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Thread: Modern vs. postmodern design

  1. #1
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Modern vs. postmodern design

    I'm trying to get a grasp on the distinguishing features of modernism vs. postmodernism. I've posted some random pictures of what I perceive to be examples of each. Do you think these are good representations of each style? If not, where would I find good points of reference?




















    Last edited by hilldweller; 11 Jul 2006 at 10:56 PM.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    The first thing I would say is: beware all-encompassing, no-exceptions definitions. I am not sure architectural concepts can be fully described verbally.

    ‘Modernism’ has been defined in many ways but essentially it is an architectural method that rejects traditional building and decorative techniques, favoring a very minimalist, stripped-down, structuralist approach. I’m sure some one can come up with a better definition.

    Generally, PoMo is characterized by the use of single traditional / vernacular / historical references and elements within and essentially modern (perhaps even modernist) building structure.

    It’s currently fashionable to refer to (traditional) architecture as a language. Think of PoMo as something that sues words from that language but does not string them together according to grammar rules.

    The first pic in your post is an excellent example of post-modernism. If you photo-shopped away the cornice and pediment/gable at the top and the arcade-like ground floor, you’d be left with a modernist building.

    The second pic is a modernist building, IMHO, in that it consists of repeating, glass/concrete/steel (?) elements without any traditional ornament or rhythm or division of the structure into top-middle-bottom.
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  3. #3
    They're all postmodern except #2 (modernist) and #7, #8 (art deco).

    You can identify postmodern by its use of exagerrated ornaments, which is what gives it its cartoonish quality.

    I can't really explain what sets art deco apart. You have to be familiar with precedents.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally posted by Luca
    The first thing I would say is: beware all-encompassing, no-exceptions definitions. I am not sure architectural concepts can be fully described verbally.

    ‘Modernism’ has been defined in many ways but essentially it is an architectural method that rejects traditional building and decorative techniques, favoring a very minimalist, stripped-down, structuralist approach. I’m sure some one can come up with a better definition.

    Generally, PoMo is characterized by the use of single traditional / vernacular / historical references and elements within and essentially modern (perhaps even modernist) building structure.
    "Modernist" and "Post-Modern" styles are often described like this, but as a mode of architectural thought, it has more to do with the organization of space than the fetishization of minimal or overtly decorated facades. Modernism, as I would define it, is a structuralist approach in all facets of a building's layout and construction. By this I mean that the way that a building is concieved and built is in plain view of the occupant, in contrast to the PoMo model, which, in my opinion, conveludes the building's true structure and function. It relies on kitsch and pastiche to convey some idea about the building's use and its architect's intention.

    It must also be considered that Post-Modernism can also include architecture that is not strictly conceived by traditional, or "structuralist" ideas, such as Deconstructivist or other "post-structual" ideas. Peter Eisenmann is one architect that comes to mind.

    These definitions and explanations are often disputed, so I'd be interested to hear people's thoughts on this topic.

    Also, The Hotel Victoria is Deco, but also very much in the vein of the Bauhaus movement (Very Gropius)...In my opinion more of a modernist building than that awful highrise.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Hmm....

    I've toured the Riverfront Condo's in Ft. Lauderdale during a ULI event (picture #2). A good example of modernist architecture and I think a good building....but that's just me and my un-refined tastes The interior of the building was every bit as curve-linear as the outside. Riverfront employs valet parking for all of its owners Since the building is said to be occupied by only about 35% of the owners at any given time, it hasn't been a problem.... This is a great example of an investment building where even the small one bedrooms are nearly a cool million Apparently Dan Marino has a unit in this building....for investment purposes I'm sure or maybe just as payment for his advertising image
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    Cyburbian Hceux's avatar
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    Another defining distinction between Post-Modernism and Modernism is the origins of the design.

    Post-modernism can borrow ideas or traits from neighbouring buildings that have been around for many years and are preserved for its historical and/or architectural values. Yet at the same time, it adds a sense of twist, such as quirky combinations of colours, using post-modern colour blends (such as pale pink and pale royal blue as in the first picture posted in this thread), alluding to a historical fact that has an origin older than the new post-modern building.

