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Britain’s most iconic postmodern buildings are a riot of colour and anti-function

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Terry Farrell Partnership: TV-am studios, Hawley Crescent, Camden, London, 1981–3
Image © Richard Bryant / Arcaid Images / Alamy

Postmodernist architecture will always be a divisive genre, which is precisely what makes those who love it, love it more. Beginning in the late 1970s as a reaction to modernist principles of form follows function, postmodernism in buildings manifested as a riot of tropical colours and the fusing of contemporary and classical decoration. Geraint Franklin and Elain Harwood, authors of new book Post-modern Buildings in Britain, call the eclectic results, at their best “individual and adventurous”.

“By the 1970s there was a widespread sense of a crisis in modernism,” the authors state in the book’s introduction. “The high-tech of Richard Rogers and Norman Foster, new materials such as plastics and principles of sustainable architecture all offered a way out. The decade also witnessed a revived use of brick that led to explorations into neo-vernacular, Arts and Crafts traditions, classicism and conservation.”

Postmodernism is defined, they say, by its “unexpected exaggerations and distortions of conventional proportions”. As promised, the book’s imagery shows the variety of postmodernism’s output and its ethos for “more is more”. It celebrates key architects of the time, such as Terry Farrell, James Stirling, CZWG and John Outram, and picks out examples of the style across housing, civic and commercial architecture, from icons such as the TV-am studios and No. 1 Poultry to lesser known structures, showing how tropes of the genre can be spotted in more places that you’d think.

Post-modern Buildings in Britain by Geraint Franklin and Elain Harwood is published by Pavilion in conjunction with the Twentieth Century Society.

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Charles Jencks and Maggie Keswick: Garden of Cosmic Speculation; Portrack, Dumfries, 1988
Image © gardenpics / Alamy

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John Outram Associates: Judge Business School, Trumpington Street, Cambridge
Designed 1991–2, built 1993–5
Image © Pat Payne / Historic England

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James Stirling, Michael Wilford & Associates: Neue Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, Germany, 1979–83
Image © Richard Bryant / Arcaid

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CZWG: China Wharf, 29 Mill Street, Tower Bridge, Southwark, London
Designed 1982–3, built 1986–8
Image © CZWG (photographer Jo Reid and John Peck)

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Edward Cullinan Architects: Roofscape of RMC House, 1988–9
Image © Martin Charles / RIBA Collections

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Terry Farrell Partnership: TV-am studios, Hawley Crescent, Camden, London, 1981–3
Image © Richard Bryant / Arcaid Images / Alamy

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