A drawing by Massimo Scolari for "Presence of the Past," the Venice Architecture Biennale in 1980
Adam Nathaniel Furman A drawing by Massimo Scolari for "Presence of the Past," the Venice Architecture Biennale in 1980

To all the ink already spilled about the ongoing Postmodern revival there comes a new contribution: Revisiting Postmodernism (RIBA Publishing, 2017), by Sir Terry Farrell and Adam Nathaniel Furman. The book is less a collaboration in the traditional sense but rather constitutes two distinct perspectives on the rise—and the repercussions—of this once-reviled, now re-emergent movement.

Aldo Rossi's San Cataldo Cemetery
Terry Farrell Aldo Rossi's San Cataldo Cemetery

Farrell, who became partners with Nicholas Grimshaw in 1965 and hung his own shingle in 1980, brought a PoMo flair to London with his TV-am television studios and Charing Cross Station redevelopment. In clear-eyed prose, he authors the first half of the book, recalling his postgraduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied under Robert Venturi, FAIA, and Denise Scott Brown, Hon. FAIA; his work with Charles Jencks designing a house for Jencks’ family (exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1980); and the contributions of other architects to Postmodernism, including those of Hans Hollein and Aldo Rossi, whose San Cataldo cemetery in Modena, Italy, designed in 1971, helped reintroduce the use of color in architecture.

“For me, the essence of Postmodernism wasn’t this style, as it emerged: it was an era, a way of seeing and thinking,” Farrell writes. “It was a counter-balance to reason alone, to over-reliance on mechanisation and industrialization … It wasn’t a beginning of a new style, it was a mellowing of an old one.”

Farrell's TVam building
Terry Farrell Farrell's TVam building
TVam building
Terry Farrell TVam building

Furman, a London-based designer who teaches at Central Saint Martins and helps run the “Saturated Space” research group at the Architectural Association, offers a more academic, genre-expanding take in the book's second half. He focuses not only on the rise of Postmodernism in the U.S. but also in Italy, where the tension between the Rationalists and Classicists, as well as Gio Ponti, who edited Stile magazine, Luigi Moretti, Saverio Muratori, and Ernesto Nathan Rogers all helped challenge the established orthodoxy.

BBPR's Torre Velasca
Terry Farrell BBPR's Torre Velasca

Notably, it was Rogers and his firm BBPR who designed the Torre Velasca in Milan in 1958, which Furman describes as “a radical departure from the expectations of what constituted a timeless, progressive Modernist edifice … a Lombardian fortified belvedere that looks simultaneously ancient and of-its-place, and incomparably distinct and contemporary.”

Revisiting Postmodernism has less to say about the current revival of the movement, but with its present-at-the-creation insight and ample photography, it's a worthy primer about this enigmatic period of architecture.