The First Movements Of Postmodernism Cultural Studies Essay

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Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown were the first in the movement of Postmodernism. Venturi graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University and shortly thereafter he received his Masters in Fine Arts also from Princeton. He began his architectural work experience by working with some of the greatest architects such as Louis Kahn, and Eero Saarinen. Soon he began practicing on his own, and teaching at the University of Pennsylvania. Scott-Brown received part of her architectural education at the Architectural Association in London, and completed it at the University of Pennsylvania where she began teaching. Venturi and Brown met in 1960, at a faculty meeting, when she stood up against demolishing the Universities Library, designed by Furness. The two began collaborating on their work, and research, and teaching until 1967, when they became partners at their current architecture firm. Through the beginnings of their research and work together, they began recognizing "blandness" [1] in modern architecture, which Venturi thought was smothering America [2] . Venturi and Scott Brown believed that buildings should have meaning and not just beauty, [3] that people wanted a relatable symbolism in their building and architecture. However, modernist architects had been so focused on defining space and simplicity; architecture had become stagnant and rigid. Venturi and Scott Brown through their research and work would try to bring back the local vernacular, history, and the morals and values of society to architecture, which soon sparked a new phase, Post Modernism.

In 1966, Venturi published Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture showing his research and argument against Modernism. He argued that there must be something better then the cold straight lines of modernism. He was condemned for this by fellow architects using the argument that he had little built architecture to back up his research.

Another publication by Venturi and Scott Brown was, Learning from Las Vegas. In this book they explored the use of the ordinary and the ugly, working with the lower class, and encouraging architects to be more accepting of the morals, values, and taste of ordinary people. They stated that "many architects find the vernacular of the middle class of America to be so repugnant, distasteful, and unappealing that they have a difficult time in examining it open-mindedly to discover its true functionality." [4] They tracked the progression and the rapid evolution of modern architecture, from Le Corbusier, to now, looking at all of the social esthetics involved. Venturi and Scott Brown try to persuade modern architects to stop making space and instead to allow the symbolism to dominate the space sacred [5] "Architecture is not enough, because the spatial relationships are made by symbols more than by forms. Architecture in this landscape becomes a symbol in space rather than form in space." 4 Their analysis responds to a new building type, and the quickly changing lifestyles of Americans, looking back through history of styles and symbolisms, and how to move forward appropriately.

In their architecture, they try to constantly mix history with the present and to use the otherwise ordinary and ugly. [6] They are constantly working with the ornament in their architecture, and the relationship between the color, pattern, and texture. These become the symbolic elements in Venturi and Scott Brown buildings. Venturi throughout his childhood and career has been very interested in studying and learning about architectural history. While others labeled him as a Postmodernist, he considers himself an architect of Classical Tradition of Western Architecture. [7] Scott -Brown on the other hand, studied social science and planning. She saw herself as both a planner and an architect, but was never fully credited for both. She said she considered social planning issues vital to their architecture, and when "omitted from the discussion of our work and thought, our architecture is misunderstood." [8] However, architectural culture of the time described their work as "cynical populism", and said that it was often times lacking in social conscious. 8

In their work their references were constantly Sullivan, Furness, Louis Kahn, and Palladio; Palladio most of all because of his impact on America. This impact on America's society and architecture is what they both wanted to achieve. Their decoration and ornament was similar to that of Sullivan's work, because they both used it to differentiate the scale difference between civic and individual architecture.

The Vanna Venturi House, designed by Venturi for his mother, was one of the first architectural examples of his research and writings. In a suburban setting, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, this home was very simple, and had a symbolic conception, rather than an abstraction of space. The plan is centered around the fireplace, and stairwell, with the spaces pulling away from it. The interior spaces, both in plan and section, are complex and contradictory shapes and relationships with one another. The fireplace and stairwell, one a solid and one a void, each constrict and distort its path, because of the other. The space planning corresponds to the complexities distinctive to a residential program. On the exterior, the complexity of the spaces and shapes, [9] are hidden by a parapet wall, and gabled roof. The front of the home displays conventional doors, windows, chimney, and gable, creating the symbolic image of a house. The interior plan reflects the symmetrical consistency of the exterior, and the exterior openings reflect the distortions within. This residence is now an icon of post modernism, and everything Venturi and Scott-Brown went on and wrote about, and prove in their architecture.

Sited on ocean front property, the Lieb House [10] , and completed in 1969, was one of Venturi and Scott Browns earliest works together. They combined conventional elements and construction methods, such as asbestos siding, and off the shelf windows, and used them in unexpected, unconventional ways. The home was large in scale, but very un-similar to the homes around it. Because of the ocean front property, an unconventional plan was used, and the living room was placed on the second floor to allow for a good view. The stairs start out the same width of the house, and gradually become narrower as you enter the home, creating seating and gathering places on the front of the house. A large 9 was painted on the front of the home, as a sign of their physical address. In 2009 the property was sold, and the home was going to be demolished so Venturi and Scott-Brown found a new ocean front location, to relocate it. However, because it was designed so specifically for the exact site, it was hard to replace it on a new piece of land.

In 1996, Venturi and Scott-Brown entered into a design competition for the Philadelphia Orchestra Hall [11] . Their concept was to take some cues from the adjacent buildings, such as the University of the Arts Main Building, and to create a symbol of Orchestra. On Broad street, which opened onto the elegant grand lounge, there were large windows to allow for the sound, and excitement of the Orchestra to be visible and heard from the street. Their design of the exterior façade was based on orchestra notes and scales, so that the building's façade became a sign of the function of the building. However, a more modern design was chosen for the building.

The Gordon Wu Hall [12] was completed in 1983, for the Princeton University Campus. This building was to be an academic building, to house the social and dining activities of the students on campus. Their concept for the building was to create spaces to do such, but to also opportunities for informal, intimate, spontaneous, social interaction. The dining hall was a long room, with large tudor-gothic tall bay windows at each end, providing a sense of grandeur. The entry stairwell which leads past the lounge, offices, and library, is very wide and extends on one side like bleachers. This serves as a waiting and gathering space, or an indoor amphitheater when necessary. They attempted to adapt the building to its surroundings, and the preexisting conditions. Because of that, they relied heavily on historical details and references. On the front entry way, there is a heraldic bold marble and gray granite pattern over the entrance [13] , recalling early renaissance ornament, and creating a symbol of entrance to the building and also to the campus. Because of the references to history and the context, this building successfully connected the Princeton campus and brought cohesiveness to the surrounding buildings, which the other modern buildings had failed to do.

Venturi and Scott Brown were the first of this Postmodernism movement, which soon became a huge following. When either architect is mentioned, they are commonly referred to and associated with as the reference for postmodernism. [14] However Scott Brown says this is incorrect, because of Venturis interest in architectural history, which gives him a broader knowledge then that of the postmodernism movement, and her interest in social planning and experiments which helps her think in sociologist terms and to relate social immigration to architecture. [15] The movement turned into applying fake ornament and symbolism to a building, and they tried their best to dissociate with this movement. In an architectural digest interview, Scott Brown says that "The Postmodernists have taken out of what we've done only what they wanted." (1990 PG 78 ARCHITECTURAL DIGEST) Venturi and Scott Brown see the postmodernism movement as a colossal mistake: "we'v never gone in for reproducing history, allusions - little touches - were all. " [16] 

Modernism was an international architectural style, which was not specifically designed or intended for America. This architecture failed to communicate our society, or vernacular. Whether or not they liked the outcome of postmodernism, the movement that Venturi and Scott Brown started addressed the issues of an apathetic architecture by