Modernism And Post Modernism Cultural Studies Essay

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Modernism is assumed to be a cultural state rather than a feature or quality of a practice. Modernism tells a story rather than creates a story. It reflects on the past rather then the future. It can also present a cultural condition that can be found in a variety of different forms in any number of practices.

Modernism has a number of features that can be explored upon with a centre focus on self expression. It draws upon a sense of modern thinking when it comes to expression or 'self-expression'.

Modernist architecture emphasises function. It attempts to provide for specific needs rather than imitate nature. Modern Australian architecture reflects both new ways of thinking and new forms of expression as well as the fact that 20th Century buildings did not need to be made of stone anymore. Buildings could be made of steel and glass which opened up endless possibilities for space and light, and moving between the outside and the inside.

When we talk about Modernism we talk about aesthetics, we talk about feeling, we talk about expression, and we try to convey what the human eye witnesses as best as we can. Most see aesthetics as a form of thought that connects one directly with the physical effects that they are confronted with in everyday living. Some argue that it is the designer who decides what effects there will be especially in the interior spaces of buildings. Architectural designers such as Architects and Interior Architects need to be able to determine generalised feelings within a particular space, such as open-ness, closed-ness and other characteristics of similar spaces with a similar feeling.

In order to create a feeling we need to ask ourselves a number of questions in order to make that feeling. What feelings surround you right now in the space you stand in? What feeling are we looking to achieve in that space? What effects from that feeling that you have created can lead you into the path of modernism.

In order to find that path, you must have guidance. Thankfully there are a number of designers who right about their work and their journey to what they call modernism today.

Extract - "Art and people must form a unity, Art shall no longer be the enjoyment of the few but the life and the happiness of the masses. The aim is the alliance of the arts under the wing of a great architecture. The last sentence is especially significant for the appeal to the "power of architecture".

Work Council for Art, "Under the wing of great architecture", 2002, pp. 44-5.

The Inner-Connection to Modernism

Finding that connection of feeling within modernism can be found in other forms of modernism both in the world of design and the outside world of design in various practices. A range of other forms such as: industrial manufacturing, futurism in art, the evolving human, technology "the machine".

When we look at things like the machine and the human, the only think that separates them is the material or layer amongst them. When we look at the machine, a feeling of coldness comes across and artificial re-inventation. When we look at the human we see the "creator", a creator who re-invents the un-invented controlling the machine beyond its own control. The self - consciousness of power is the striking feature of the 20th century that characterises modern thinking. It converged as the expression of the self - consciousness of power.

Extract - "Eighty years ago the steam railway came along and transformed the whole surface of the earth, a transformation without denial. According to what has been said so far the surface of the earth is to be transformed - and by glass architecture. If it comes it will transform the Earth's surface". Paul Scheerbart, "Glass Architecture", 2002, pp. 32-3.

Modernism is viewed upon as a self-conscious act conveying the feeling of self-expression as an idea of the individual or individuals. Being power, having the desire to create your own empire becomes the mode of thought. It becomes an obsession through the individual. It is masked through everyday living. Be the boss, become the boss, I am the boss. As for an architect or interior architect such power is represented through "design" into the world. Showing a great significance and relationship to the world through the eye of an artist on how he or she views the environment and its creatures "humans" within the environment. Design represents a cry for expression and being an individual. It is achieved through drawings and models being an "idea" to life before it becomes a reality and part of life. Architecture can be classified as an image of thought, a thought that no longer is a fantasy to the individual, but becomes a way of life once the thought is brought to life.

Modern Aesthetics - What does it mean to express freedom

Freedom itself can be a complex issue when it comes to expression. The way you may view or look at something may be completely different to what is trying to be expressed. The power of expression is in its own league. It contributes and is the driver to how powerful that freedom really is. In architecture that is design. Freedom to showing connection with space amongst other spaces is what the expression is all about. Modern buildings in today's era have been designed by a single individual or at least a group of individuals each expressing the own modern aesthetics in the expression of feeling for freedom. Power is evident in the expression of aesthetics from a design point of view.

When we now look at modern architecture it basically substitutes a lot of structural elements that in this modern era are a rare find. E.g. Columns, Pilasters, Consoles, Caryatids, gargoyles are now substituted with new window frames, new doors etc.

Why has this happened? To create smaller spaces for the individual to have a sense of privacy and keep his or her individuality.

Although for generations people have been use to the traditional style of classical architecture, today's world is all about simplicity. It's about maximising and appreciating the space within the interior rather then dominate the exterior or the "outside world".

A designer or architect needs to project fresh ideas into the world, although sometime it can be a case of trial and error. Technology will not improve without new and fresh ideas being injected into the world from "the professional or specialist" like the architect, who lives and breathes to give birth to design.

