During the 1960s, innovative technologies of construction, particularly the use of glass, steel and reinforced concrete dominated the architectural practice. This style was spread internationally by Le Corbusier and Mies Van der Rohe with the basic philosophy of ‘form should follow function’. The architecture during this period was clean, minimalist and striped of all ornamentation.
By the 1970s there was a widespread sense of crisis in modernist architecture. As a response to the anonymous style, Postmodern architecture style emerged. Architects saw this new movement as a potential for expression and personality because the preceding era was earnest and anonymous. A new approach was adopted of bringing an emotional dimension to architecture
The movement was introduced by the architect and urban planner Denise Scott Brown and architectural theorist Robert Venturi in their book Learning from Las Vegas. The style flourished from the 1980s through the 1990s, particularly in the work of Denise Scott Brown, Robert Venturi, Michael Graves, Aldo Rossi, Phillip Johnson, Charles Moore.
1. Vanna Venturi House, Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania
Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown influenced the design movement with their buildings and their published work, including Learning from Las Vegas: The Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form. One of the couple’s most celebrated designs was the Vanna Venturi House, which was built for Venturi’s mother and completed in 1964. Venturi went through six fully worked-out versions of the house which slowly became known as the first example of Postmodern architecture. It incorporates many of the devices used by Modernist architects like Mies van der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright, from horizontal ribbon windows, to a simplistic rendered facade. But Venturi chose to also include ornament in the design – something his Modernist peers had shunned. By reintroducing elements traditionally associated with houses – from a gabled roof to an arch-framed entrance – but stripping them of their original functions, he laid the foundations for the entire Postmodern movement.
2. The Guild House in Philadelphia
Robert Venturi, and his mate John Rauch, were the architects who designed the Guild House in 1960-1963. It is located in Philadelphia. It’s an apartment building for the elderly with low income, and it looks like a cheap construction of social housing. “The House of Guild’s symbolic ornamental elements are loosely applied literally… The symbolism of the decoration becomes ugly and ordinary, with a hint of irony original heroic… and rightly shed is ugly and ordinary, but its bricks and windows are also symbolic.” With this explanation by Venturi, we can see that this architectural movement did not search for beauty. Postmodernism brought back the classical features of Architecture, even as unnecessary decoration. Thus, the elements of the Italian Renaissance and the Ancient Rome reappeared, used in a contradictory or even ironic way to portray the importance of expression
3. Fire Station Number 4 in Columbus, Indiana
In 1967, Venturi was asked by the fire department of the city of Columbus to design a fire station, which was to be an “ordinary building that was easy to maintain”. The design features a trapezoidal plan, with a semi-circular tower serving as the main entrance to the building. Notable about this tower is the large yellow number 4 which has been placed on top.
4. Piazza d’italia, New Orleans
The downtown public plaza, which was designed in 1978 by Charles Moore, offers a colourful and eclectic take on classical architecture. The juxtaposition of classical architectural elements like arches with vibrant colours creates a very fun expression of space design.
5. 100 East Wisconsin
Designed by LS3P Associates, 100 East Wisconsin, or The Faison Building is located in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Erected in 1989, its design is reflective of the German-American architecture that has been preserved in downtown Milwaukee. The building uses classical architectural elements like arches and a crown similar to that of the former Pabst Building.
6. Neue Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, Germany
In 1984 British architect James Stirling designed a postmodern addition to the historic Staatsgalerie. The exterior blends traditional stone with brightly coloured accents for a structure that references the original building while presenting a new architectural vision.
7. Blue Cross Centre Moncton, Canada
The facility consists of a three storey low rise in front of an eight storey high rise, with a glazed atrium joining the two. The interpretation of Main Street’s historical scale and rhythm lead to the use of masonry cladding and precast concrete lintels, and helps to root the design within the downtown context. The concept of the building is one based on the past, yet clearly designed for the future.
8. Westbourne Grove Public Conveniences
The original council plans for this traffic island did not impress local resident, John Scott so he commissioned modernist architect Piers Gough to design a structure that would incorporate public toilets, a kiosk style shop, a clock and somewhere for people to sit. Built in 1993 it is half toilet and half florist, clad in bright turquoise tiles with a beautiful fan like canopy. The posh-looking loos were done on a pretty tight budget with the help of the local residents – Piers Gough designed the unusual structure, featuring turquoise-glazed bricks, which would usually be seen on the inside of a public convenience rather than the outside, and dancing ‘ladies’ and ‘gents’ figures that reference the local Notting Hill Carnival. A florist’s kiosk was incorporated into the design to offset the cost of a lavatory attendant and the Pembridge Association charity group raised funds to donate a bespoke clock, bench and lamp post.
9. AT&T Building, New York
While Philip Johnson may be best known for his International Style Glass House, his later works, many built in collaboration with architect John Burgee, pushed the boundaries of postmodernism. The AT&T Building, located on Madison Avenue, features a Chippendale-inspired pediment and pink granite exterior
10. Portland Building, Portland, Oregon
Designed by Michael Graves and completed in 1982, the Portland Building is an icon of postmodernism. The 15-story structure is embellished with stylized classical elements, including an oversize keystone and pilasters and the liberal use of colour.