Postmodern architecture is a style or movement in the 1960s as a reaction against the lack of variety of modern architecture, formality, and austerity. The key characteristics of this style include bright colors which range from bright pastels to neon, playfulness and whimsical buildings, classical motifs, and a wide range of shapes and materials used in the building process. This movement was introduced by the architectural theorist Robert Venturi and the urban planner Denise Scott Brown. The style got its fame during the 1980s and 1990s and it was divided into multiple categories such as high-tech architecture, new classical architecture, neo-futurism, and deconstructivism.
Since the style emerged due to the lack of modern architectural styles and the shortcomings of ornament, Venturi wanted to reestablish the modern style with emphasis on the facade, subtle use of unusual materials and incorporating historical elements. It’s characterized by an eclectic mixture of modern and classic styles to create works that are far from rigid and placeless. During the economic boom in the late 1980s, a lot of countries around the world started their postmodernism movements. Japan, Australia, and some places around Europe and USA started incorporating postmodernism in their influence of contemporary architecture.
Along with the key characteristics we mentioned previously, it’s worth mentioning quite a few for a better understanding of how this movement developed and how it got its influence. You can often see sculptural forms, liberal use of classical ornaments taken from the past architectural movements and mixed in unconventional ways, use of trompe l’oeil, abstraction, incorporation of colored glass or ceramic tiles, etc.
The highest impact was noticed in Italy, France, Spain, Japan, and Australia. Although its popularity got its peak in the late 1980s, a lot of postmodern buildings are designed around the world. The style led to other styles like deconstructivism and the design methods are holding some influence even in the 21st century. One crucial thing you can note about contemporary architecture is that there is no dominant single style. Architects nowadays are inspired by modern and futuristic buildings mixed with traditional architectural styles. Some of the key figures in postmodern architecture were Aldo Rossi, James Stirling, Ricardo Bogil, Arata Isozaki, Philip Johnson, Michael Graves, Terry Farrell, and many more.
Here are some of the most notable buildings in postmodern architecture around the world.
This fire station is located in Columbus, Indiana, and is designed by Robert Venturi. It’s an early example of this style and it’s an ordinary building that can be maintained easily. The architect delivered a functional and simple building where the storage and living quarters take up equal space.
The SIS building is located in London, UK, and was designed by Terry Farrell and Partners in 1994. Nowadays is the home of the British Secret Intelligent Service. It has its influence from the 1930s and resembles similarities with the temples of the Aztec and Mayan empires. The grand opening of the building was done by Queen Elizabeth II.
Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
Guggenheim Museum is in Bilbao, Spain, and was designed by Frank Gehry in 1997. The museum is a mixture of contemporary and modern art and has proven to be a popular touristic place for critics and academics. With its bright colors and sculpture-like structure, it appears like something out of this world. A true postmodernism masterpiece.
Vana Venturi House
Vana Venturi House was designed by Robert Venturi and it was dedicated to his mother Vana. it’s the earliest example of this style and was built two years. Venturi had six versions of the design for the house and finally set on this scheme which is nowadays so famous. It is situated on a flat site and is surrounded by trees. The house has a pitched roof and a closed ground floor.
Piazza d’Italia is a public plaza in New Orleans, USA. It was designed by Charles Moore in 1978 and was originally intended for the Italian citizens in New Orleans. Something like a tribute to them since it features a bell tower set and colonnades. Its construction resembles Greek pantheons and we can see the influence from the Roman empire styles.
The Portland Building
The Portland Building is located in Portland and was designed by Michael Graves. It is considered a classical building and it was completely different and unique from the other buildings and architectural styles on the day of its first opening. Some of the important features are smaller windows, use of colors and materials, decorative items like elements or keystone accents.
The Neue Staatsgalerie
This building was an attribute to James Stirling and was designed by Michael Wilford and associates and the British firm James Stirling. It was built from 1979 to 1984 and has elements of classicism like sandstone and travertine and modernism.
M2 Building is a design by Kengo Kuma and has a variety of elements. It’s reinforced by concrete and has classical details like triglyphs, corbels, and dentils. It was completed in 1991 and was originally designed as a Matsuda car showroom. But later became a funeral home.
AT&T building was completed in 1984 and was designed by Philip Johnson. Is a postmodern masterpiece that won the hearts of many people. However, there are divided opinions in regards to its style. Johnson was awarded multiple rewards including the Bronze Medallion from the government of New York.
Swanston Square Apartment Tower
Swanston Square Apartment Tower was completed in 2014 and is located in central Melbourne. It’s a residential tower that features a portrait of an Aboriginal person.
James R. Thompson Center
James R. Thompson Center is the place where the governmental offices of Illinois are located. The design of the building was established by Helmut Jahn who was known for his futuristic designs. The main feature of the center is the atrium that hosts 17 stories and a glass exterior that gives a shape of a shell to the entire building.
Dolphin and Swan Hotels
These hotels are located at the Walt Disney Resort in Florida, USA. They were designed by Michael Graves and were intended to have animal-colored themes. This was done with the sole purpose of being recognized and becoming eye-catchy for the passengers and tourists.
A House for Essex
A House of Essex was built as a collaboration between FAT architecture and Greyson Perry. The idea was to build a work of art. Something that it would sell itself. It was completed in 2015 and the house embodies the core principles of the postmodernism movement. The most notable feature of the house is the yellow roof and the green structure. Its appearance resembles a church or a cathedral due to the windows on the roof. The internal sighting is something between modern and classical.
Inntel Hotel is located in the Netherlands and is built in the traditional Dutch style with accents of postmodernism. The townhouse is stacked and replicated to form a hotel. It’s one of the most surreal buildings in the world and a place full of culture and history. If you ever visit the Netherlands, make sure you check out this breathtaking building. The mixture of colors and stacking of what it looks like little houses on top of each other, make up a brilliant idea for an architectural design. The roofs, or lack of, contribute to the unique style and the mixture of colors complement the entire appearance.
Chung Tai Chan Temple
Chung Tai Chan Temple is a Buddhist temple in Taiwan. It was created by CY Lee in 2001 and embeds local motifs. Its grandeur and modernism feature put this place on the list of the most notable buildings for this architectural style.
Al Yaqoub Tower
Al Yaqoub Tower was designed by Adnan Saffarini in Dubai. The inspiration for the building was taken from Big Ben in London. It emulates the Elizabeth Tower in the House of Parliament in London, even though it’s without a clock. It’s a true masterpiece in modernism and this type of movement.