Post-modernism vs Modernism

The term “Postmodern” begins to make sense if you understand what “Modernism” refers to. In this case, “Modernism” usually refers to Neo-Classical, Enlightenment assumptions concerning the role reason, or rationality, or scientific reasoning, play in guiding our understanding of the human condition and, in extreme cases of postmodern theory, nature itself.  Postmodernism basically challenges those basic assumptions. In 20th century both modernism and postmodernism started changing the architecture definition in many cases.

     For better understanding I chose to different projects to start by comparing a pre-modern work of architecture with a modern one.  Villa Fallet (1906-07) by Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, and the heroic, high modern and Purist (some would say, International Style) Villa Savoye (1928-31) by Le Corbusier. 

     Probably the most obvious contrast between the villas is in their forms: Villa Fallet is traditional and highly ornamented whereas Villa Savoye is abstract and stripped of decoration. But the next most striking difference is between the range and nature of materials. Typical of its time, Villa Fallet displays a broad palette of materials outside and in, many of them ‘natural’, and these have aged gracefully. Approaching and entering the house, these are encountered sequentially, according to contemporary notions of decorum.

     Villa Fallet’s materials and forms act to differentiate. Together with an interior compartmentalized into rooms cluttered with furniture and decoration, they articulate the space through disjunction to constrain behavior in accord with contemporary custom. But Villa Savoye’s sparsely-furnished, generously-scaled spaces emphasis continuities of material and spatial flow, and a concomitant exhilarating, fluid flexibility and freedom to the activities housed.

     Villa Savoye is an antithesis, self-contained and selfish, a singular object hovering above but not engaging with its setting, its pristine forms denying and so vulnerable to weathering and time. It opens up only to the sun and sky while the horizontal slot, partly glazed and partly unglazed, both distances and intensifies the view of the horizon. The fluid interior-exterior space is bounded within the box-like perimeter that floats free above the ground to emphasis the disconnection from context and nature.

     Modernity suppressed this dimension of culture, while modern architecture attempted to break with history and its outworn rhetorical forms and motifs. Stripped of obvious historic associations, Villa Savoye’s allusions to a classical past were only there for a select few, those whom Le Corbusier referred to as having ‘eyes that see’.

     For decades now, theories and discoveries in science have been telling us this sense of separateness is a delusion, as is the sense of reality that goes with it. This will eventually sink in, though many wonder why it is taking so long, so closing another long phase in architecture development. Probably all these phases of differing longevity in architecture, or at least Western architecture, history are coming to an end more or less simultaneously. This powerfully highlights how momentous the transition is undergoing.

To focus our explorations in the most manageable and fruitful way, we need to know that the both style definitely have same advantages and disadvantages but a genius architect like Le Corbusier tried to improve the benefits to overcome the disadvantages.


1-    Etchells, F. Towards a New Architecture by Le Corbusier. Oxford, England: Architectural Press. 1997. ISBN 978-0-7506-6354-0

2-    Benton, T. The Villas of Le Corbusier. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. 1987. ISBN 0-300-03780-5

3-    Benton,T. The Villas of Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret 1920-1930. Basel; Boston: Birkhäuser, 2007

4-    http://www.fondationlecorbusier.fr/corbuweb/morpheus.aspx?sysId=13&IrisObjectId=5422&sysLanguage=en-en&itemPos=68&itemCount=78&sysParentId=64