Sunday, November 25, 2007


As we all know post modernism is design that rearticulates a distinct historical style. In Post Modernism classical forms are exaggerated or over simplified. Post modernism thrived during the 80's. Architects and designers like Graves and Venturi were (and still are) legendary for their perspectives. Still I wonder, what does it mean to be a post modernist? Does being a post modernist mean that you have honor for the past or that you laugh at the past? Look at Venture’s Chippendale chair. Is this reverence or is it mockery? And are the shadows of historical forms comforting when portrayed in this whimsical fashion or are they alarming?

6 comments:

NBUSHdesign said...

To be a post modernist is to be an artist that is creating new art, in the form of many designs, architecture, interiors, and products, by which the artist has not been given the classification of a “style.” Simply because a “style” has yet to be created fully by a wide range of following artists creating similar works of art, along with the fact that it has not been named yet. I think that post modernism is a vague term that represents very little in design and will not come to be held as a particular design style or movement. Rather, it will be divided into other styles as time progresses and designs shift as they always have.

Do I think that “post modernist” have reverence for or mock the past? I think that it is based on the individual artist or designer. I was discussing with someone recently that the music industry is a highly evolving arena that shifts faster than design. And that the mash-ups and mixes made from others songs are viewed by me as a new separate piece of art that is created by the help of other art, but becomes a new form in its self, not a purposed better form of the original. I believe the same is true in design. People who find inspiration from previously created work, and then design their own pieces are artist creating a new. They are taking a cumulative inspiration and repurposing it into something new. This is rarely mockery, and often ingenious, efficient, and aesthetic design.

Venture’s Chippendale chair could be seen by some as mockery of the past. What I see, is that whimsy is being misinterpreted. Whimsical design is essential to uplifting the world and providing fun in an otherwise strict society. This artist took the overly ornate inspirational pattern of the Victorian chair and turned it into a functional, economical design. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. I myself find the shadow of the original form to be alarming because of it’s ill-purpose, for what it represented (wealth), and wastefulness.

jessica said...

Post Modern design is like any other style and they take what was before and react to it. In this case it was to simplify the styles that had already been done. So they aren’t mocking or poking fun at pervious styles but shedding light on a new view of an old design. Design is constantly changing so designers are constantly rethinking how to bring older styles and fashions back with a modern touch. I think it was interesting seeing someone else’s interpretation on an age old classic design like the Chippendale chair. Also design has to come from somewhere and every era builds upon the last either by adding or subtracting from history. Post Modern design is about simplifying and restraining influences to develop something that seems new but every era is based on history in some shape or form.

Lauren Fleming said...

Design is a constant cycle of reused ideas. Many styles reiterate the classical themes. For example, in my opinion, the Beaux Arts movement over exageratted classical themes with elaborate detailing and a lot of classical elements in single space or structure. Whereas post modernism simplifies the already simple classical themes. I would not consider it to be mockery, but a new way to look at something old and gain a new appreciation for it.

Jenna said...

Being a post-modernist is remembering simplicity and logic while striving to seek more complex solutions to problems that are around you. It is searching for contradiction and accepting that these things help us understand how to design for people on the basis of their qualities and conditions. Although many post-modernists, such as Robert Venturi, believed that the modern movement eventually became dull, boring, and very limited, I believe they still respected it –because they borrowed from it. They sought to change certain aspects while embracing decorative ornament and references to past design. Venturi’s chair just brought something new to the table.

Unexpected elements of distortion, asymmetry, and exaggerated proportions do bring elements of whimsy. Although they might seem strange at first, I believe they are comforting because they say: break the rules, and do what you want! -This is great, so long that it is purposeful and successful in meeting the goal of the design. Like we are always saying in studio… does it follow the overall initial concept? Change for the sake of change is sometimes fun, but sometimes meaningless.

If your point in designing Post-Modern is to attract attention, I believe you got it. Pile’s textbook mentions of Graves designing offices for Disney. They were very eccentric and I’m sure some critics thought they were tasteless. However, the public was delighted by his designs. Pile suggests, “Such design is always at the border of “kitsch,” that is, design that is deliberately foolish and tasteless in an effort to reflect the human appetite for mischief.” These notions of post-modernism haven’t left. Based on how excessive, materialistic, and gaudy people are today, and I’m not sure if we will ever fully return to the logic and order reflected by the modern world. Not sure if I myself would want to… But I guess anything is possible.

Megan Funk said...

If you take the title post modernist literally you would conclude that a post modernist is anyone who comes after modernism. But this description in itself isn’t very descriptive at all, and is actually quite vague. According to the book, post modernists are “industrial designers….with the freedom to pursue directions beyond the parameters of ‘good design’” To me this says that they are designers who are able to design whatever they want and to take design out of the box that previous consumerism had forced them into. But, also, as this new design emerged so did a system of targeting youth, who were less concerned about keeping an item forever and easily bought into these whimsy, new designs.
As far as whether or not a post modernist honors or laughs at old designs, I believe that he/she doesn’t necessarily have to do either but is instead a person who is open to experiment and new interpretations. For many years it seemed that the new styles were only replicas or revivals of old styles- colonial revival, gothic revival, Egyptian revival, you name it and there has probably been a revival of it- but with this new post modern design the replicas were taken a bit further and could no longer be called just a replica but instead more of an interpretation. These designers asked questions like “what if we do this to it?” they stretched things out, flattened them, but made sure to still preserve a part of them, even if it was just a shadow of what the piece had once been. To me the fact these pieces will forever preserve a part of the old pieces makes me think that they, whether or not the designer meant to, honor the old. It gives people just one more reason to remember them.
Do I think they are comforting or alarming? Nothing about Venture’s Chippendale chair alarms me. I see it and think “wow, that looks kinda like something from Chippendale, only they would never have been made in that material, what’s going on here”. It is able to catch my attention and makes me look further into the piece. Isn’t this what designers want people to do with their products? I don’t know if I would stretch to say that I find it comforting, but I do find it pleasing. The whimsy of this interpretation makes me smile a little.

Laurel said...

I think that no matter what design style you look at, there are always influences from the past. The past shapes what we are today, in every aspect of life. It is hard to shrug off that subconscious influence of the past and come up with something that is completely new, innovative, and unprecedented. Instead, we prefer to take older designs and reinterpret them, putting our own new twist on an old classic. 'Post Modern' does not describe a style, but rather a time period in which the designs are being created - that is, any time after modernism.


For the most part, I do not think of postmodern design as a mockery of past designs, more, as nathan said, as a whimsical interpretation. There are new materials, new production methods, and new concepts about design that weren't around when the chippendale chair was invented, and Venturi took these into consideration when he made his chair.
Another prime example of this, that we saw in Chicago, was Frank Lloyd Wright's remodeling of the Rookery.
Wright's personal style was much different, but when it came time for him to reinterpret the design for the Rookery, his style changed and was more obviously influenced by previous styles.
So back to the original question, is this reverence or mockery? Ever hear the saying, 'imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?' Even though designers may seem to be mocking the past, they obviously have respect for it or they wouldn't be imitating it at all.

This blog is intended for the interior design students in the college of design at the University of Kentucky. It was created with the intent to present students with information, providing them with a channel for contemplation and discussion.