In design there is "concept" that informs the design and the individual, otherwise known as "schema". Not all aesthetics need to be used in order to create and develop a modern design. Any number of elements can be incorporated in order for the design to be modern in any shape of form. When assembled these elements are expressive in their own way. For modernism they become orthodoxy of expression and feeling.

Identity in Australia through expression

As discussed, a sense of feeling can be a sense of freedom, it can more confronting and revealing when power is involved. Self expression within middle class societies are understood as a material freedom, materiality through "ownership" gives them the sense of power. It creates an identity and is glorified through expression of freedom. When it comes to design, it is a sense of achievement through materiality. It provides the aesthetics for the modern world via reflection.

The faults of modernism through a dysfunctional world

Is modernism a failure when it comes to purpose? Are we to say that there is something to which modernism can be probed on in some idea or state? Will disaster strike or has it already, with lack of attention to expression and its ways of feeling. Can this form a dysfunctional episode of bad design and ego through the architectural world? Well when it comes to cultural modernism, it can be thought of as inappropriate and wasteful when it comes to the environment and also culture and all that is associated with.

Today's current issues within the environment such as global warming, rising oil prices and economic collapse can all be the driver for a better modern world. It attracts progress, development, industrialisation, which are all typical features of modernisation and the modern world.

Extract - "The twentieth-century man can satisfy his needs with far lower capital outlay and hence save money. The vegetable he enjoys is simply boiled in water and has a little butter put on it." Adolf Loos,"Ornament and Crime", 2002, pp.19-24

Due to this a loss of connectivity through people and architecture has always been evident. You can almost say it is "the rise of the machines". Now its time for humanity to take control again. Modernisation through architecture and its purposes has caused a sense of alienation within society as a whole. Not only in today's society but through previous generations also who experienced the same "feeling".

Contemporary architecture is not valued for its resources but for its creativity and the power of individual expression. Praising the "creator", the architect. Each architect has his or her own gift in the power they possess within design. Tadao Ando for example expresses his power through "natural light". Transforming small spaces to large spaces through the power of natural light.

Modernism, Post Modernism and Deconstruction in architecture all feed of each other with a twist to self expression and power.

Today's modern architects re-introduce human factors that will and can sometimes affect the individual through feeling. Therefore by investigating anthropology, sociology, and linguistics all contribute to the expression through design and directing the designer to the right path by avoiding alienation and connecting the three major elements within design today such as the environment, building and its conqueror "the human".

Modernism through image

Whether we talk about modernism or postmodernism, both eras have had their fair share of criticism for many years now. These two styles have their own image to portray to the world. Whether those images are right or wrong, they are a sense of identity and form of expression for the two styles. Both styles have their advantages and disadvantages. How these are determined were through image.


When we talk about perspective and image, we talk about an abstraction in its two dimensional or three dimensional form. I can also be classified as a form of pop-art where the drawings for a design come to life. In perspective the architect learns a lot, whether from errors that have been made to the successes of the design. Most perspectives are all accurate in order to make a decision whether the design does work, or whether some improvement can still be made to it. To understand perspective you must understand representation. Although a perspective is not always physical or three dimensional, however it can be a point of view from the gathering of information that you may read off a design or a "feeling" of "expression" you may sense from the design.

Modern Architecture

Architecture is developed through precedent and inspiration, whether it's by the environment itself, an individual, or a theory that may be abstracted and brought to life through drawing and design. Through this modern architects regard design as a creative new improved self expressive act through inspiration of other sources.


Movement is recognised through modern architecture as a fundamental element in the aesthetics of design. We look at buildings with bad circulation, a maze of faults, all because the movement for anthropology was not taken in consideration as a first priority. Neglectful errors such as these would not progress into the 20th century as design is now solely focused on movement and function. The human scale once upon a time ago use to be at much smaller scale then what anthropology is faced with today. As we move into an even more unhealthier world, human scale and figure always changes. Therefore requirements for anthropological calculus must also change. A building represents function, in order for there to be function, it must be functional.

Modernism as it is seen today

In a simple life, modernism provides us with the feeling that image represents. It creates the mass that humanity feels in order to be complete. As long as self-expression is always evident in whatever humanity may achieve, it is the feeling of power and ownership, with sense of achievement. Although we tend to forget that feelings should not only be locked away within one's self, but for those feelings of success and achievement to be shared with others.


Firstly postmodernism was a movement in architecture that rejected the modernist culture of passion for the new and un-invented. Post-modernism lacks in confidence when it comes to fresh ideas, rejecting a tradition of going "where no man has gone before" or better to create forms for no other than novelty.

Post-modernism has been described as the move of universal expression of architectural self-expression and collective self-expression as an ethical necessity.

The problem with self-expression, it can become or already has become one big power trip over time. In order for self-expression to effective it must dominate another power, which when we talk about architects it is the culture within which buildings should be built.

