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Out of all the movements in architecture, the post-modernist movement could arguably be the most exciting. And on Mother’s Day, it is appropriate to mention the Vanna Venturi House, designed by the renowned architect Robert Venturi for his mother, in the 1960s. The house is now considered to be the symbol of post-modernist architecture.

At the time, the most pervasive form of architecture was modernist – a product of industrialisation, governed by rigid and structured rules such as strictly functional columns and block-shaped buildings.

Venturi was critical of these rigid rules, going so far as to mock the “less is more” modernist maxim (coined by Mies Van Der Rohe), by saying “less is a bore”. It was a rebellion he detailed in his book, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture.

The Vanna Venturi house was an attempt to defeat modernism’s idea that the scale of a house reflects its size. Venturi’s design manipulated the sight lines by guiding them along a would-be chimney and stretching the front façade of the house horizontally. What resulted was a house that looked bigger than it actually was, causing it to become known as “The biggest small building of the second half of the 20th century.”

Post-modernist architecture has also enjoyed fame in our part of the world and architects continue to experiment with the concept. For example, the 27-storey Antila Tower in Mumbai, India, considered the world’s most expensive residence, looks like a house made by Ikea with its vertical, open box design. In Pakistan too, the design for the Centaurus Towers carries elements of deconstructivist design – an idea which comes from the ‘anything goes’ attitude of post-modernism.

Evidence for the acceptance of post-modernism in the Subcontinent can also be seen in the growing number of architects working on projects such as the Rashid Latif Medical College, as well as the many new houses that carry elements of post-modernist architecture.

As a concept which stems from rebellion against what is traditional, the emergence of post-modernist architecture in the Subcontinent might be a sign of the coming times.

– Shayan Shakeel

First published in the Real Estate Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on May 13, 2012