Modernism To Postmodernism Changing Paradigms Cultural Studies Essay

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Buildings were once described as "machines for living"- Le Corbusier.[2] However, people are not machines and suggested that it is not ideal to live in machines.

Also, "bored with the box,"- Philip Johnson.

Here we can see that the buildings by architects and minimalist décor have a certain grace and form, which failed to conceive by the other 'modern' architects. [3]

Since the early 1980s many architects have deliberately tried to stay away from the square design, and move into a more eclectic styles. During the middle of the century, some architects started exploring organic forms to get rid of the dehumanising act and improves in accessibility. They were once very popular due to the democratic and playful nature. Thus, influence the contemporary modernism. [3]

The rejection of modernism started by 1960 itself. By 1980s post modernism replaced modernism but the transition was only complete by the mid 1990s. [3]

Outline this movement in historical terms:

Pre-modernism: Original meaning is possessed by authority. The individual is dominated by tradition.

Modernism: The enlightenment-humanist rejection of tradition and authority in favour of reason and natural science. This is founded upon the assumption of the autonomous individual as the sole source of meaning and truth--the Cartesian cogito. Progress and novelty are valorized within a linear conception of history--a history of a "real" world that becomes increasingly real or objectified. One could view this as a Protestant mode of consciousness.

Post-modernism: A rejection of the sovereign autonomous individual with an emphasis upon anarchic collective, anonymous experience. Collage, diversity, the mystically un-representable, Dionysian passion are the foci of attention. Most importantly we see the dissolution of distinctions, the merging of subject and object, self and other. This is a sarcastic playful parody of western modernity and the "John Wayne" individual and a radical, anarchist rejection of all attempts to define, reify or re-present the human subject. [4]

(Source from, )


Postmodern architecture was an international style that was first cited in the 1950s, but did not become a movement until the late 1970s. [5]

Post-modernism is a movement replacing Modernism that counters earlier modernist principles. Since Post-modernism is a relatively new theory, it is hard to pin point its basic characteristics, it means different things to different thinkers and is constantly updated. According to Jenks, Post-modernism was a movement in the arts, particularly in his chosen field, architecture, but it is also in the developed world today related to a prevailing social condition.

"Post-modernism is the omnipresent reality, particularly in the west, of networking, social leveling, moral relativism, multiculturalism, global migration and media hype." - Jenks, Chales. [22]

Postmodern Architecture rejects the notion of 'pure' or 'perfect'. Architectures of various styles were collected and melded creating new means of design, while reviving traditional elements and techniques. Post modernists architects turn back to older architecture in order to learn from the past. From here, classical designs such as pillars, torches, arches, and domes are recovered and reused, but in a different way.

One of the contemporary personalities of postmodernism is architect Robert Venturi.

Robert Venturi is an American architect born in 1925. Best known for being an innovator of Postmodern architecture, he and his wife Denise Scott Brown have worked on a number of notable museum projects including the 1977 Oberlin addition, the Seattle Museum of Art, and the Sainsbury addition to the National Gallery in London. His architecture is characterized by a sensitive and thoughtful attempt to reconcile the work to its surroundings and function.


Robert Venturi, an American architect, designer and influential theorist, was born in 1925 in Philadelphia and got his education from 1943 until 1950 at Princeton University. His early experiences in the 1950s were under the leading modernist architect Eero Saarinen ( 1910 - 61 ) and Louis I .Kahn offices as a designer. Robert Venturi was in Rome (1954 - 56) on a scholarship to the American Academy, the first of several academic appointments. [6][7][8]

In 1966 he published his Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, which decried the element of puritanism in modernist theory and championed eclecticism, ornamentation, and a sense of wit. [1] In 1973 Robert Venturi co-authored, with Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour, a book that made just as big an impact on architecture theory: "Learning from Las Vegas". [6][7]

In 1958 John Rauch and Robert Venturi founded an architectural practice in Philadelphia, which by 1989 had become Venturi Scott Brown & Associates, with his wife from 1967, Denise Scott Brown as a partner. [6][7]

Venturi's significant Works:

1961 Guild House, Philadelphia

1961 - 1966 Vanna Ventury House, Chestnut Hill Philadelphia PA

1968 Fire Station #4, Columbus IN

1970 Trubeck & Wislocki Houses, Nantucket Island

1973 - 1976 Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin OH

1976 Brant-Johnson House in Vail, Colorado

1978 Best Products Catalog Showroom, Langhorne PA

1980 The Gordon Wu Hall, Butler College, Princeton University NJ

1986 - 1991 Sainsbury wing of the National Gallery in London

1987 - 1996 The Philadelphia Orchestra Hall

1992 - 1997 Mielparque Nikko Kirifuri Resort, Nikko National Park, Tochigi Prefecture, Japan

1996 The Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego

2000 The Venturi-designed Campus Center at Princeton University


Major ideas/qualities

This architectural design is based on the development of philosophy and theory of the actual buildings. They are a mere reflection of the bigger concept which were more protruding. Earlier in Venturi's career, it was quite common for people to be assigned to implement his theories. He is often synonymous with the starting of the post-modernist movement. Thus, his oppositions to many of the modern movement changed the way architecture is viewed. [9]

Robert Venturi's Interpretations: Detail, History, and Symbolism

Robert Venturi valued continuity between the inside and outside of a building. And found contradiction in architecture. In 1966, he published 'Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture', an immensely influential book for people who are related to architecture. [10] In his book,

"..The inside should be expressed on the outside,.." [11]

He stated this because for him, a building's context would change the meaning of its form. He agreed that form is superior to function, but disagreed with Mies van der Rohe whose slogan was "less is more" and declared "less is bore."

