Delve into the drama of Postmodern architecture

Delve into the drama of Postmodern architecture

A new book by historian and curator Owen Hopkins and publishing house Phaidon delves into the drama and thought behind architecture’s postmodernism movement through case studies and a catalogue of examples from across the globe

When Postmodern Architecture first rose to prominence at the end of the 1970s and 80s, the sputtering indignation of the modernist establishment was heard loud and clear. PoMo was declared flippant and frivolous, it broke all the architectural ‘rules’ in its reckless embrace of colour and decoration. And as for the dumpster-diving through archaic historicist features, the less said the better. Yet many ignored the critics and persisted with this seemingly perverse path. ‘Postmodern Architecture: Less is a Bore’ shows us why we should be grateful that they did.

Written by historian and curator Owen Hopkins (currently at Sir John Soane’s Museum in London), ‘Less is Bore’ presents the heavy hitters of the movement and a strong selection of buildings erected over solid intellectual foundations. The significant names include the American cadre headed up by Michael Graves, Robert Stern, and Venturi Scott Brown, but there also examples from all over the world, including James Stirling, Terry Farrell and John Outram in the UK, the playful form-making of early Gehry, FAT and Site, or the serious place-making of Aldo Rossi and Mario Botta.

Soeters van Eldonk Architecten: Piramides, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2006. Photography: Syntrus Archmea

Postmodernism’s giddy eclectism shines through. Although the featured buildings aren’t underpinned by a single manifesto, they all demonstrate a shared ethos, with architecture treated as a spiritual balm and decoration and colour used to impose a more human scale.

Admittedly, the reasons for the style’s modern revival are largely aesthetic; just as Brutalism enjoyed a social media upswing thanks to the photogenic properties of angular concrete, so the pastel hues and bold shapes of PoMo have found favour amongst the Insta generation. ‘Less is a Bore’ (Robert Venturi’s spirited rejoinder to Mies’s pious prononoucement) is a welcome catalogue of a more innocent world, back when a building’s image meant a lot more than its suitability for mass reproduction. §

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