Changes Led To Post Modernism Cultural Studies Essay

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Although there is still a contradiction between the defenders of modernism and postmodernism in architecture, the history has already decided. Modernism, which appeared in the late 1880s, introduced new ideas resulting from a rejection of the historical references. Traditional materials and forms were replaced while the idea of an open ground floor plan was introduced. In the 1920s-1930s the ideas of the leading architects of modernism were appreciated and followed by most of the architects of that time. Later on, due to social and economic changes, the characteristics that modern design acknowledged started to be criticized. There was a need for an architecture that mainly served the needs of the client and the society in total rather than the beliefs of the architect. That was when post-modernism appeared as a form of judgment and irony that resulted the end of the modern period in architecture. This movement that started as a theoretical argument against modernism, ended up being an architectural movement with buildings that represented all these theories in practice and reflected the community and financial situation of the period.

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The zenith of Modernism (1920-1940):The heyday of modernism was between the two World Wars as it appeared in a period when people wanted a dramatic change. It served the idea of the refusal of the past, while it introduced new features such as the mass housing needs, new construction technologies as well as the demand to return to simplicity that reflected the needs of the societies at the time. This movement had committed architects from all over Europe. Modernist architects believed that with their designs housing and other social problems could be solved. An example of these attempts is Le Corbusier's urban projects for Paris, Marseilles as well as North Africa. His designs also show the demand for simple forms through the basic geometric figures as well as the idea that a building is combined from masses brought to light. Villa Savoye and the Bauhaus at Dessau are two examples of buildings with simple forms that represent a new society against wealth and power. Architecture could again be based on concept, atmosphere, pattern, ornament and almost whatever mattered to the architect and the client. Of course, this efforts many times were leading into over exaggerations, which led into the dramatic end of this period.

Main ideas of Modern Architecture:

Modern architecture has been marked by some specific ideas as well as the architects behind them. In 1923, Mies Van De Rohe had drawn an office building which thirty years later, in 1950, became the prototype for the majority of office buildings and factories that were constructed during that period. Mies introduced the qualities of steel and concrete construction in the most economic efficient way. Due to its simplicity and the low construction-costs, according to its size, this building prototype became the main framework of a modern service building. The design served the ideas of clarity, organization and economy as it had large working spaces, easy to supervised, not separated but only articulated. Concrete, iron and glass combined together created a new type of construction different from the past with the simple idea that a building is a skeleton and a skin. With this movement, it seemed as the needs of different, sometimes chaotic, societies, which could offer a variety of buildings that cover different needs, could be reduced to one binding model. Although, Mies drawing may seemed convincing or even impressing at the time, it has later been realized that the belief that simplicity in planning is the best solution cannot serve all needs and different building types. The open plan design idea was firstly introduced by Gropius at Bauhaus in Dessau in 1927. The building expands in four directions and its orientation follows the street line. The main features of the Bauhaus had a large following as it was almost expected at the time that a public building had to expand in all directions freely. These types of structures started spreading all over cities and while each of these buildings had an open plan and was given freedom, the cities in total had only developments of this particular building type.

In the mid-1930s, the buildings of the modern movement were sometimes considered as a monumental classicism an idea many times supported by governments in countries such as Russia, Germany and the United States. Before the Second World War (1940-1945), modernism was about new technologies as well as the clear idea for the importance of the architect and the sources of the architectural forms. During this period, some architects were emphasized on functionalism while others on the perception that an architect is a form-giver. The leading modernists, Le Corbusier, Mies Van De Rohe and Gropius, were some of the very few who managed to combine those two with success. The differentiation between these two concepts was mainly visible after the 1960's.

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Architectural styles and influences after the Second World War:

Modernism took a new life after the Second World War, especially in the United States, where steel frame constructions and glass curtain walls were introduced to produce cost effective skyscrapers and suburban office blocks and shopping centers. The economic situation of that period resulted into the need for speedier constructions with reduced costs, giving the opportunity to developers and city administrators to re-create town centers in the 1950-60's as the middle class moved to the suburbs. As part of this new movement, urban areas became repopulated and cities were now affordable to lower income groups as rents went down. Governments, banks, corporations and museums adopted the modern movement in well-constructed buildings although architects started getting credits for their cost efficient constructions. Although, in residential dwellings, modernism never became the leading style of the design, in institutional and commercial architecture it was one of the finest and many times, the only satisfactory architectural solution. Architects of that time turned modernism into an international style and tried to break the architectural traditions with the ideas that it acknowledged.