    Look up the "Number One Poultry" building. It borrows many design traits from neighbouring buildings, it preserves the old Poultry Street as a pedestrian walkway, and it uses the gawdy pale pink colour tone in its facade.

    Another example is the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery in London. It again borrows many architectural details from the neighbouring buildings, such as the original National Gallery Building and the Canada House that's across the street from the Sainsbury Wing. It also employs an oddly proportion of archways, columns, and other architectural traits.

    Modernism, I believe, tends to be more original in its design, whereas ideas that are incorporated into the design are not found elsewhere.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally posted by The One
    I've toured the Riverfront Condo's in Ft. Lauderdale during a ULI event (picture #2). A good example of modernist architecture and I think a good building....but that's just me and my un-refined tastes The interior of the building was every bit as curve-linear as the outside. Riverfront employs valet parking for all of its owners Since the building is said to be occupied by only about 35% of the owners at any given time, it hasn't been a problem.... This is a great example of an investment building where even the small one bedrooms are nearly a cool million Apparently Dan Marino has a unit in this building....for investment purposes I'm sure or maybe just as payment for his advertising image
    I'm going just on an exterior shot..It might be really cool on the inside, sorry. Regardless this building could easily be construed as a PoMo building, for the same reason that Ghery and Arquitectonica are considered Post-Modern.
    It may be just semantics, but its important to distinguish "Historisist" or "Contextualist" architecture, which use vernacular or traditional architectural language to help the building fit in to its historic context, from Post-Modernism as a very broad and complex architectural movement, which can include many types and styles of buildings, not just those that look old or have traditional details.

    Look up Aldo Rossi or Venturi Scott Brown, they provided a lot of intellectual and theoretical backing to the PoMo movement.

  8. #8
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    Postmodernism seems to be the chameleon of sorts, able to change shapes and styles as a site requires while often respecting the main style of surrounding buildings. I prefer this approach over any building that is built for its own sake without regard to its surroundings.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally posted by Southernbille
    Postmodernism seems to be the chameleon of sorts, able to change shapes and styles as a site requires while often respecting the main style of surrounding buildings. I prefer this approach over any building that is built for its own sake without regard to its surroundings.
    I don't believe people are defending post modern architecture or even comparing modernist architecture and post modernist architecture . PM as we have come to know is nothing more than a style , you take a box and slap anything onto it ., make some claims to contextuality etc etc . When Venturi wrote Complexity and contradiction in Architecture he was not talking about the need for the putting false cornices and overblown capitals on buildings to make better architecture . It was a lament against the bare Corbusian international <i>style</i> . Modernism is more than a passing fad , it reminded architects that buildings are more than just what they look , buildings are living , breathing entities with people , even ordinary ones , living inside it , it reminded us that architecture should ave some intergrite , honesty ; honesty to material , structure , people . It is wrong to equate the modern moverment to 'box houses in the sixties ' and comparing medernism and PM is like comapring apples and oranges . Two different things in my opiniion . And modernist buildings need not be building for it's own sake . Is Alvar Aalto's work non contextual , does it not have a very strong continuity wiith traditon with a breath of fresh air ?

  10. #10
          bluehour's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Hceux
    Look up the "Number One Poultry" building. It borrows many design traits from neighbouring buildings, it preserves the old Poultry Street as a pedestrian walkway, and it uses the gawdy pale pink colour tone in its facade.

    Another example is the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery in London. It again borrows many architectural details from the neighbouring buildings, such as the original National Gallery Building and the Canada House that's across the street from the Sainsbury Wing. It also employs an oddly proportion of archways, columns, and other architectural traits.
    .
    These are good examples of high-quality post modern architecture, which i have to say are alot rarer than poor quality post modern structures. (I do admit a fondness for modernism).

    Then again the distinction between large public buildings and houses mean a lot.

    I think large public buildings are generally more aestetically successful at postmodernism because they have the existing streetscape to build off of; whereas post modern houses are often really post modern neighbourhoods (ie, whole developments) where the design context isn't visually apparent so the design elements seem to come from a fantasy.

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