We live in a time where it is very difficult to design something new, something that has never been done before, something original and unique. It is a time of lost innocence. Thus I look for sincere ways to design that reflect the works that is so successfully done by our predecessors, but gives an eccentric, modern twist to it that makes it my own, avoiding false innocence. In the language of architecture, I am saying something that has been said before, accepting the challenge of the past, but repeating it a way that respects its history.
This is my main challenge when I design a park, playground, public space, landscape, or anything else for that matter: the art of finding a balance between new techniques and old patterns, traditional and modern, absolutism and fragmental holism, confusion and ambiguity.
"â€¦architects who reject the austerity and abstraction of orthodox modernism and seek instead a return to ornament, picturesqueness, and the use of elements from the architecture of the past. It is by its very nature more diverse, less concerned about rules and rights and wrongs." 34
This statement by Paul Goldberger in his 1984 publication of On the Rise: Architecture and Design in a Postmodern Age, not only describes what PoMo architects strives to include in their own works, but also what I wish to include within my own designs. This text is one of the few that separates postmodernism from the fray of modernism and late-modernism.
In 1977 the successor of Modernism, Post-Modernism, was defined, giving the new movement a label, pedigree, and philosophy of pluralism. And from the latter date until roughly 1984 this movement enjoyed certain popularity, notoriety, and following, even becoming the dominant approach of several large corporate firms. Since then it has been challenged by late-modernists, neo-modernist, or those who call themselves -mistakenly- modern architects. (Architecture today: 12)
Modern architecture had failed to remain credible partly because it didn't communicate effectively with its ultimate users and partly because it didn't make effective links with the city and history. (The language of Post-Modern Architecture) The failures of Modernist building method are cheap prefabrication, lack of personal 'defensible' space and the alienating housing estate. (what is post modernism: 16) The solution to these problems is Post-Modernism. Today's PoMo architects were trained by Modernists, and are committed to using contemporary technology as well as facing current social reality. These commitments are enough to distinguish them from revivalists or traditionalists. This creates their hybrid language, the style of PoMo architecture. (What is Post-Modernism: â€¦.. : 14)
To be 'post' means to be 'beyond', to be 'more modern than modern', which is why Modernists feared and were provoked by the phrase. Also the term has opposite overtones suggesting 'anti-Modernism' to some Traditionalists who see it as a possible ally; or 'the continuation of Modernism in a new guise' to other Traditionalists who see it as a threat. Thirdly the term has hallucinatory overtones suggesting an impossibility - the 'post-present' - as if it were suspended beyond time in some paradoxical Wonderland or hyperspace of advanced physics, a kind of chronological equivalent of anti-matter. Finally it suggests the possibility of a critical and selective continuation of Modernism and its transcendence. (Jencks 65)
There are two basic ideas of modernist space on which Post-Modernists have built, and to which they have also reacted. The first is a notion of spatial interpenetration - the way two or more volumes could overlap, large glazed areas could unite previously separated areas, and planes of architecture could slide by each other, producing continuous flowing movement. The other is extreme isotropic space. PoMo have clearly reacted against this, seeking to define "place" rather than abstract space and to establish ambiguity, variety, and surprise rather than predictability. Interpenetration and layered space, two rhetorical figures of Modernism, are used by Post-Modernists to define a new kind of ambiguous space which is mysterious, complex, and full of surprises. (architecture today:200)
Charles Jencks is an American architectural theorist, author and landscape architect. He has written widely on Post-Modern architecture. According to Jencks postmodernism "contrasts with the older notion of classical rules in being understood as relative rather than absolute, responses to a world of fragmentation, pluralism and inflation rather than formulae to be applied indiscriminately." (Jencks: â€¦â€¦) I will now be discussing this statement, as well as how the common traits of PoMo are applied in my designs.
Today we are influenced by so many different world views. From sciences that keep on evolving, Classical architecture that reflects a static universe, to Greek Renaissance architecture with its perfect proportions. There is a juxtaposition of tastes that influence my work, helping me to create disharmonious harmony in my design, a typical characteristic op PoMo.
Getting a variety of different styles in my design is important to me, mixing the different architectural "languages" and forms of art that is tied to symbolic meanings. Pluralism and ambiguity is often incorporated into my designs. Postmodernism also uses this, as well as double-coding, meaning both elite/popular and new/old and there are compelling reasons for these opposite pairings. The buildings are part Modern and part something else: vernacular, revivalist, local, commercial, metaphorical, or contextual. It seeks to speak on two levels at once: to a concerned minority of architects, an elite who recognize the subtle distinctions of a fast-changing language, and to the inhabitants, users, or passersby, who want only to understand and enjoy it. One of its strong motivations are to break down the elitism inherent in Modern architecture and the architectural profession. (Architecture Today: 111) They keep something of a Modern sensibility - some intention which distinguishes their work from that of revivalists - whether it's parody, contradiction, irony, displacement, complexity, eclecticism, realism or any number of contemporary tactics and goals. Unforeseen elements are included. Opposites are juxtaposed. (
Multivalence is a new quality that is produced when other codes are used coherently. The building now reaches out to the environment and ensures that it will have multiple resonances. This multivalence comes with the reinterpretation of customs and the dislocation of convention.
When I get a new site to work with, it automatically comes in a bigger picture. Knowing and understanding the context in which I am working with and making sure the new design fits into the genus loci of the place is vital, whilst at the same time taking into account that there are new technologies and modern influences that needs to be included in the design. The trick is to do all of this without disturbing its urbane character.
The next significant quality of Post-Modern architecture is anthropomorphism, which includes shapes or forms suggesting the human body or parts of it, even if it is just the suggesting of a face. It is interesting that many Post-Modern architects feel compelled to represent anthropomorphic images, whether for their metaphysical or social implications, or for deep or humorous reasons. Goldberger states in his book On the Rise: Architecture and Design in a Postmodern Age that "Perhaps this is because the content of this imagery is so indisputably shared across all cultures." Most Post-Modern anthropomorphism follows the symbolist injunction of the nineteenth century: "always suggest and never name an idea". (Goldberger: 185) Implicit metaphors can be analyzed by the user: the way the "body of the house," the plan, might "have its own life, symmetry and parts," the way views are "framed," the way entrances "welcome and enclose". Effective body imagery is thus a subtle blend of implicit and explicit coding. Post-Modernists always like a little "heart" in their centred houses. (On the rise: Architecture and Design in a Postmodern Age: 194)
PoMo designs have a distinct style that can easily be recognized. It is consists of ambiguous asymmetrical symmetry. The style incorporates a very subtle interweaving of past and present, which is called Historicism. According to Stirling "we live in a complex world where we can't deny either the past and conventional beauty, or the present and current technical and social reality." (what is post-modern architecture: 19) Certain distortions are introduced. Cliché and kitsch are incorporated into the meanings of the buildings by way of detail, but do not dominate because of the syntactic inventions and syncopations. (Architecture today: 115-116) The architect must design for different 'taste cultures' and for differing views of the good life. There will be varying tastes and functions that have to be articulated and these will inevitably lead towards an eclectic style. (what is post-modernism: 20)
The general meaning of the term refers not to its emotive overtones and suppressed historicism, but to the collection of specific traditions, beliefs and technologies seen as a whole. But this whole is full of holes. It has discontinuities, contradictions and unfinished parts, as does anyone's personality. But with all its blemishes, fractures and missing element, it still hangs loosely together as a partial cultural paradigm to compete with those fragments of traditional and modern culture that still exist and have vitality.