Venturi's book "Complexity and Contradiction" gave magnificence effect to the change in the architectural world. [12]

This becomes an important advantage by removing the dependence on fuctions. Robert Venturi revived the tendency of Baroque to change things around just to find a more interesting form. In 'Complexity and Contradiction' he also stated:

"I like elements which are hybrid rather than "pure," compromising rather than "clean," distorted rather than "straightforward," ambiguous rather than "articulated," perverse as well as impersonal, boring as well as "interesting," conventional rather than designed," accommodating rather than excluding, redundant rather than simple, vestigial as well as innovating, inconsistent and equivocal rather than direct and clear. I am for messy vitality over obvious unity. I am for richness of meaning rather than clarity of meaning; for the implicit meaning as well as the explicit function." [11] -- Robert Venturi

Robert Venturi let the social issues or the economy to exist rather than removing them through design, as impression of a building is more important than anything else. Venturi considered how symbolic or representational elements may contradict the form, structure, or program of a building. [13]

Figure : The Decorated Shed Duckling by Robert Venturi

The duck building's space and structure, is distorted by an overall symbolic form. The "decorated shed's" space and structure is at service of a program and ornament is applied independently. [4]

Robert Venturi described this building as a 'duck' rather than a 'decorated shed'.

"..Function for a 'duck' building is a by-product of the styling whereas for a 'decorated shed' it is the purpose of its creation." - Robert Venturi

According to Venturi, naming the building following it's form gives more advantages to the building. They use past experience and emotional association rather than function to gain the form. [14] The word 'duck' comes from referencing the 'Long Island Duckling', a building by a farmer to sell his duck product. While Robert Venturi is studing architecture, he used this as an example for the use as an alternative to a 'decorated shed'. [13]

"..Novelty architecture was extremely common throughout the 60's and 70's in America with some buildings taking on the form of the products which were sold." - Robert Venturi

The duck building was the pioneer of such architecture that then leads the formation of iconic architecture such as a huge doughnut above a doughnut stand and also a hotdog diner. [15]

Robert Venturi Perception

Robert Venturi interested in the lost art of using symbols in architecture for human communication. He uses the symbol of the windows on the external façade is to highlight the appearance of the window. But he went further in using symbols, finding a symbol that can be used outside the normal context, as an example of building a duck, and how they may effect the viewer. [13]

As a reset of form, he said,

"Familiar things seen in an unfamiliar context become perceptually new as well as old."[14]

This changes the meaning of architecture. Thus, all styles can be used, according to public taste. It is based on the public, social and technological relevance of the day to decide which elements are relevant to the design. [13]

For example, he referred to the electronic, saying that "relevant to today's revolution"[14] in the design of the sculpture of the antenna. This shows that if the book was killed in architecture, television and other media of the recent advances is to kill the book. Arts,architecture, television, and all the other media have an important relationship in the art. People can become another symbol of the communication. As the book uses symbols to convey messages, and the Cathedral statues and other symbols used to communicate, such as Venturi has been found to be eternal symbol relevant toarchitectural design. And so, architectural references to history and symbols is what makes the artistic Venturi's building, and the ability to design an eclectic forms which is interesting to the public. [13]

Robert Venturi said that a simple facade of modern architecture is not attractive enough. He chose to show certain aspects such as patterns of colored bricks in the walls of its structures. As long as they were appropriate for the project, he will apply in his designs [16]. This was used in his Sainsbury Wing addition to London's National Gallery, a work that was greeted with much praise [17].

Because of the flexibility of the architecture program, he was selected to design the new addition in which he combined themes of the existing structure, but adding it looked different. The new design themes are kept much of the exterior facade of the existing but also include a vast array of skylights and floor plan irregular andn on-symmetrical. Like Prince Charles of England, Venturi shared the same "disdain" for the simplicity of Modernism [16]. [21]

In another project, Venturi was commissioned to design an addition to the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College in Ohio. Such as the Sainsbury Wing addition, Venturi and his staff achieve 58 planned an addition that according to the series, but to avoid stealing the interior meaning of the original building to emphasize the special characteristics of the "architectural gems" [18].

Addition to the Allen Memorial Art Museum opened to the public in 1977and is regarded as one of "the best example of postmodern architecture in the UnitedStates"[19]. Venturi addition, the inventive use of ornament and symbolism, generously furnished Tuscan-style buildings that have been installed. [21]

Along with these additions, Venturi produced a series of smaller buildings during the 1970s-largely unknown by most Americans. Regardless of the lack of recognition, some of Venturi's proudest achievements were "houses that look[ed] like houses." He wants to create a fire station that looked like fire station and hospitals that looked like hospitals. Venturi acknowledges that what he and is company made "horrified people," especially the Modern architects. [20][21]


Architecture varies in different places and also time. Changes have to be made to adapt the different surroundings. My implication is that architecture will adapt in time by as long as there is new, as yet unimaginable, perhaps ultimately impossible, dimensions exist.

In the modern arena, it is more likely that a decorated shed is seen on streets, as surroundings requirements, values and spaces we are looking after the benefits of a building. Getting the mixture of functionality, practicality and suitable exterior design, is a work of modern architects to follow the theory of Robert Venturi. A building is which style and function join together, for example, the Long Island ducking, are rarely seen in some time because it is unnecessary for them. In this world that is full of technology and modern techniques, it is easy to start a building for the purpose of its look and fully decorated with creatures as there is limitless possibilities in the contemporary architecture.

My implication is that our own human subjects accepted into the new space and do not continue to race against evolution resulting changes in the object which is unaccompanied by equivalent mutation of the subject. We do not have the best elements to match the perception of this new hyperspace because out perceptual habits formed in the range of older kind of space, the space of high modernism.