11 Lost Relics Of Postmodernism

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Pomo summer time: as part of our series on Postmodernism, Dezeen invited architect and former Unwanted fat director Charles Holland to search at some of the movement’s most iconic projects that did not stand the test of time.


Postmodernism began with an act of demolition. In 1972, the Pruitt-Igoe housing blocks in St Louis, Missouri have been demolished following many years of problems and neglect. Architecture critic Charles Jencks hailed this event as the death of Modernism and the birth of Postmodernism, an architectural type that would embrace common taste and historic symbolism.

Given that then, Postmodernism itself has grown old and if anything at all even far more unpopular. It has suffered a lot more than its fair share of lost or demolished buildings. But these losses are usually more to do with the cycles of fashion than any innate deficiencies in the fabric of the buildings themselves.

Postmodernism is even now at the bottom of the architectural depreciation curve, in spite of latest attempts at revivification. As a type that hit its peak in the 1980s, several of its landmarks have been business and relatively disposable constructing varieties such as office blocks, stores and hotels.

What follows is a tribute to some of Postmodernism’s more essential misplaced icons, the buildings that long term generations will come to mourn even if we don’t quite realise it yet. Their demolition is all the a lot more acute for the combination of monumentality and lightness of the buildings themselves and the way that they combined an curiosity in architectural history with popular taste.

There are eleven entries due to the fact Postmodernism is not meant to be compositionally tidy – or symmetrical. And there need to often be room for loose ends…


one. Strada Novissima, Venice Biennale, 1980

Strada Novissima, Venice Biennale, 1980

Let’s start off with Postmodernism’s cultural high-water mark, the minute at which its disparate strands coalesced into a definitive architectural motion.

In 1980, Paolo Portoghesi, the director of the 1st International Architecture Exhibition in Venice, invited a amount of architects to contribute to the Strada Novissima, an set up inside the Venice Arsenale. This took the type of a “street” created up of individually designed facades by, amongst other individuals, Hans Hollein, Michael Graves, Venturi Scott Brown and Robert Stern.

The roll get in touch with also incorporated some far more unlikely names including Frank Gehry and Rem Koolhaas. Gehry’s contribution was truly 1 of the very best – a bare stud wall with the timbers organized to focus on one of the Arsenale’s windows. His installation was barely there, an nearly spectral presence that articulated a sense of fragility fully proper to its website and an architectural motion obsessed with ephemeral signifiers

The complete exhibition was dismantled, but in spite of its temporary nature it was one particular of the most significant achievements of Postmodernism.


two. Clifton Nurseries, London, Terry Farrell and Partners, 1980 – 1988

Clifton Nurseries, London, Terry Farrell and Partners, 1980 – 1988 This picture and main picture courtesy of Farrells

The very first of two buildings in this record created by Sir Terry Farrell, despite the fact that the only one particular to have an intentionally short lifespan. Clifton Nurseries was a short-term flower shop in London’s Covent Backyard.

In a minute of admirable chutzpah, Farrell placed it straight on axis with Inigo Jones’ St Paul’s. Not only that, but the new building’s facade immediately echoed the temple front of Jones’ church, albeit sliced down the middle so that only half of its implied width was inhabited. Behind this billboard front lurked a mono-pitch framework covered by a higher-tech tensile roof. A combine of solid and void Doric columns supported the portico with an Artwork Deco-type growing sun fenestration pattern.

The Covent Backyard constructing was the second that Farrell developed for Clifton Nurseries. The 1st, an equally delightful but much less naturally historicist framework with a wave-form roof (and, it has to be admitted, a broken pediment) experimented with polycarbonate and gasket construction, a especially fruitful and now largely forgotten marriage of higher-tech and historical strains of Postmodernism.


3. Tv AM, London. Terry Farrell and Partners, 1983 – 2011

TV AM, London. Terry Farrell and Partners, 1983 – 2011 Picture courtesy of Farrells

An out-and-out traditional and a tragic loss for London, Farrell’s Camden Town Television studio was probably the most 1980s developing ever made. It provided a property for the shoulder pads and massive hair of breakfast tv and epitomised the emergence of loft conversions, canal-side regeneration and what Charles Jencks dubbed “wharfism”.

Farrell turned a bunch of warehouses on the Grand Union Canal into a pop masterpiece. The street entrance featured giant 3D super-graphic letters and a keystone motif made from neon-coloured metal tubes. The interior was a blocky, neo-Egyptian landscape of pastel-coloured ziggurats and fake palm trees.

But the pièce de résistance were the giant eggcups that adorned the sawtooth roof profile (principal picture). Not only were these an amusing reference to the role of eggs in classical decoration – egg and dart motifs – and, of program, to breakfast, but legend has it that they had been glued into area by members of the Farrell staff soon after the contractors refused to counter this kind of silliness.