What is post-modernism

Modernism was an exploration of possibilities and a perpetual search for uniqueness and individuality. In post-modernism they wanted to maintain elements of modern utility while returning to the reassuring classical forms of the past. The result of this was an ironic collage approach to construction that combines several traditional styles into one structure. In a way it was a period of mixed feelings and expression went out the window, as it was difficult enough to express one particular style then two combined together.

If the term "modern" was ever to go and be called something else, presumably the post-modern style will also need a new label. Vagueness such as this may have its advantages, at least temporarily anyway. Post-modernism was hardly a single-minded movement, and it strenuously avoided being so.

The Style

The first manifestations of the style appeared in the 1970's. Le Corbusier's work was the bible to new architecture and of modernism, however if this was the case then the post-modernist's manifesto is Robert Venturi's complexity and contradiction in architecture in 1966.

Some post-modern buildings made recognisable references or allusions to aspects of historical or vernacular architecture, usually with an ironic twist introduced by unexpected changes of scale or context. Most examples of the style simply relied on combinations of approved motifs such as the curving line, the square window, the perforated screen, the free-standing colonnade, and the deliberate clash of incompatible geometries. Orthodox modernism's demands for expressed structure and large areas of glass were often ignored. Decorative effects were introduced such as pastel colours which were used extensively.

Late 20th century post-modernism in Australia showed no essential differences from its parent movements in America and Europe. Popular references were to Art Deco and to such aspects of the suburban vernacular as timber latticework and two-toned face brickwork.

Style Definition to a degree

Post-modern architecture can mean a lot of things in the eye of the individual or group individuals. Some argue it is still an expressive way to communicate through a variety of feeling. Some don't, some say it is a contradiction to the modernist style.

Postmodern architecture is a counteraction to the strict and almost universal modernism of the mid 20th century. It reintroduces elements from historical building styles, although usually without their high level of detail. Common features include columns, pyramids, arches, obelisks, unsual or attention getting shapes and rooflines, and combinations of stone and glass on the facade.

Post-Modernism if you like can be described as imitations from classical architecture manipulated and modified into today's world with crazy designs, involving optical art etc.

Due to such styles emerging anthropology has come into contact with a variety of evolving concepts including hybridity, montage, fluidity, and deconstruction. Although this is all factual to some degree, the question remains, how these concepts reflect the social, cultural and political changes that are occurring in the study of anthropology today.

The implication is that postmodernism is merely another theoretical perspective dreamed up by jaded academics, with little or no connection to peoples lives.

" A sort of heterogeneity of cultures, emphasizing difference, promoting the lives of the other, rather than sameness, as a reality of the multicultural global planet that we find ourselves in today." (Barrett, pg 153)

Modern Aesthetics

Modern aesthetics only become evident through expression. When we act upon the world means we mean to express a figure of thought, meaning to act is to think. Developing a scheme or "concept" is evident through the assembly of expressivity.

To develop and scheme or "schema" is to develop a concept that will talk by itself without the help of its designer or creator. It tells the story of a journey through exploration and freedom of expression. Schema express images of gestures and movement, the power of self-expression which is a must in modern architecture

Simple gestures are used in modern day architecture to show expression. Techniques such as drawing crosses or grids in drawings enclosing them and forming cubes. A typical formation such as the "cube" divides the inside from the outside. Forming a layer or "skin" or the envelope of a structure.

The cube in its own rights is one's own personal aesthetic. It is inhabited and provides comfort and protection from the outside world. It is one's own personal choice for inhabitation.

Diagrams express an idea in a self-evident way, which in a way it is overcoming the boring theoretical side of description by text. It provides a visual model to the human eye and can quickly identify if any changes are to be made within the design itself.


Signs are another form of expression whether it be for commercial or solo purposes, each and every sign has its own meaning of self-expression in whatever that sign or those signs are trying to convey.

Signs operate independently from the world. They are a temporary structure looking to convey a message as quickly as possible and move onto its next message. They can be expressive through text or graphical text.

Signs act as the middle name in getting a point across or formalising a message to the world. Expressing views, image and self-expression all in one.

Postmodernism as Expression

Architecture has always retained the feeling that it is expressing its own power or its representor, even when architects claim to find a meaning that is self-expressed from the environment itself in which buildings are to be constructed. Although this all seems justified through the eyes of design. It can never always be exact when it comes to self-expressing the environment itself or the individual.

A better way to understand expression coming from an interiors perspective is that the conditions required in a brief, from words cannot always be taken as a direct translation from the brief into the design itself. A brief is only the starting point to what can be a great design. Other factors such as materials, fixings, fixtures and other objects must also be taken into consideration and defined even better then the actual design itself.

Architecture remain faithful to Expression

From Modernism to Post-modernism, Architecture has always managed to maintain its professionalism when it comes to expression. It has always looked out for the best interest of the its clientele. Although in some cases self-expression was manipulated by signified meaning, architecture has always managed to hold the fort in justifying the real meaning when it comes to design and its surroundings.




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