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Design and Postmodernism. Reading – B.A. Robert Venturi Learning from Las Vegas: the forgotten symbolism of architectural form. 1972. CCS Tutorials. 10.00am 11.00am First Year Studio This week: Groups 3 and 4 Marks correlate directly with seminar attendance.

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Reading – B.A.Robert VenturiLearning from Las Vegas: the forgotten symbolism of architectural form.1972
ccs tutorials
CCS Tutorials
  • 10.00am
  • 11.00am
  • First Year Studio
  • This week:
  • Groups 3 and 4
  • Marks correlate directly with seminar attendance

Design:Raizman, D. A history of modern design. Graphics and products since the industrial revolution. London: Laurence King Publishing Ltd; 2004, pp353-62. (See also: Chapter 14)Woodham, J. M. Twentieth Century Design. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 1997, pp183-203.

Fine Art:

Honour H, Fleming J. A World History of Art. 7th ed. London: Laurence King Publishing; Edition, 2005.

N.B. Search Index on Postmodernism and ‘Modernism and Postmodernism’.


Website:Robert Venturi biography on the Pritzkerprize website


Culture Fix: Postmodernism (videocassette).

London: BBC; 2001.

all books videos on stage 1 ccs bibliographies are on the academic reserve
All books, videos…on Stage 1 CCS Bibliographies, are on the Academic Reserve
  • Look up title in online Library Catalogue: iLink
  • Write down Shelf Number (eg 709 HON) and take this to Staff at one-stop desk on entry floor of Library
  • On receipt of book etc, make sure you check the deadline for return. Fines are expensive !
postmodernism in design
Postmodernism in Design...
  • rejects what were viewed as the Modernist dictates of the design establishment
  • built on 60s rejection of the values inherent in the Modern Movement
  • Acknowledges consumer culture; earliest manifestations in 60s and 70s Pop and Italian Radical Design
  • foregrounds the consumer and emphasises the idea of design as communication
  • stresses the importance of signs and symbols as a means of reviving communication through design
  • argues that the richness of historic and contemporary cultural tradition must be acknowledged once more
  • finds its signs and symbols in the international visual language of history but equally in vernacular design and popular culture
  • values irony and wit and often requires or assumes recognition of its quotations to achieve this – communication through a universal language
  • is indebted to mid-century semiotic theory
  • is indebted to 1970’s architectural theory
what is postmodernism
What is Postmodernism?
  • it is an academic term applied within a wide range of fields – philosophy, cultural studies, linguistics, literature, art and design history.........
  • it identifies a new phase of social and cultural development, citing as key factors; the dominance of visual and mass media; the development of digital technology and an information society; the importance of consumption and the consumer

To beginIn its simplest form postmodernism is most clearly understood in terms of its rejection of the values, forms and theories associated with Modernism or Modernity

modernism in design and architecture
Modernism in design and architecture
  • rejected the forms and values of a previous age – particularly the revival of historic styles, ornamentation and decoration
  • offered a democratic and utopian solution to the problems of mass production – good design for all
  • argued that aesthetic beauty would naturally arise out of reason and “truth” – embodied in ideas such as form follows function, truth to materials
  • evolved a simple, pure and unifying aesthetic reflected in Mies Van Der Rohe’s dictum, “less is more”
60 s and 70 s
60’s and 70’s
  • Pop and Radical Design
  • Semiotic theory
  • Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. Robert Venturi. 1966
  • Learning from Las Vegas. Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown..., 1972
  • The Language of Postmodern Architecture, 1973, Charles Jencks


Roland Barthes


1957 French

1972 English


"Every object in the world can pass from a closed, silent existence to an oral state"Barthes, R., Mythologies, New York, Hill and Wang, 1998, p.109"We shall therefore take language, discourse, speech etc., to mean any significant unit or synthesis, whether verbal or visual: a photograph will be a kind of speech for us in the same way as a newspaper article; even objects will become speech"Ibid., p.109

architectural theory

Architectural theory

Robert Venturi

Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. 1966

Learning from Las Vegas. 1972

“Blatant simplification means bland architecture. Less is a bore”Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. 1966

“Architecture can no longer afford to be intimidated by the puritanically moral language of orthodox Modern architecture. I like elements which are hybrid rather than pure, compromising rather than clean, distorted rather than straightforward, ambiguous rather than articulated, perverse as well as impersonal, boring as well as interesting, conventional rather than designed, accommodating rather than excluding, redundant rather than simple, vestigial as well as innovating, inconsistent and equivocal rather than direct and clear. I am for messy vitality over obvious unity” Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. 1966


“there are didactic images more important than the images of recreation for us to take home to New Jersey or Iowa: one is the Avis with the Venus: another Jack Benny under a classical pediment with Shell Oil beside him...These show the vitality that may be achieved by an architecture of inclusion, or, by contrast the deadness that results from too great a preoccupation with tastefulness and total designLearning from Las Vegas. 1972

  • makes extensive use of plastic laminates – formerly a metaphor for “bad taste”
  • references popular culture and vernacular design extensively
  • adopts an anti-modernist use of colour, decoration and surface design
  • makes repeated ironic reference to modernism and functionalism
  • blurs the boundaries between art and design
  • chaotic, riotous mixing of materials and forms – anti-unity, maximum creativity

“Memphis. The new Made in Italy, which draws from global culture, from real time, from computers and television by satellite. Thus, Sottsass and his associates have shown us the way out of the cul-de-sac of the Bauhaus”

culture fix postmodernism videocassette bbc 2001

Culture Fix: Postmodernism.(videocassette) BBC. 2001

Video to be placed on Academic Reserve