Modernist and Postmodernist Interior study


Modernist interior design emphasizes function and tries to provide for specific needs instead of imitating nature. The beginnings of modernism may be attributed to the works of Berthold Luberkin (1901-1990). He was a Russian architect who lived in London and founded a group known as Tecton Architects who applied scientific and analytic methodologies in designing. They created stark buildings that seemed to go against the force of gravity and ran counter to expectations. Postmodern architecture came after the modernist design; it combines new ideas with traditional forms.  Postmodernist buildings may seem to surprise, startle, or sometimes amuse. Familiar shapes and details are applied in unexpected manners, and buildings may include symbols to delight the viewers or just to make a statement.

Modernism is a thought, practice, or character that describes the modernist movement in the arts, with cultural tendencies rooted in cultural movements, in the late 19th to early 20th centuries, Kate (1996). Modernism is related to the development of the modern industrial society together with the development of cities, including the First World War which was among the principal factors that shaped modernism. Postmodernism describes a range of ideologies and conceptual frameworks that are in opposition to those of modernity and its notions rooted in knowledge and science.

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Postmodernism architecture started as an international style around the 1950s, and started being a movement in the late 1970s to the current time. Postmodernism is heralded by wit, ornament, and reference in contrast to modernism international style. Most modernist functional, formalized shapes and spaces are replaced , but diverse aesthetics such as collision of styles, forms adopted for its own sake, and ways of viewing styles and space abound. It also rediscovered the expressive and value symbolic values that had been left by the modern style.

Example of a Modernist Interior and a Postmodernist Interior

The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University is a Modernist building by I.M. Pei, and the Vanna Venturi House is a postmodern house in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania designed by Robert Venturi.

The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University

The Johnson Museum of Art is characterized by a fifth floor that has cantilevers over the open aired sculpture garden. This design was deliberate so that it would not block the view of Cayuga Lake. The building offers a panoramic view of the Cayuga Lake both from its north and west sides, and houses a room for meetings on its sixth floor. The building was put up in a unique location where it encountered many architectural challenges such as limited building space, as well as it could not be allowed to overwhelm the panoramic view of the Cayuga Lake and the Arts Quad that is neighbouring it. The museum sits on top of the knoll, which the design sought to provide a visual termination of the north end of the library slope. The general design came out as a narrow tower, and a bridge, which many people and critics have said, is similar to a big sewing machine. An underground Asian Art gallery was in the original plan but was later shelved out; this could have included windows that breach the southern face of Fall Creek Gorge. The American Institute of Architects awarded the building Honour award in 1975, and its design appeared in the cover of Scientific American.

The architectural design had the desire to have a dramatic statement, and at the same time maintaining panorama of scenic views, clear, open spaces, and windows to be beautifully contrasting the heaviness and boldness of forms of concrete that had a rectangular shape. The building amounts to 61000 square feet consisting of nine floors that are stacked above the ground, which houses the exhibit spaces. There is an underground floor for additional galleries and meeting points. The surrounding landscapes and views were preserved by stacking the program, as opposed to spreading it out over the lot. Long horizontal bands of windows punctuate the massive concrete structure that runs along the upper floors. This purposefully enhances the spaces of the gallery, complementing the artworks displayed, as well as giving a bright and airy exhibition space. The lobby features skylights which are framed in bronze-toned aluminum.

There are cantilevered spaces that are found throughout the building projected by means of horizontal beams, these cantilevered spaces turn out as balconies that provide own sense of light and movement, which opens to views of the floors that are above it or below it. The most prominent cantilever is on the fifth floor and stretches over to the release sculptured garden. The walls give a continuous surface with flowing lines made by the stairs and bridges to connect program over the lobby; this culminates into a master area that is distinguishable from the circular staircase. The building is primarily made out of concrete that have a colour and texture which blends well with the old masonry buildings surrounding it.  Local materials were used to produce a beautiful mix of architectural concrete that only tends to suit the building and its surrounding location.

Vanna Venturi House in Philadelphia

The Vanna Venturi House is one of the first post modern architecture works located in neighbourhoods of Chestnut Hill in Philadelphia. It was designed by Robert Venturi between 1962 and 1964. It won the prestigious Twenty Five Year Award in 1989 from the American Institute of architects, and two years later it was awarded the Pritzker architecture Price for producing consistent and significant contributions to humanity by means of art of architecture. Robert Venturi built this house for his mother, with his postmodern style shocking the world, and generally changed how people think of architecture.

