If there ever was a time to slip away from reality for a moment to feast your eyes on buildings that are exaggerated, extravagant, eccentric, exuberantly colored, overly embellished, unabashedly hodgepodge-y, and incorporate cartoon dwarves as supporting columns, now is the time. Postmodern Architecture: Less is a Bore, released late last month by Phaidon Press, is the perfect architectural tome for hunkering down with for an extended spell at home. Compiled and written by London-based curator and architectural historian Owen Hopkins, this is a photo-driven architectural survey that’s hefty in size, exhaustive in scope, and, most important, a lot of fun. Featuring over 200 globe-spanning projects of all types and sizes, Postmodern Architecture—a more rambunctious companion piece to previous Phaidon surveys of modernism and brutalism—includes multiple works by the usual suspects: Michael Graves, Philip Johnson, Denise Scott Brown, Stanley Tigerman, Aldo Rossi, and, of course, Robert Venturi, the so-called father of postmodernism himself who coined the Mies-ribbing, anti-minimalist adage that the book borrows as its subtitle. “It’s a celebration and a global survey,” Hopkins told AN of the book. “When creating a book like this there’s always the sense that you are establishing and promoting the canon. But at the same time, there’s an opportunity to broaden the canon, by including both the familiar projects and some unexpected stuff as well.” To achieve this, Hopkins includes lesser-known practitioners of postmodern architecture; obscure and overlooked buildings; and in some cases, nonconformist structures that met the wrecking ball long ago. Also featured are works by architects who dabbled in postmodernism during the movement’s mid-1970s through late-1980s heyday but who are generally known for being more restrained in their approach. What’s more, Hopkins also included numerous examples of more contemporary postmodern architecture, as well as a sizable assortment of buildings that are playful, iconoclastic, and distinctly Dutch. Hopkins noted to AN that when curating Postmodern Architecture, he was “instinctively drawn to the classic buildings of that moment” like Arquitectonica’s Atlantis Condominium, a 1982 Miami luxury apartment tower that’s “so very redolent of that era.” A personal fan of the radically altered big-box showrooms designed by SITE for now-defunct American retailer Best Products, Hopkins was also “really interested and very eager to point out” the lesser-known work of the late, great postmodernist architect Charles Moore. “Everyone knows the Piazza d’Italia, said Hopkins referring to Moore’s cheeky, column-heavy public plaza completed in downtown New Orleans in 1978. “But there’s much more to his work, and there’s a real kind of intellectual depth to it.” Hopkins pointed out Moore’s own home in Austin, Texas, as being “just this most extraordinary composition of ideas and forms and objects.” In addition to big photos of bold buildings, Postmodern Architecture is also peppered with quotes from a range of architects, critics, and cultural figures—Andy Warhol, David Byrne, Charles Jencks, Noam Chomsky, Jane Jacobs, and Venturi to name just a few—who are either associated with postmodernism or “whose work has provided some kinds of inspiration or backdrop to the movement,” as the book’s preface explains. “These quotations provide both context or counterpoint. Some are rather more condemnatory than complimentary. Yet this is wholly fitting for a movement that revels in provocation and very often defines itself against a moribund status quo.” “Postmodernism has been tainted with the brush of being a very kind of commercial architecture, and in many ways it is,” Hopkins told AN when asked why reactions—particularly contemporary reactions—to postmodern architecture are frequently disparaging. “And therefore it has been seen, partly at the time but particularly retrospectively, as kind of the embodiment of the worst aspects of 1980s individualism—so there’s that kind of more ideologically motivated prejudice against this moment.” “Also, aesthetically, postmodern buildings, for the most part, are designed to stand out,” Hopkins continued. “They are often very bold in the forms that they employ and their colors, and in their decorative languages. And buildings that stand out do polarize opinion. At the same time, there’s lots of contextual, kind of polite postmodern architecture—but maybe not that much of it is in the book.” “Maybe there’s a groundswell of architects who don’t like postmodernism,” Hopkins added. “But I think with the public, it’s always been popular.” Below are eight projects featured in Postmodern Architecture—some quite iconic and others more under-the-radar—that run the gamut from private homes to public spaces to municipal office buildings and beyond. These are strictly North American projects, but there’s obviously a lot more where they came from.
