80 304 Concurrent Trends: Postmodern and Deconstructive Architecture (1968 to 1988)


Passed foundation level courses (bachelor)

Course content

“A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of postmodernism”. In 1980, reporting on the First Venice Architecture Biennale, French journalist Gérard-Georges Lemaire adapted Marx and Engels’ famous formula, used as opening passages of The Communist Manifesto, in order to describe the state of affaire in European architectural culture. But what exactly had happened to architecture between the late-1960s and the late-1980s?
Postmodernist and deconstructivist architecture are often thought of as sequential trends in architecture. While postmodernist has been theorized to reach its apex with the 1980 Venice Biennale, “The Presence of the Past”; Deconstructivist Architecture marked by the 1988 “Deconstructivist Architecture” exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art New York, is often said to herald its end. Moreover the terms themselves often bely a misunderstanding, a complexity reduced to style.
This theoretical seminar will serve to replace the concepts of postmodernity/postmodernism/postmodern and deconstructive/deconstructionst/deconstructivism/deconstructivist within an historical, architectural and artistic context in which these terms developed and were often reduced to style. Looking forward and back, beyond mere built production, we will inquire how postmodernism and a deconstructive discourse has materialised in buildings, events, institutions, publications, exhibitions, furniture and object design as well as different forms of art practices, and how discourse as such, was part of the theoretical underpinnings of the time. Case studies for this seminar can include buildings, but also films, exhibitions, magazines, and so on.
Highlight of the seminar will be a study trip to London and/or Paris, to see exhibitions related to the course and which will inform the final project. In the final workshop, students will produce an original research (ideally using unexplored archives) that will result in an exhibition proposal. The result of this research will be presented in front of a jury during the final crit at the end of the workshop, in which each or several projects will be developed as an exhibition that will take the form of a printed catalogue (or any other critical forms).

Learning outcomes

This seminar pursues a double objective: first, to familiarize students with postmodernism’s multifaceted definition and to make them understand the concurrent trend occurring in architecture during the so-called post-modern period; second to give students the tools to develop a small research project that would further explore one concept within postmodernism and/or deconstructivism. Thus, upon completion of this class, the student should better understand issues at stake in architecture from the late 1960s to the late 1980s and be able to discuss critically one or more themes.

Working and learning activities

Lectures, reading assignments, writing assignments, class discussions, film screenings and invited guest lectures. Each morning session will include a small lecture or presentation as well as reading and discussing key texts of postmodern architectural theory. In the afternoon, films (both documentary films and fictions) will be presented in relation to the sessions’ thematic.

Professor in charge

Postdoc Léa-Ctherine Szacka

Reading lists / teaching materials