The design appears deceptively simple with a light wood frame divided by a chimney. It has a sense of symmetry that is somewhat distorted, having the facade that is balanced with five windows on either side. The arrangement of the windows is not symmetrical making a viewer be startled and momentarily disoriented.  The stairway and chimney seems to compete for the centre space inside the house which unexpectedly divides to fit on each other. The house incorporates many references to historic architecture such as the Michaelangelo’s Porta Pia in Rome, the Nymphaeum at Palladio, Alessandro Vittoria’s Villa Barbaro at Maer, and Luigi Moretti’s apartment house in Rome, Collin (2006)

Consistency in architecture was highly disregarded in the design of the house; Venturi was testing his beliefs on complexity and contradiction in architecture. The house has a symbolic imagery of shelter through its exterior together with the wide and symmetrical gable that looks like a classical pediment. The main entrance is at the centre, with the unsymmetrical windows based on the function of the interior. A modernist ribbon window exists for the kitchen, and square windows serve the bedroom and bathroom from both sides of the faced. The interior part is centred on the fireplace, the hearth of the house, giving unusual twists to this generic building. The plan of the house only had five function rooms with the fire place sitting close by a stair that complements to the core of the house. The stair is solid with the vertical elements concocting in shape making room for the other.

The central living room is to be found in the first floor, and the second floor has a bedroom, storage space, and a terrace. There is a nowhere stair on the second floor that blends with the core space, and rises up awkwardly providing a very useless function on one level because of its steep slope. The other level works as a ladder to enable the cleaning of the high window which is in the second level.

More contradiction and complexity is created by the experimented scale inside the house such as the fireplace being very big, and the mantel is so tall as compared to the size of the room. Doors are made wide with low heights that provide a contrast to the grandness available at the entrance. Behind the house, there is an over sized lunette window. The circulation space inside the house is very minimal having very large distinct rooms with minimum subdivisions between them. Rowland (1999) asserts that the exterior seems like a layering system that manifests the idea of smaller scale from the bedroom on the other side of the house. The glass wall on the east side is recessed so that to form a covered yard screened by the back wall.

Modernist Verses Post modernist Architecture

Some of the important trends in modernist architecture are the inclination towards the minimalist or reductivist designs. The main feature being: buildings are comprised of only the most essential elements, with the emphasis placed on the outline, frame, or structure. The interior walls are eliminated with open floor plans. Lighting is used to dramatize lines and planes, and the downbeat places in the region of the structure are a component of the general design. Minimalists’ modern architect Ludwig Mies Van Rohe paved the way for minimalists with the slogan that less is more. They drew their inspiration from the elegance and simplicity of the traditional Japanese architecture. They also drew their inspiration from valuing simplicity and abstraction by using only straight lines and rectangular shapes.

However, the postmodernists like Robert Venturi’s designs were steeped in popular symbolism, they applied art in designs that exaggerated or stylized cultural icons. They rejected the simplicity of the modernists’ architects by claiming that less is a bore. The designs were moulded   to fit the shape of the location it occupied, such as a street corner, a bank which resembles a 1950 gas station, or a hamburger restaurant.


A modern style design and the decor were mainly created by the modernism movement in the late 1800s by German Bauhaus schools and the Scandinavian designs which laid much emphasis on simplicity and function. During the 1980s, the post modern movement in art and architecture started to come up and established its position by conceptual and intermedia formats. Postmodernism is a critique to modernism which is an encompassing variety of cultural movements. Postmodernism is a centralized movement that named itself. Whatever was modernist was not necessarily postmodern.










Rowland D & Howe T. (1999): Vitruvius. Ten Books on Architecture. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

Nunzia  R. (1981). Architecture and Social Change .Heresies II, Vol. 3, No. 3, New York, Neresies Collective Inc

Colin D. (2006). Key houses of the twentieth century: plans, sections and elevations. Laurence King Publishing. pp. 240.

Kate  N,.(1996). Theorizing A New Agenda for Architecture: An Anthology of Architectural Theory 1965-1995. New York: Princeton Architectural Press. p. 294.

George E. (2000). William L. Price, Arts and Crafts to Modern Design. Princeton Architectural Press. pp. 362.

 Izenour S. & Brown D. (1977).Learning from Las Vegas, MIT Press, Cambridge MA.



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