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The holidays are quickly approaching, and AN has found the best architecture and design gifts to give (or receive) this season. Here are 16 must-have gifts for everyone on your list. The High Line Phaidon Get the inside scoop behind the inspiration and creation of New York’s notable elevated park, The High Line. This hefty tome includes 50 gatefolds and 570 illustrations. $75 Framed Benhaddou Laser Cut Paper Art Molly M Designs Dress up any office or home with this 16- by-16-inch, 3-D paper art masterpiece made of stacked laser-cut paper and framed with poplar wood. $182 Structo Table Curio Design Equipped with Bluetooth technology and both task and ambient light features, this table lamp will bring a pop of color to any office environment. $250 Mod Tablet 2 This Is Ground A handy carryall case for tablets helps you keep your tablet, phone, pens, stylus, glasses, cards, cash, notebooks, small items, open compartments, and cords organized during travel. It’s available in five colorways and also serves as a soft tablet stand. $299 Arbesser Blankets Hem These warm and snuggly throw blankets come in two patterns: Arch and Stripe. Arch is made of New Zealand wool, and Stripe is comprised of 100 percent New Zealand lambswool. Both come in four unique colorways. $120-$150 Measure Up Pendant Set Whitebeam Studio This matte and polished stainless-steel necklace features calipers, a ruler, and L square charms. $113 Brew Cafetiere and Espresso Cups Tom Dixon Coffee enthusiasts will enjoy the copper-finished, stainless-steel cafetiere and espresso cup set—the latest additionsto Tom Dixon’s Brew line of coffee products. Espresso Cups: $130; Cafetiere: $185 Camera Shoulder Bag WELCOMEPROJECTS Accessorize any outfit with this trendy twin-lens camera bag. Measuring four-and-a half inches long, four inches wide, and eight inches tall, this bag is suitable for all seasons. $760 Condiment Architecture Aldo Cibic Perfect for a table centerpiece, this nine-piece condiment set is made of bone china and features salt and pepper shakers, a vase, a toothpick holder, three ramekins, a pitcher, and a tray. $80 An Igloo On The Moon Circa Press Let your young architect explore the many wonders of building with this historic and informative read by David Jenkins. $30 Plank Scarf Sam Jacob Studio Beat the cold this winter with this warm, twotoned scarf. Wood planks inspired the pattern and the yarn fringes mimic wood splinters. $38 Grid x Line Still Room The design of this foil-stamped stationary set includes a one-inch grid and two line weights. Grid x Line is available in six eye-catching foil colors and two paper types. $5.50-$9 Park Plate Collection notNeutral The National Mall in Washington, D.C., makes it table-side debut in this collection of plates, which includes images of Lincoln Memorial, Tidal Basin, Museum Core, and Capitol Hill. Individual: $50; Set: $180 White Brass Jewelry Collection Marmol Radziner Designed by Marmol Radziner Chief Jewelry Designer Robin Cottle, this fashion-forward jewelry line includes lightweight rings, three wrist cuffs, and earrings. $125 and up Ceramic Bowls and Glasses Vipp Vipp has joined forces with Danish ceramicist Annemette Kissow to create a seven-piece, handcrafted collection consisting of a bowl, milk jug, egg ring, plate, espresso cup, coffee and teacup, and glasses. $35-$49 Livescribe Notebook Moleskine Moleskine partnered with Livescribe to create a high-tech notebook that turns handwritten notes into digital documents. The notebook works with Livescribe smartpens and the Livescribe+ app. $30
Last week at the Phaidon Bookstore in Soho, White Box held a benefit for their new sustainable art garden by organizing a panel discussion called "Sustainable Work Lab: new projects in art, architecture and urban design." Ali Hossaini moderated the discussion between landscape designer Frances Levine, architect David Turnbull, and urban designer Maria Aiolova. Hossaini yielded to Turnbull's freewheeling conversation about Socratic love, i.e. the coupling of poverty and invention. Inspired by his fresh-off-the-plane-from-Kenya presentation, the crowd indulged in the philosophical debate. Turnbull balked at biennials and instead encouraged artists "to make artifacts that are useful and have that magical quality that keep them from being thrown away." "Sustainability should be the bare minimum," concurred Aiolova. She should know. Her firm, Terreform1, held a sustainability love fest all summer long, which culminated in winning the Victor J. Papanek Social Design Award on August 17. Aiolova said that impetus for entering the Design for the Real World competition came after she and partner Mitchell Joachim were approached by Ron Labaco of the Museum of Art and Design (MAD). Though Aiolova was unaware of any financial aspect of the award, she seemed more interested in the conference to be held at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna in the fall, where Paola Antonelli will be the keynote speaker and the winning work will be exhibited. The exhibition will come to New York at MAD in the spring 2012, sponsored in part by the Austrian Culture Forum New York. There, the group will discuss "Urbaneering Brooklyn" at a symposium on social design. The model takes a look at downtown Brooklyn one hundred years in the future, a place where all necessities—food, water, and energy—are provided from within the area's boundaries. "We are projecting what the technologies are going to be to achieve the state of self reliance." For her presentation at Phaidon, Aiolova revisited the more practical aspects of some smaller scale projects, like the group's Fab Tree Hab designs, which combine a natural scaffolding made of vines with fully grown trees that are grafted to act as a support structure and columns. Aiolova acknowledged that the design may not be everyone's cup of tea, but for the client who wants to live off the grid, literally at one with nature, the Fab Tree Hab might hold the answer. What about the time it takes to grow the house? "It takes three to nine years for a good bottle of scotch," she said. Back at the studio, Terreform had just completed ONE Lab: Biodesign, a summertime boot-camp where architects, scientists, and artists met to explore design with living matter: