8.1 Experimentation, Deconstruction and Sustainability

Please Read

Chapter 2: David Rifkin; Post-Modernism: Critique and Reaction in Haddad, E.G., & Rifkind, D. (2014). A Critical History of Contemporary Architecture: 1960-2010 (1st ed.). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315263953
      Dr. Allison Young, “Popular, Transient, Expendable: Print Culture and Propaganda in the 20th century,” in Smarthistory, December 16, 2021, https://smarthistory.org/reframing-art-history/print-culture-propaganda-twentieth-century/.

Postmodern Architecture (https://boisestate.pressbooks.pub/arthistory/chapter/modernism-america/)

During the 1960s, 70s, and 80s architects began to turn away from the stark lines of the International Style with a return to ornamentation. This was part of the cultural zeitgeist of the time which seemed to be a kind of general exhaustion with the forms of modernism. Francis Fukuyama’s essay The End of History, published in 1989, suggested that political systems had reached their final evolution with liberal democracies – Western culture had reached the end of history. This was echoed in Postmodern architecture by incorporating, or appropriating, styles or ornament from the past and incorporating those forms onto new buildings. The idea of appropriation also made its way into painting and sculpture with artists literally using images already created by other artists and recreating them wholly or in part. Sherrie Levine rephotographed some of the iconic work of Edward Weston: https://smarthistory.org/sherrie-levine-untitled-after-edward-weston/

The Centre Georges Pompidou is in the Beaubourg area of the 4th arrondissement of Paris, near Les Halles, rue Montorgueil and the Marais and houses much of Paris’ contemporary art.

Visit the Pompidou Center, Paris, 1971-11 here: https://vimeo.com/197148859


Designed by the architectural team of Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano, along with Gianfranco Franchini, the Centre Pompidou is more high tech than Postmodern, the Beaubourg, as it is called, does seem to be a building turned inside out with the structures that are usually hidden made the primary exterior architectural features. In that way, it participates in the Postmodern idea of “deconstruction” made popular during the 1980s by French philosopher and semiotician Jacques Derrida. Derrida analyzed texts by close readings meant to question the relationship between structure and language and ultimately the impossibility of meaning in language as he saw it. It has become an important theoretical underpinning of many disciplines including architecture, art, and critical theory.


Tall square building with many windows in a city
Philip Johnson, 550 Madison Avenue (formerly the AT&T Building), New York, 1982, Photo by David Shankbone, taken Feb. 19, 2007. CC BY-SH 3.0
In the United States, architects Philip Johnson, Frank Gehry, Michael Graves, and others also turned to ideas of Postmodernism in building. Gehry’s work at the time is arguably more playful – another aspect of Postmodern architecture – but Johnson’s skyscraper on Madison Avenue in New York was both reviled and celebrated for its appropriation of the cornice of an 18th century Chippendale cabinet on the top of the building.
Old desk with open doors revealing drawers and a flat place for writing
Chippendale desk, CC PD-US

Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown


Robert Venturi, Vanna Venturi House, 1964

Articulating his own vernacular ideas about designing architecture, Robert Venturi delivered his seminal text Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture in 1966,  and he is said to have designed the first postmodern piece of architecture in 1964 when he designed his elderly mother’s home in Philidelphia known as the Vanna Venturi House.







Explore the Vanna Venturi House by following this link https://interactive.wttw.com/tenbuildings/vanna-venturi-house


Please read: Denise Scott Brown Room at the Top? Sexism and the Star System in Architecture https://www.mascontext.com/issues/27-debate-fall-15/room-at-the-top-sexism-and-the-star-system-in-architecture/  

Frank Gehry – choose to read

Chapter 4 Deconstruction: The Project of Radical Self-Criticism in Elie G. Haddad, and David Rifkind. A Critical History of Contemporary Architecture : 1960-2010. Routledge, 2014. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315263953

“Frank Gehry: ‘Architecture and Any Art Can Transform a Person, Even Save Someone.’” La Rivista Domus Dedicata Ai Mondi Dell’Architettura, Del Design e Dell’Arte, Domusweb, 25 May 2021, https://www.domusweb.it/en/biographies/frank-owen-gehry.html?fbclid=IwAR2Nvfl6YBNckhSHDvfnbDx9DxJYBTuPMNl-fhuzb6nU0sY4h8S8HXq5Ehc.


Choose to read one

Chapter 2 Philip Tabb 1960s: An Environmental Awakening in Tabb, P.J., & Deviren, A.S. (2014). The Greening of Architecture: A Critical History and Survey of Contemporary Sustainable Architecture and Urban Design (1st ed.). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315239293

Chapter 5 Philip Tabb, Greening Architecture: The Impact of Sustainability in Elie G. Haddad, and David Rifkind. A Critical History of Contemporary Architecture : 1960-2010. Routledge, 2014. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315263953

Sria Chatterjee, “The Arts, Environmental Justice, and the Ecological Crisis”, British Art Studies, Issue 18, https://doi.org/10.17658/issn.2058-5462/issue-18/conversation




Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Origins of Contemporary Art, Design, and Interiors Copyright © by Jennifer Lorraine Fraser is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book