What is post-modernism? Is it 21st century building contractors in the Shires of England building swathes of neo-Georgian houses, with white fibreglass columns, canopies and garage doors disguising uninspirational interiors, is it sensitive architects adding new buildingsinto 18th century squares and terraces of London, or is it fake facades disguising modern office interiors in Richmond, overlooking the river? The answer seems to be that there is no one agreed definition, despite the attempts of Charles Jencks and Terry Farrell.
So, sitting in an old Wash House in Whitechapel with the most elegant of Chippendale to modern chairs on display, a wide range of speakers – Douglas Murphy, Sir Charles Suamerez Smith, Shumi Bose, Henrietta Billings and Reza Schuster – chaired by Jonathan Clancy, explored this thorny question.
Sometimes it was about the uplifting experience that architecture can provide, for example to weary travellers to underground stations such as Southwark, which by coincidence I travel through whenever I visit my relocated office hot-desk near Tate Modern. Perhaps, at the end, it didn’t come down to post-modern gimmicks, but was about classical honesty – proportions, material and forms that expressed the architecture of the building and could therefore, as Reza Schuster explained, be developed over time. This, after all, is what great architecture is all about….