“It is not being the first to see something new that indicates a genuinely original mind, but seeing the old, the familiar, the commonplace as if it were new.” –Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human: A Book for Free Spirits (1878)
This course aims to answer the questions, What was and What is postmodernism in architecture? Postmodernism should not be seen as a style, but rather as a condition reacting to the ahistorical, acontextual, self-referential materialism that orthodox modernism had come to represent in the post–World War II era. By pushing aside history, context, and social concerns, modernism of that period exhausted itself of its potential, and restive architects incorporated figuration and representation as they sought to make the discipline more responsive to the wide expanse of popular culture. However, postmodernism was not intended as a repudiation of modernism, but as an evolution and corrective action.
Although the writings of Frederic Jameson, Andreas Huyssen, and Jean-François Lyotard provide the theoretical underpinnings for the seminar, the course is primarily concerned with architecture (as chronicled by Charles Jencks in his 1977 book The Language of Post-Modern Architecture) and key texts by architects, such as Robert Venturi, Aldo Rossi, and James Stirling. Students will discover a number of architects who have been overlooked and deserve renewed consideration.
No meaningful scholarly investigation, however modest, can be said to be without motive. This seminar is motivated by conditions in contemporary practice, including the renewed interest in the postmodernism of the previous generation and in the return of precedent to the design process.