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Postmodern Architecture

Postmodern Architecture

Author: Ian McConnell

This lesson will examine Postmodern aesthetics in architecture.

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An overview of Postmodern architecture.

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Hello. I'd like to welcome you to this episode of Exploring Art History with Ian. My name is Ian McConnell. And today's lesson is about postmodern architecture. As you're watching the video, feel free to pause, move forward, or rewind as often as you feel is necessary. And as soon as you're ready, we can begin.

Today's objectives are listed below. By the end of the lesson today, you'll be able to identify and define today's key terms, describe the differences between modernism and postmodernism, and identify examples of postmodern architecture. Key terms, as always, are listed in yellow throughout the lesson.

The first key term is "neo-eclectic composition"-- the combination of several styles in one building. Irony-- a sarcastic humor-- and organic forms-- forms defined by its simulation of natural substance; not rigid or geometric. The big idea for today is that postmodern architecture reacts against the rigid and formal elements of modernism and is characterized by its neo-eclectic style. And the architecture that we'll look at today dates from between 1964 and 1997. And today we'll be traveling to Portland, Oregon, New Orleans, Louisiana, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, New York City, and Spain.

So postmodern architecture, in a nutshell, includes ideas of combinations of styles and aesthetics, has sculptural forms, organic forms, and irony and wit. So if you were with us in our discussion of postmodernism in a different lesson, you may recall me discussing how postmodernism often combines the old with the new and in the process, creates a style that is decidedly unique. Now one of the most characteristic qualities of postmodernism is the idea of neo-eclecticism, in which several styles are combined into one.

So we'll begin with an artist you probably have some exposure to, whether you realized it or not. Michael Graves' agreement with Target stores saw numerous household items redesigned by the famous architect, like this tea kettle. He's designed numerous buildings and has built a reputation as one of the finest architects in the world. He designed the Dolphin Resort at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. And he designed the Portland Building in Portland, Oregon.

Now one of the big problems that postmodern architects saw with modernism was in its reliance on form following function. This was seen as a severe limitation. And architects like Philip Johnson, who actually worked in minimalistic design-- he was an associate architect on the Seagram's Building by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe-- responded to this by incorporating purely aesthetic ornamentation into their designs, like in the Sony Building, with its uniquely designed roof and cathedralesque seven-story entryway.

Charles Moore was one of the pioneers in postmodern architecture, helping to define the genre by incorporating elements like ornamentation, playfulness, and wit into his designs. Now these defining characteristics can be seen in his Piazza d'Italia, which was commissioned by Italian-American community leaders of New Orleans. These characteristics show up in how he incorporates modern materials, like stainless steel, and minimalist design elements to put a modern spin on a classical form of architecture.

Now aside from Michael Graves, the postmodern architect that the average person has probably heard of before is Frank Gehry. Now his unique aesthetic is truly unlike anything you've probably seen before. His deconstructivist style can take on many forms. But many of his most famous designs feature an exterior that has this wavy, playful, organic-looking titanium skin that completely belies the belief in form following function.

So now that we've reached the end of the lesson, let's take a look at our objectives again to see if we met them. Now that you've seen the lesson, are you able to identify and define today's key terms? Can you describe the differences between modernism and postmodernism? And can you identify examples of postmodern architecture? And once again, the big idea for today is that postmodern architecture reacts against the rigid and formal elements of modernism and is characterized by its neo-eclectic style.

And that's it. Thank you very much for joining me today. I'll see you next time.

Notes on "Postmodern Architecture"

Terms to Know

A sarcastic humor.

Neo-Eclectic Composition

The combination of several styles in one building.

Organic Forms

Forms defined by its simulation of natural substance; not rigid or geometric.