The downfall of Modernism:

From 1950's onwards, the convergence of economic benefits and aesthetics spread quickly from the United States to Europe and became a form of expressing capitalism. The dream of regularity that had been shown in some segments of the modern movement had now been adopted into a task of repeating steel frames and curtain walls without any sense of creativity. That was when the first ideas against modern movement started to rise. During 1960 there was a radical movement while in 1980 the reality of post-modernism became knowledge. It was a concept that introduced many aesthetic approaches affected by the political and economical changes as well as the social conditions of the 20th century. The most serious assaults of Modern Movement had lasting impacts. Ideas such as lightness and transparency had been criticized by the society while new ones for the power that buildings have no mater if they follow some design ideas or not, were introduced. People as well as new architects had the need for buildings that were not only a piece of art but were mainly serving their purpose. Societies had the need for buildings that were connected with human life as well as the economical circumstances of each period with equal respect to both these two factors.

Charles Jencks and the first postmodernism theories:

Many people have defined post-modernism according to their personal beliefs and ideas. Charles Jencks was one of them, as he emphasized on the stylistic pluralism as the main characteristic of post-modernism and the idea of the "double coding" that architects should use as a primary architectural strategy (Jencks 1991, p.12). More specifically, they should mix their ideas and design views with their clients' thoughts and needs, as they are the ones who will inhabit the space. Modern architects simply perceived and constructed the ideas they cared about without incorporating the client into their designs. By contrast, post-modernists were aware that architecture is a language of codes, which differs in every culture, area and client. By this statement, Charles Jencks tried to stand for the general belief of the society during that period for an architectural design not only as a language that creates urban environment, but also as a combination of languages that need to be incorporated with no need to follow specific stylistic movements. In other words, the architect should design buildings that serve firstly the needs they were built for and then the personal view of the architect, as if the building had the power and not the architect behind it.

Robert Venturi's contradicting proposal to modernism:

Architecture reflects what is important for a society both in means of spiritual value as well as cash. Except for the need for a variety of buildings designed to serve specific requirements, societies, especially after the war, had the need for cities combined of different elements rather than a continuous uniform screen. Robert Venturi was one of the first people to attack the main idea of modernists that less is more by saying that less is boring (Klotz 1984, p.142). Although his statements were ironic for the period, they reflected many social beliefs as he claimed that programs, structures, mechanical equipment and ideas from a single building, to a whole urban design varied and could not be used in the same way. Venturi's first attempt to comfort these issues into a design was the mother's house, in Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania (1964). He experimented with historical features on the elevation while developing a complex and interesting interior. Those elements combined together showing the complexity and contradiction of the design. More specifically, he emphasized on the historical elements, the faηade, the materiality as well as the rhythm of the design showing that the plan should be meaningful rather than clear and understandable. Also, that architecture should be a combination of different features mixed together and not excluded from each other. He also introduced the idea of symbolic signs, which should be used in architecture as part of the communication between clients and architectural buildings. These symbolic signs were either decorative sheds like the hot dog stand in Los Angeles, or other metaphors that create greater drama and mystery. An architecture made up from these signs communicates with people moving fast inside a city. Opposing to modern buildings, these iconic signs speak with humor about the buildings' function.

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Charles Moore and the idea of "Places":

Charles Moore, was another post-modern architect who set up some of the basic ideas of postmodernism testing them later on with his own building designs. He used different means to create complicated, exciting spaces that combine surprise and familiarity (Klotz 1984, p.173). He developed a new way of interviewing a client converting this talk into a form of art. He claimed that a house should be a place of protection and personal individuality and architects must combine these to factors into their designs. This human shelter could be reached by designing places rather that manipulating forms as Modernism suggested. Moore's "places" result from the search of linking the basic human needs with architecture. His ideas became a design with his own house in Orinda, California (1960-1962). It is a small one-room house that expands in one level with a rectangular shape. The main characteristics of the house are the four columns in the middle of the construction setting off the living and dining areas as a place within a place, with separate roofs and skylights. Moore picked this idea from the ancient times when squares formed by columns in the middle of spaces where the important areas of a building as they offered safety and invited people in. With this design, Moore highlights the power that a place has and the way in which the idea of designing a "place" can transform into an architectural design. Moore stated that a house is a space with a sense of power and comfort for its owner, "a dwelling should always refer to something beyond itself as only when dreams have the chance to get realized, a house becomes a place of shelter and identity " (Klotz 1984, p.176).

