An Essay : Neomodern Architecture

Oppositions : The first mentions about neomodern architecture

Neomodern or New Modern Architecture came to fruition after the Post-modernist declared the death of Modern Architecture. The term was first coined in 1977 when Peter Eisenman published “post-functionalism” within the book “Oppositions”. It’s was blatantly expressed as an act of retaliation to the post-modernism. According to Jencks, this movement was created “because they hate the Post-modernists”. Neomodern was born for the sake of the survival of modern architecture, an evolution, not a revival like neo-classicism, which expresses the bold statement that modern architecture never died before to the eye of the modernist.

Early on the evolution, many neomodern architects proceed to claim themselves as humanists to counter the accusation from the post-modernist, and for a short moment, their design takes many ideas from Post-modernist and combines it with the modern value. But then, it evolved quickly abandon that notion when deconstruction emerges with a main idea of fragmentation and chaos to form, an enticing notion to distance themselves from the Post-modernist.

De La Grammatologie : Where it all started

Deconstruction itself was first coined by Jacques Derrida in his book “De La Grammatologie” (1967). In the beginning, deconstruction is a linguistic theory that manages to dismantle Western metaphysics of language, which is based on fixed grammatology that cannot be altered. Deconstruction rejects the philosophy of presence and rejects logocentrism which means that the deconstruction always tries to find other meaning, or finding the absence from each word or sentence. Then, this movement of opposing view to the semantics is translated into architecture the same way Post-modernist translates the common language semantics itself into architecture.

According to Jencks, the main idea of Neomodern architecture (also called as the New Modernism) after the arrival of deconstruction is Post-functionalist design, which means there is no clear function of the building. The meaning embedded within the design is also being hermetically coded, thus it became obscure of meaning. As opposed to modern architecture that chasing for harmony and regularity, neomodern stray further with the idea of disharmony and creating random chaos of discontinuous design.

The main stylistic language of the neomodern architecture are the rhetorical types of spaces, explosive space, tilted floors, distortions, anamorphic, extreme abstractions, alien architecture, and frenzied cacophony. These all create a chaotic abstract architecture that is disconnected from its function as a bold statement on its post-functionalist beliefs.

Parc de la Villette by Bernard Tschumi

Parc De La Villette is one of the hailed examples of deconstruction within architecture. Designed by Bernard Tschumi in a competition that beats Derrida and Eisenman himself (which both are hailed as the father of Deconstructivism), this building provokes the first notion of deconstruction which is the denial of any coherent meaning. The chaotic structure denies any specific means to use, but instead, it’s up to the user that experienced it to determine its function. This spirit of obscurity and deconstruction carries on towards any future neomodern structure.

Neomodern as the “anti- post-modern”

From here, we can see that neomodern architecture, mainly deconstruction, felt like a “spinoff” or an off-branch of the Post-modern. It took some ideas from post-modernism which utilizes language as it is, but they injected the notion of deconstructivism and values of modern architecture to spin and twist the design as the anti-Post-modernism.

Then, how to spot whether a building is a Post-modern or a neomodern architecture works? The easiest method is to match the core values and the visual appearances embedded within the building to both design values. Neo-modernist, although similarly embraces language as architecture, has strong root differences that are visible within the building it manifests. They reject logocentrism within the language used by many post-modernists. Logocentrism is the notion of embracing symbolism as it is. Neomodern works also seek to bring the “value” from the modern architecture, which is suppressing memory, melting culture, and erasing identity. Thus, most neomodern works visually look provocative, abstract, or alien, unlike post-modern that embrace the classical past and glorifies the identity of a building.

Eisenman “House III” (Left) and Abrams House (Right) apply the same idea of nature differently.

Above are an example of the vast differences between neomodern and post-modern works with a similar notion of “nature”. Notice how the neomodern work ( House III ) is easily identified due to its chaotic and alien structure to represent the other, absent meaning of the word “nature” which is disorder, and “humanity as an intruder”. It also visibly denies any meaningful symbols or ornamentation. While the post-modernist ( the Abrams House ) works manifest nature as it is through symbolism to design by attaching sun rays ornament, curved roof representing hill, and green accents to the design.

Personal View towards Neomodern Architecture

Neomodern architecture strife to be the next evolution of the so-called “dead” modern architecture. Personally, I considered neomodern as the rogue version of Post-modernism. Bernard Tschumi himself denied that deconstruction was ever established as a movement, but instead its just a mere idea to oppose the post-modernism through the same root. Thus its clear that deconstructivism alongside neomodern architecture is a byproduct of modern architects “toying” around with post-modern ideas to make “fun” of them.

Sources :

Hoteit, A. (2015). Deconstructivism: Translation From Philosophy
to Architecture. Canadian Social Science, 11 (7), 1–13. Available
from: http://www.cscanada.net/index.php/css/article/view/7240
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3968/7240

Why Deconstructivism Marks A Paradigm Shift in Architecture. (2019, October 18). Retrieved December 17, 2020, from https://nonagon.style/why-deconstructivism-marks-a-paradigm-shift-in-architecture/

Hopkins, O. (2014). Architectural Styles: A Visual Guide. Laurence King Publishing.

Eisenman, P. (n.d.). House III 1971. Retrieved December 17, 2020, from https://eisenmanarchitects.com/House-III-1971

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