20th century is the time of significant events and not less important changes in the life of mankind and in the world’s culture. Architecture at these times had also changed. It was divided into two main branches: modern and postmodern architecture. It was believed that the postmodernism style was a response or the continuation to the modernism style. But, there are lots of big differences between these two movements. For example, the duration – modernism begins at the end of the 19th century and develops in the after World War II period while postmodernism begins from the 50th years of the 20th century and continues till today
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Modernism, like postmodernism, includes in it several different movements that have their influence on almost everything: art, literature, lifestyle, architecture, etc. This movement itself intended to improve people lives. It brought lots of reforms that tend to put everything in progress, using mostly science and technology. Moreover, modernism changed not only humans’ lifestyle, but their way of thinking. Logic, science, and knowledge were the main things that were believed and trusted. But, with all these seem too rational and too dull, literature and art were highly popular and worthy ones in the modernist era. Written works were considered as the extraordinary treasure of mankind. What about architecture in modernism period then? Modernism in architecture begins before the World War II, but its popularity it gained exactly after the war, when modernism became a way of survival for previous creations in architecture; when this movement brought a sort of improvements and rehabilitation after its full destruction, when most of the people lived in misery. For a better explanation of modernism architecture, such phrase was usually used: “Form follows function.”
It is meant that constructions should be simple – without any curves or decorative ornaments. The modernists’ dream was to create family zones with blocks of houses, squares, and parks separated from official buildings, but all of them must be linked with normally constructed roads. According to Paul Greenhalgh’s works, major keys and principles of modernism were the matching of functions and progress with denial of history and moral principles. For instance, the bright example of the modernists’ dream in architecture is the architecture of France. Mostly, there are no ornaments or specific carves; we cannot say the historic importance of almost all buildings (here come denial of history in architecture); and the progressive part is that almost all buildings remind us the style of the before World War II period. But even modernists were dreaming to improve and bring their influence to family zones, the construction of them began only in 1940s. Even now, our housings are mostly the examples or the prototypes of family blocks from those times. Moreover, almost all modern constructions were quite successful, and society was in awe from modern architecture for some time. The most successful years for modernists were post-war years, when everything was fully destroyed, and the architects of those times took it as an honor to rebuild all constructions in modern style. But, there were also failures. With the new era, the era of postmodernism, came a new style in architecture with its new principles. So, some structures of modernism were destroyed. The most famous architects of the era of modernism are Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright, A. Loos etc. Even modernism in architecture and other spheres is meant as the classic style that is maybe not so beautiful or colorful, it is very useful.
Another era in world’s culture and in architecture that came after modernism and that is the absolute opposite of modernism is postmodernism. This period has begun at the 1950s and continues till now. Postmodernists wanted to leave the classical essence of modernism, but, at the same time, to improve it, make it brighter, and make it unique in a postmodernist way. So, as the result, there was appearing the combination of several different styles combined in architecture of just one building or project: irony, ornaments, and specific curves – everything that was missed in classic modern style. Postmodernists created the collage – that what the combination of several styles is. Maybe, it was too radical, for example, in literature, music, or art, but collage was meant to reflect on people, to impress, to startle them. So postmodernism, which is the complete opposite of modernism, had reversed processes: from historical denial we came to the value of historical treasures and events; from just progress in life we came to the beauty of technological progress; ornaments and curves etc.
What about postmodernists and their views on modernism architecture? Postmodernists thought that modernist architecture is too grey, depressive, and just soulless; that it was not an improvement of post-war period constructions, but just the continuation of the destruction or a sort of crisis in architecture. From all that, we can make only one conclusion: being almost quite opposite to modernism, postmodernists have their own views on how to develop architect constructions in the future. For example, lots of people remember these bright yet classic buildings of 1970s and 1980s. Postmodernism, for most architects, was like a brief of fresh air, but if being specific, it was a freedom from classical principles; it was a freedom from modernist principles. Architecture was trying to get away from rationalism with some ironical and, sometimes, unique formations. First time in architecture, the term “postmodernism” has used the historian Charles Jencks. With this term, Charles called every architect construction after 1970s. The famous Pruitt-Igoe project was the end of modernism in architecture for Charles Jencks. But from one construction to another, postmodernism became a reproduction of certain historical projects that were destroyed and demolished long time ago. Though we have postmodernism construction even now, we should admit that they really look attractive, but, in most cases, in short time, they need reconstruction. There is always an illusion of space in postmodernism architecture, but truth be told, the space in such buildings is limited. Postmodernists thought that if they would create new buildings, new projects, they would also create much better world; they thought that with new design principles, a new world would follow. New architecture did improve cities and a social life, but it was too ambitious to think that with just new designs in architecture, it is possible to change the entire universe.
In the last quarter of the 20th century, there were some sort of flashes of functionalism, but soon, they were considered to be boring. The unique feature of postmodernism at those times was using columns. These kinds of structures came back from the Roman past and directly into our future. For instance, in modernism, architects used just ordinary pipe columns without any ornament or additional details. Postmodernism was a breath of inspiration not only in architecture, but in life at all.
Despite all these differences, we should agree that, after all, postmodernism is the continuation of modernism; it is its development, its future. The main keys that differ both postmodernist and modernist architecture are:
- The use of formation and ornament. Modernist constructions were good in forms, strong, and useful, but bleak and grey and without ornament. Postmodernist construction, vice versa, was negligent in formation and inconvenient in use, but ornaments were so vivid and bright.
- The use of space. In postmodernism, it seems like there was a lot of space, like a building is huge, but in reality, it was just an illusion and the magic of postmodernism space designs. Modernists ignored the thing about space and its dividing at all. All they could think about was only the functioning of construction.
- The form and function. Modernists were successful in the formation that also was good in use. On the other hand, postmodernists could not manage to combine both these things in the right way.
Due to all these facts and to the architecture we see every day, modernist grey constructions or bright postmodernist ones, both styles are used nowadays and are quite popular. Modernism architecture cannot exist without postmodernism while the last one cannot exist without greyish and conservative modern buildings.