Taking its title from architect Robert Venturi’s thesis “Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture” (1966), Postmodern Architecture: Less is a Bore by Owen Hopkins for Phaidon presents 200 structures that “make striking use of color, ornament, bold forms, and diverse references.” The works range from a single family residence in Connecticut to a 70-story tower in Dubai, but in their differing ways all reflect and embody a Postmodern sensibility.
The photographs are supported by quotations, and it is here that Hopkins is most surprising in his selections. David Byrne, Margaret Thatcher, David Bowie, Tom Wolfe and Noam Chomsky are among the voices used to provide context and counterpoint. Not as surprising but equally insightful are commentaries by Ada Louise Huxtable, Denise Scott Brown, Michael Graves, Charles Moore, Robert Stern and Jane Jacobs.
“Some are more condemnatory than complimentary,” writes Hopkins. “Yet this is wholly fitting for a movement that revels in provocation and very often defines itself against a moribund status quo.”
Postmodernism began in the 1970s, and reached a fever pitch of eclectic non-conformity in the 1980s and 90s. In his opening essay, Hopkins presents his theory for why after nearly 40 years, Postmodernism is now enjoying a newfound popularity. “Postmodernism is about freedom of expression, of meaning, and identity,” he writes. “It’s about reveling in disorder, contingency, and complexity, about breaking down hierarchies, and about celebrating the marginal, overlooked, or oppressed.”
Postmodern History: Less is a Bore was published by Phaidon on February 26, 2020.