Postmodernism, Poststructuralism, and Architecture 1960 to the Present

The concept of postmodernism finds its definitive articulation in architecture, even though postmodern thought far exceeds the use of the term postmodern in architectural discourse. Modern architecture—with its utopian aspirations, functional rationality, technological determinism, and aesthetic purism—is understood by postmodern thought as a primary expression of the general search for a metaphysics of certainty and universality, which rejects traditional spatial hierarchies and seeks to establish a new homogeneous and continuous space. Robert Venturi was the first architect to establish his work as explicitly dissenting from the dogma of modern movement. He and Aldo Rossi published important books in 1966 in which they announced their dissatisfaction with the modernist status quo. This course will begin by expanding out from these two practices and their progeny into the context of structuralist and poststructuralist theory that so often intersected with architectural theory and practice. A renewed interest in architecture theory accompanied the new practices; indeed, postmodern architecture was born in the academy and was developed in journals. We will follow that development with architectural projects and theoretical texts. Meanwhile, the larger currents of postmodern thought flowed through poststructuralist theories of language and the subject. Inevitably postmodern architecture also developed a global poststructuralist dimension, which we will study in detail. 

The embrace of poststructuralist theory eventually precipitated the end of historicist postmodernism, though it is arguable that postmodern thought continues to frame recent architectural production. In the second half of the seminar, we will investigate the lineage of postmodernism in architectural practice since 1990. This part of the course will be more speculative and will require intense involvement on the part of participants.

Prerequisites: BTC I and BTC III or equivalent study in architecture theory and history.

Structure: The class will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 to 11:30 am (EST). Tuesdays will be devoted to lectures, and these will be recorded and available to students immediately after. Thursday will be discussion sessions, which will be arranged at the start of the semester, taking into account different time zones, if necessary