“Thinking about architecture and cities can involve subjects as diverse as construction methods or aesthetics, economics of production or building patronage, personal politics of architects or the fine arts, and land policy or the experience of city streets.” “In practice, no account of architecture can realistically hope to include everything of value, and in any case the aim surely cannot be to recreate on paper all that has gone before.”
Three Approaches in Studying Architecture
Historical Such works conduct a long journey through history, presenting what the author considers to be the most significant works from each period in one long narrative. Tends to establish an immutable canon of important buildings that are considered monuments of civilization. Common and non-Western structures are either accidentally or deliberately ignored. Canons have overpowering authority that is difficult to change once criticisms on it stop.
Purposeful Achieves its totality not by wide-ranging historical references but by an explicit process of prescription and proscriptrion. Intended to justify an author’s opinion. Shows not a canonic set of buildings but a very particular way of motivating into active agreement with the author.
Theorized A critical framework, developed largely at a theoretical level, sued to understand the world in general. All things can be understood as an emanation of global condition
Some Notable Theorists and their Fields Manuel Castells and Henri Lafebvre – Urban Sociology. Jacques Derrida – Philosophy David Harvey and Edward Soja – Urban Geography Michael Foucault – Historical Theory Jean Baudrillard and Fredric Jameson – Cultural Theory
Fredric Jameson’s Postmodernism “A concept which he derives from the marxist economist Ernst Mandel: As capitalism exploits nuclear power and other highly sophisticated technologies from the 1940’s onward, capital encroaches into previously uncommodified areas.” Nothing is left unconsidered or untouched, be they far-flung regions of the world or intimate territories of the individual’s mind and body.
Five Key Characteristics of Postmodernism
Commodification of Aesthetics - Refers to the ways the production of art has become absorbed into the production of commodities in general.
Images are produced not for their use but for their economic value, and are brought and sold like goods. “Tibetan mastiff” sold for an amazing 10 million Yuan which is about 1.5 million US Dollars $1.1 million for a near-mint copy
One can see this in the appropriation of modernist architecture for corporate offices and in the stylistic pastiche. Bank of America, Houston, Texas Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur
Depthlessness - Responds to the stark physical conditions and attentuated emotions of real life, while postmodernist art treats its subjects as images, using a flat or “depthless” style to convey the impression that the world is just images and commodities devoid of social meaning..
It is seen in the flat curtain wall facades of city centre skyscrapers which reveal nothing about the rooms or activities of those working inside. International Business Centre, Moscow, Russia Bank of China Tower, Shanghai
Reduction in Historicity - Fully described, it is a weakening of historical traditions in favor of parody and pastiche..
These are stylistic references which recall the appearance of the past without engaging in its real conditions or meanings. Disneyland Castle, Anaheim, California Casa Batillo, Spain
Architectural historicism: the random cannibalization of all the styles of the past, the play of random stylistic allusion. Eldon Square , Newcastle, United Kingdom Philippines
Intensities - Refers to how we perceive and experience postmodernism.
This emotional ground tone is the terror and awe we feel when confronted with something outside of our known and controllable society, and is also our incapacity to represent it. Atlantis Hotel, Dubai
Technology - Also known as the “Machine Age,” wherein it is an explosion of nuclear power and esoteric sciences in the late twentieth century.
The new technology offers little scope for representation: computers, televisions and satellites are machines of reproduction and communication, not production, and demand a response based on intellect rather than emotions.
Postmodernism in Architecture
Bonaventure Hotel, Los AngelesJohn Portman Creates a distinct alternative to the city rather than contribution to it. Provides internally a fairground of commodity consumption where visitors choose from a bewildering variety of boutiques and restaurants. Popular with the local residents.
Our Common Sense of Direction
EDSA Shanri La Mall
Trinoma Mall, Quezon City
Architecture transcends the ability of the individual human body to locate itself in space, to organize with one’s senses the immediate surroundings, and to cognitively map the external world.
The problem with cognitive mapping in postmodern establishments Most do not have the intellectual and perceptual apparatus by which to achieve this understanding as we are dominated by the spaces of modernism, and educated by the spatial perceptions that go with them. We are unable to understand or locate ourselves in the spaces around us.
The Value of Theorization
The value of architecture is to demonstrate some of the material and experiential characteristics of postmodernism, and to do so in a particularly direct and spatialized manner.
These allow us to look outside of what appear to be the most immediate issues, to communicate with those engaged in other fields, and to do so in an overtly critical manner.
Report on any location in Metro Manila that can be identified with the essay, “Philippine Visual Urban Culture.” Report on any two (2) establishments or structures that can be identified as postmodern. Report will be on Friday next week.