The creating suffered a quantity of indignities such as the filling in of the giant letters and a monochrome paint work before becoming irrevocably buried under characterless cladding. Amazingly, at the final count the eggcups are all nonetheless standing.


4. Kensington Homebase, Ian Pollard/Flaxyard, 1988 – 2014

Kensington Homebase, Ian Pollard/Flaxyard, 1988 – 2014 Image courtesy of Herbert Wright

A current reduction and a controversial one. Ian Pollard’s west London Homebase store was, based on your point of view, a heartfelt homage to James Stirling’s Staatsgalerie or a cynical and shameless rip off of the great man’s perform. As Stirling himself was an arch-pilferer, Pollard’s creation could be witnessed as an fully acceptable tribute.

Once yet again the building recycled some previously third-hand Egyptian references in the kind of hieroglyphics, deities depicted holding power resources and columns lifted straight from Karnak. It also featured a single of the most Postmodern of all Postmodern “jokes” in the kind of a draughtsman’s segment line painted on the facade in which the materials shifted from stone to render. Chuck in some of “Large Jim’s” trademark green-framed windows and the fact that the entire edifice was in the title of cheap residence makeovers and it was ample to give the total architecture profession the heebie-jeebies.

Pollard himself was a very curious character, a hippy developer and expert eccentric who subsequently retired to turn into a naked gardener. Possibly this was atonement for dressing up buildings in fake glitz for all people years.


5. Very best Superstores, Site, 1970-84 – ?

Best Superstores, SITE, 1970-84 Image courtesy of Site

In the course of the 1970s, the US-based Very best superstore chain was an unlikely patron of artwork and architecture. They commissioned a number of modern architects to design their huge-box retail shops, including Robert Stern, Venturi Scott Brown and Stanley Tigerman. By far their most extraordinary and consistent romantic relationship though was with James Wines’ groundbreaking Web site practice. Wines was a sculptor not an architect and he brought a rigorous conceptual clarity to the method of developing buildings.

The series of shops Internet site developed were audacious and witty. Each and every one was based on a single concept executed with full conviction. There was the deconstructed Inside Outside facade, the Forest Facade which appeared as a ruin out of which trees were increasing and the crumbling brick wall of the Indeterminate Facade.

Wines’ genius – and the cause that Very best liked him so a lot – was that he accepted the logic of the dumb retail box and utilized it considerably like Duchamp used the urinal – as a ready-produced whose meaning could be played with exactly since of its standard familiarity.

Sadly, as the blog website Failed Architecture has lately catalogued, rather considerably all SITE’s brilliantly unashamed 1-liners have disappeared, the merchants reverting back to the banal typologies that Wines was wittily riffing on all these years in the past.


six. Moore House, Charles Moore, 1969 – ?

Moore House, Charles Moore, 1969

Moore’s style is one of the absolute masterpieces of Postmodernism. Created although he was dean of the Yale College of Architecture, he hollowed out the interior of a timber-framed flip-of-the-century New Haven residence and turned it into a Pop Art, bachelor playpen par excellence.

3 two-storey timber structures – named Howard, Berengaria, and Ethel – were inserted into the remains of the residence. These objects have been animated by vast super-graphic cutouts and layered with acid-coloured plywood shapes. Discovered objects like promoting billboards, Tuscan columns, neon indicators and cow-skin rugs were artfully additional to make a vibrant and deliberately discordant composition.

There is a convincing situation to be created for Moore training a form of architectural psychedelia, designing sample-heavy, playful and usually hugely disorientating kinds of interior dreamscape – influenced equally by Mannerist architecture, Pop Artwork and the late 1960s counterculture. The residence itself is lost in the mists of time, subject no doubt to a great number of DIY makeovers if it nevertheless exists at all.


seven. Lieb House, Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, 1967 – 2008

Lieb House, Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, 1967 Photograph by Stephen Hill. Picture courtesy of Denise Scott Brown

Not actually gone, just moved. The Lieb Residence was designed in the late 1960s in Lengthy Seaside, New Jersey and its that means was intimately tied to that context. The layout echoed the kinds and supplies of the seaside homes in the region but with sophisticated and mannered refinements.

Clad in asbestos shingles and constructed out of a simple balloon frame, the Lieb Property was inexpensive and cheerful and represented Venturi Scott Brown at their taught and tense very best. It was total of erudite allusions which includes Palladian windows, proportional video games and scale refinements, none of which detracted from their apparent love of the rough-and-ready supply materials.

American artist Dan Graham has eloquently described the way that the Lieb House holds a mirror up to its surroundings. Threatened with demolition, it was at some point purchased and moved to Lengthy Island by yet another client of VSBA’s, resulting in the surreal spectacle of this diminutive property being floated down the East River on the back of a barge. It now resides in the backyard of a much later on property developed by the pair, thankfully preserved but also thoroughly out of location.


8. Southgate Estate, Runcorn New Town, Stirling Wilford and Partners, 1977 – 1992

Southgate Estate, Runcorn New Town, Stirling Wilford and Partners, 1977 – 1992

It is debatable as to specifically how Postmodern this function by Stirling Wilford really is. Architect and writer Douglas Murphy has coined the term Brutalamo to describe the minute when the massive sculptural forms of Brutalism began to inflect much more historicist components. I have always inclined to the view that Stirling was a Postmodernist all along, collaging historical fragments from at least Leicester onwards.

What isn’t in doubt that is that it has well and truly gone. It had an unhappy life up to that stage anyway, never ever really loved even by Stirling’s staunchest apologists. There were two distinct phases to the work, the two problematic in various methods. One was in pre-cast concrete, uncompromisingly abstract blocks that Stirling compared to Georgian squares. A second phase experimented with GRP, one particular of the architect’s favoured resources at the time. This was employed in violent shades of orange and blue and had a ribbed texture and circular windows, giving the total factor the search of a vast outside launderette.

There have been technical issues. It was unpopular with residents and the total estate was sooner or later demolished in 1992. Stirling’s buildings are always uncompromising and tough. These ones proved a provocation as well far.


9. RCA Bookshop, James Gowan, 1985 – about 3 weeks later on

RCA Bookshop, James Gowan, 1985

Stirling’s sadly lately deceased ex-companion James Gowan was usually regarded as the much more wise, restrained one particular. His solo work was generally much less spectacular but often interesting and technically flawless. The exquisite small facade he made for the Royal University of Artwork bookshop was atypically strident for him. Allegedly Gowan hammed up its sophisticated toy-town classicism to wind up the then head of the RCA’s School of Architecture. If the flamboyance wasn’t normally Gowan, the acerbity surely was.

The only acknowledged appearance in print of Gowan’s bookshop is in 1 of AD magazine’s late 1980s Pomo particular issues and tragically it has been eliminated, replaced by the anodyne white plasterboard beloved of art institutions all over the place.


ten. Snyderman Home, Michael Graves, 1972 – 2002

Snyderman House, Michael Graves, 1972 – 2002 Image courtesy of Michael Graves &amp Associates

Back in the late 1960s, Michael Graves was part of the New York five, a group of architects also such as Peter Eisenman and John Hejduk that attempted to revive the revolutionary forms of early Modernism.

The Snyderman House represented Graves at a turning point from this early perform to his later Pomo phase. Here, the pastel-painted figurative varieties that he would go on to create fully have been just starting to emerge from the constraining Modernist grid. The house was thus a single of his most intriguing functions, exploiting a real artistic tension among figuration and abstraction, modernity and tradition.

It was the biggest venture Graves had undertaken – he’d been acknowledged up to that level as the Cubist Kitchen King – and represented a release of pent-up power. It was simple to overlook the reality that someplace in all that formal frenzy was an real home. The composition teetered on the edge of legibility, the rational grid deployed to the point of irrational incoherence. There are reasonably handful of interior pictures, partly due to the fact there wasn’t much of an interior. There is even much less now, as sadly the home burnt down in 2002.


11. Lassú Chair, Alessandro Mendini, 1974

Lassú Chair, Alessandro Mendini, 1974 Picture courtesy of Atelier Mendini

In 1974, while editor of Italian design magazine Casabella, Alessandro Mendini set fire to a chair. The photograph of the resulting conflagration graced the front cover of the magazine. Mendini’s ritual destruction of his own layout can be read in various methods: as a comment on the ephemeral nature of architecture, as an example of design as media performance and as a private comment on destruction and mortality.

What’s clear is that Mendini’s act was 1 of the extremely handful of examples in design exactly where the demise of the object was intrinsic to its which means. It is a fitting way to finish this lament due to the fact Postmodernism was a movement that constantly acknowledged its very own temporality and was obsessed by ruins, fragments and stays. Regardless of its claims to recognition and a shiny commercialism, Postmodernism was in fact morbidly obsessed with the dead and (nearly) buried remains of architecture and culture. This is truly one particular of the most intriguing factors about it.

Contrary to common misconception, materiality was very essential to it. It really is just that it also acknowledged the alchemical procedure by which that materiality gains cultural which means, as properly as how that that means changes more than time. Sometimes it disappears altogether. And in disappearing, it gains an additional, maybe far more permanent variety of which means.


Charles Holland is a director and co-founder of Ordinary Architecture. Prior to setting up Ordinary Architecture he was a director of Unwanted fat, in which he was responsible for a variety of the firm’s crucial tasks such as a House for Essex, Islington Square and Thornton Heath Library. Charles is also a respected instructor, author and contributor to modern architectural culture. He is a visiting professor at Yale University, a style tutor at the Royal School of Art and practitioner in residence at the London University of Communication. He also edits the well-liked architecture weblog www.fantasticjournal.blogspot.co.uk.

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