well as the AT&T Building (1978–83; now the Sony Building), New York, by Philip Johnson and John Burgee (b 1933), are among the best-known images of this trend, which linked an obvious if abstracted historicism to a modernist technological expression (for an illustration of Philip Johnson and John Burgee’s Crystal Cathedral, Garden Grove, CA (1980)). Even in the USA, however, the position was by no means straightforward. There were more literal interpretations of the Pop art scene, for example in the work of James Wines (b 1932), whose group SITE was set up in 1970; he produced a number of idiosyncratic anti-rational buildings, for example the Tilt Showroom (1976–8) at Towson, MD.

At the other end of the scale Peter D. Eisenman, influenced by Italian Rationalists of the 1920s and 1930s, built a series of purposely dysfunctional houses (the first completed in 1968) that aimed to realize an aesthetically autonomous architecture, free from all modernist socio-cultural values. There are equally wide-ranging contrasts elsewhere, from the wholly unaligned, often near-surreal work of Hans Hollein in Austria and Germany to the formalism and classical allusions in the work of Ricardo Bofill in France (e.g. Les Espaces d’Abraxas, 1978–83; for illustration see Bofill, ricardo), the neo-vernacular movement in Britain, the work of Kenzo Tange in Japan (e.g. Tokyo City Hall, 1992) and of architects from other countries, such as Sumet Jumsai in Thailand.

With such complexity, concepts of Post-modernism and, perhaps as importantly, anti-modernism, broadened considerably in the 1980s and were disseminated in writings of this period. Jencks, perhaps over-simplifying, defined Post-modernism in terms of double-coding as early as 1977 but began to qualify the label in later writings. There are also balanced historical analyses by Paolo Portoghesi and Heinrich Klotz.

© 2009 Oxford University Press


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