POST-MODERN ARCHITECTURE

   Post-Modern architecture was established in the 1970s to bring historicism and playful ornamentation to the more austere modern International style. International style was increasingly considered too intellectualized, serious, and repetitive, and thus a style that ultimately did not respond to the needs of the broader public. The leaders of this new movement were Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, who expressed these concerns in the book Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, first published in 1966. In the later Learning from Las Vegas (1972), they developed further a desire to elevate the comfortable, more popular vernacular style of architecture into the realm of serious architectural discourse. Post-Modern architects such as Philip Johnson and Aldo Rossi then developed a neo-eclectic formula for construction, which reintroduced a broad variety of historical and philosophical issues.
   Michael Graves is perhaps the best-known Post-Modern architect. Graves was initially categorized in 1972 as one of the "New York Five," and went on from his architectural firm in Princeton, New Jersey, to construct what is considered the icon of Post-Modernism, the Portland Public Service Building (Portland, Oregon, 1982). This 15-story-tall office building with a copper figure of "Portlandia" in front of it makes a series of playful references to the Beaux-Arts amalgam of historical styles used at the turn of the 19th century for large government and civic structures. It features a massive applied exterior design of two colossal fluted columns with a large trapezoidal top to cover the two "columns" like a giant classical capital. The clear ex-aggeration of these classical features gives a playful quality to the skyscraper, reducing the seemingly self-important severity that modern skyscrapers traditionally engender. Michael Graves also constructed buildings for Walt Disney World, including Orlando's 1990 Dolphin Resort, which reveals a playful mix of "high" and "low" architectural elements. Robert Stern's version of Post-Modernism is very conducive to fantasy vacationlands, and he also constructed a series of buildings for Walt Disney World.
   Charles Willard Moore also used exaggeration in his Post-Modern designs. His Piazza d'Italia, a small square built in New Orleans in 1978, exemplifies this idea. With a mix of loud, sometimes clashing colors, Moore's work provides the visitor with a fusion of such historical elements as columns, arches, and colonnades with frieze inscriptions. Sometimes Moore's constructions border on kitsch, through such nontraditional materials as large graphics and neon lights. However, at the Piazza d'Italia, the classical references to Italy very clearly depict a classical urban square located somewhere in Italy. The piazza's enclosed areas and stepped seats that flow into open areas encourage the visitor to spend time there.
   Other Post-Modern architects include the Italian Carlo Scarpa, the Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill, and the Argentine architect Cesar Pelli. Because of the more eclectic and vernacular interests of Post-Modern architects, the style continues to be viable today, in conjunction with the more recent styles of High-Tech architecture and Critical Regionalism.

Historical Dictionaries of Literature and the Arts. . 2008.

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