A Beginner’s Guide to Postmodern Architecture

Postmodern architecture came about in the middle of the 20th century as a response to modernism, which was the main architectural style at the time. Modernism was all about big, sleek buildings made of glass and steel. Postmodern architecture did things differently. Additionally, it added fun elements, took inspiration from history, and cared more about how people felt in the buildings. If you’ve ever seen a building that looks like it doesn’t fit in with the others, with quirky shapes, bright colours, or surprising curves, it could be postmodern! This blog post is here to help you understand this interesting type of architecture.

Postmodern Architecture
A Beginner’s Guide to Postmodern Architecture

A Rebellion Against the Machine

To begin with, modern architecture, with its emphasis on clean lines, functionality, and uniformity, dominated the early to mid-20th century. Think of the sleek skyscrapers and minimalist office buildings that became synonymous with urban landscapes. While modernism brought innovation and efficiency, critics argued it lacked warmth, personality, and connection to the past. Furthermore, postmodern architecture emerged as a rebellion against this perceived sterility. Moreover, postmodern architects sought to create buildings that were more engaging, playful, and reflective of the communities they served.

Key Features of Postmodern Architecture


Unlike the strict minimalism of modernism, postmodern architecture embraces a mix of styles and influences. Additionally, think of a building that might have classical arches alongside modern glass windows.


Postmodern architects don’t take themselves too seriously. Furthermore, they often incorporate playful elements like curved facades, unusual shapes, and unexpected details to create a sense of whimsy and surprise.

Historical References

Postmodern buildings sometimes reference historical architectural styles but with a modern twist. Imagine a building with gothic-inspired spires made of modern materials like steel and glass.

Focus on User Experience

Postmodern architects shifted the focus from just aesthetics to how people interact with the building. Moreover, this includes creating spaces that are user-friendly, stimulating, and cater to the needs of the community.

Examples of Postmodern Architecture

The Portland Building, Portland, Oregon (USA)

Designed by Michael Graves, this building features a colourful facade with oversized elements, drawing inspiration from classical architecture with a playful twist.

The Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, California (USA)

Designed by Frank Gehry, this building’s deconstructivist style, a branch of postmodernism, features a jumbled and fragmented exterior, creating a visually striking and unique space.

The Pompidou Center, Paris, France

Designed by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, this building has its structural elements like pipes and ducts exposed on the exterior, challenging traditional notions of what’s inside and outside a building.

The Legacy of Postmodern Architecture

Postmodern architecture’s influence can be seen in many contemporary buildings, particularly in the use of playful forms, mixed materials, and a focus on creating vibrant public spaces. While some critics argue that postmodernism lacked a central philosophy and could be visually overwhelming, it undoubtedly challenged the dominance of modernism and paved the way for a more diverse and engaging architectural landscape.

Beyond the Basics

Beyond the basics of postmodern architecture, there’s a whole world of knowledge waiting to be explored. If you’re eager to dive deeper into this fascinating architectural movement, there are plenty of resources available to help you expand your understanding. Furthermore, here are some suggestions to consider:


“Learning from Las Vegas” by Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour; “Postmodern Architecture: An Introduction” by Kenneth Frampton


“The Pruitt-Igoe Myth” (explores the rise and fall of modernist housing projects); “Urbanized” (explores the evolution of cities)


In conclusion, postmodern architecture challenged the status quo and injected a dose of fun and personality into the built environment. Additionally, its legacy continues to shape how we design, experience, and interact with buildings today. So, the next time you encounter a building that seems to break the mould, remember, that it might just be a playful example of postmodern architecture!