Robert Stern's design fundamentals:

Moore's and Venturi's ideas were developed and ornamented by later architects such as Robert Stern, who learned from the imperfections of the first post-modern designs and tried to change and develop them. He concentrated on the design of country houses by mixing modernistic and art deco elements (Jencks 1991, p.70). He also mentioned that a house should be thought as part of a larger whole and not as an individual design. This idea was based on fact that every proposal was more possible to grow in the future rather than stay as an isolated design on the landscape. He also believed that a building should be connected with patterns, geometries, and possibilities of future extensions and not only as an individual project sitting on a landscape. Later on, he started to renovate large nineteenth century villas by using the existing historical vocabulary of the spaces. Through these renovations he began to equalize the old portions with the new ones. That was when he started expressing history in a literal way something that Venturi and Moore tried to avoid. Stern started designing ambitious ideas that combined both the qualities of complexity and contradiction, which were introduced by Venturi, with the aspects of over-demonstrative and ostentatious architecture (Klotz, 1984. p.191).

Analysis of the social, political and economic situation during postmodernism:

When it first appeared, modernism intended to suggest freedom from the load of the past and from the demonstration of power. Trying to succeed the best outcome, modernist architects started following specific ideas and techniques, ending up being obsessed by them downgrading clients needs and society in general. By 1960, modernism no longer supported social reality, as symbolic references to technology did not show progress nor symbolized hope. That was when the democratic ideal seemed to be lost and people, theorists as well as new architects started opposing modernism. Postmodernism started as a movement, which was trying to reflect the social situation after the Second World War into poetry, visual arts, music and more importantly, architecture. The society of the 1970's was highly developed, hyper-modern and postindustrial with an appreciation to the media. During that decade population such as women, who previously did not have a voice and could not influence the society, stared gaining power. After the wars, people started concentrating on sciences both in terms of technology and sociology in order to give solutions to problems and questions that were unexplored till that time. Additionally, there was a major consideration about environmental issues and a more eco-friendly approach in design. The wars in combination with the oil crisis also caused some economic problems to many countries. All these factors resulted in a referential architecture and not a self-referential one like modernism. Societies had the need of separation from each other so internationalism was replaced by regionalism. Additionally there was a need to see progress through signs, and narrative design and not through the symbolic value of the engines and the construction and that was what postmodernist architects did. The fact that people wanted imagination in order to fade out the memories of the wars rather than the new world mentality that was influencing architecture in the past years, influenced postmodernism. The complexity of the society, its needs, wants, and way of progress are factors that should be taken into major consideration as architecture is created In favor of clients and people in general and that was one of the main ideas that postmodernism supported.

Postmodernism was a combination of humanities and sciences. It had its routes in the combination of the main humanities and scientific ideas that theory should be translated according to the beliefs of its writer and that sciences could solve all the physical problems that may occur. Having this background, postmodern architects, who started focusing on people principles, belief systems and motivations, delivered an amount of designs against what was thought to be perfection and even attacked some of the elitist architects of the time. In this effort to improve the world, listen attentively to the society and follow its changes, they also made some mistakes. Postmodernism might not succeeded to solve all of the problems but at least it tried to incorporate the needs, the changes, the progress of the society into an architecture for clients and not for architects only. Generally, this movement and the radical change it brought to what was thought to be perfect until the mid-twentieth century, shows that awareness and respect to the needs and wants of the client and the society in total, in all the aspects of the design, should be taken into consideration. An idea, a house, a building, a city exist to offer safety and help a society grow so the role of the architect is to help for the best outcome according to the common good and not his personal goals and wants. History, and the theoretical analysis of each period and the imprint it left on the societies, can become a good example for the aesthetic values that architects should have during all times.