Message - After 20 Years of Postmodernism

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Posted by  Paul Malo on September 26, 2002 at 14:11:31:

Klaus Herdg published his controversial book, "The Decorated Diagram: Harvard Architecture and the Failure of the Bauhaus Legacy," in 1983. That was before some student participants in this forum were born--which seems hard for us oldtimers to believe!

I recommend this book to those students (and all who have not read it) for it's not irrelevant ancient history. To the contrary, it's surprising that twenty years have changed the situation very little.
Even then, contemplating the "diverse array" of architectural directions and the "commonly recognized confusion of meaning and purpose in architecture," Herdeg concluded that "it seems quite natural to want to find and emphasize those aspects of architecture which endure, those which most unequivocally represent human behavior and expections."

Twenty years later, however, we have not found consensus. Instead, we seem to have more, not less, fragmentation of architectural theory and practice.

Herdeg certainly does not propose returning to the "good old days" of Modernism, for the thrust of the book (as indicated by the sarcastic title) is contra the Bauhaus-Gropius-Harvard school of Modern orthodoxy. Herdeg provides a fascinating retrospective review of ferment in late Modernism, when architects like Rudoph and Johnson were introducing expressionist mannerism and neoclassical historicism into the postmodern mix.

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