Visual Wednesday: After Postmodernism in the “Seven Ages of Buildings” Series

Tower Reflection

What Comes After Post-Modernism?

To discuss current buildings and structures, is to consider architecture in terms of the question, “What comes after post-modernism?” Perhaps, when discussing those structures that are recently built or still in process, is to discuss the now. Comparing contemporary buildings and structures to Shakespeare’s line, “At first, the infant. Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms”, these new buildings are as fresh to the world as newborn infants. Recent and in progress buildings are in a period of architectural beginnings, and their futures are unforeseeable.

As I see it, there are two upfront limitations to talking about such fresh, infancy stage buildings. The first limitation is a lack of perspective.

Jumping into a conversation on current architecture is a good reminder that we are living in current times as well. So, there may not be an adequate perspective yet. Further, architectural discussions in art history typically hinge upon a process of distinguishing the characteristics of a movement (or style) from previous movements and noting new conventions. This could be problematic when attempting to analyze a current architectural style, because we aren’t removed from the present. Neither do we have the perspective allotted us, as we do when discussing older forms of architecture.

The second limitation is based on the trend away from labeling. Simply put, many academics and architects alike don’t care to label or name specific styles in contemporary architecture. It is problematic, so it is avoided.

Contemporary architecture discussion requires little to no labeling, at this point in time. In my experience, post-modernism is one of the last movements discussed in an art historical context. It seems the buildings of today are simply part of contemporary architecture. Surely, current buildings are contemporary architecture, but is a label necessary? I argue that it is too soon to name the current style, and that maybe labels aren’t worthwhile anyway. (I don’t think I am alone in this assertion, so perhaps I am stating more of a consensus than an argument. See this article.)

On to buildings and structures of today.

View a quick slide show of recent stunning buildings completed since 2009.

Current buildings are amalgamations of all architectural forms before them. Many architects try to incorporate newness in terms of materials, building processes, and thoughtful designs. Plus, a lot more, that is too lengthy to cover in a single post.


An interesting example of a contemporary building is the Sky City building that broke ground in China about one week ago. Set to be constructed in 10 months time, it is scheduled to be done in 2014. It will be the tallest building in the world at 838 meters, and an entire 10 stories taller than the current tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. See full details.

Adding to the complex conversation about contemporary buildings and structures, the following video highlights a number of architects’ opinions regarding the reason they chose architecture as a profession and the biggest challenge facing architecture today from MOCA tv.

While a contemporary discussion of buildings and structures has some limits concerning perspective and labeling difficulties, there is a lot we are able to consider. Surely, the place in history of today’s buildings and structures is unknowable, but there certainly are a prolific amount of buildings and structures that belong to what I will loosely call contemporary architecture.

Photo Source: 1. Absolute World in Mississauga, Ontario from Flickr 2. Sky City in China from Radio City



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