From Postmodern Style to Performance

  • Nick Kaye
Part of the New Directions in Theatre book series


In his account of the Strada Novissima, an exhibition of façades designed by some 30 architects and first shown in 1980 at the Venice Biennale under the title ‘The Presence of the Past’, Paolo Portoghesi describes a turning against the values and stylisations of modern architecture. Including the work of Robert Stern, Ricardo Bofill, Charles Moore, Robert Venturi, John Rauch and Denise Scott Brown, Aldo Rossi, the TAU Group, Hans Hollein and Portoghesi himself, among other European and American architects, the Strada Novissima marked a crystallisation of a rejection of modern design which can be traced back to the late 1960s.1 In a flat opposition to modern architecture’s valorisation of uncluttered geometrical form and its casting off of reference, symbol and the traditional grammar of architecture, Portoghesi describes a new ‘architecture of communication’ an ‘architecture of the image’,2 characterised by ironic plays with conventions and styles from the past. Observing the loss of faith in the modernist tenets of ‘useful = beautiful’, ‘structural truth = aesthetic prestige’, ‘ “form follows function” … “ornament is crime,” and so on’,3 Portoghesi argues that the Strada Novissima speaks of a widespread attack on the modernist aspiration to a ‘pure language’ of form. Significantly, too, Portoghesi takes such ‘postmodern’ design to be more than an ‘overcoming’ of modernist stylisations, more than ‘a simple change of direction’, but ‘a refusal, a rupture, a renouncemere’4 of the fundamental assumptions legitimating the modernist rejection of the past.


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© Nick Kaye 1994

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  • Nick Kaye

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