Metaphor: an Aspect of Postmodern Architecture
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Metaphor: an Aspect of Postmodern Architecture

Metaphor can be defined as a straightforward comparison between two or more different and unrelated subjects. In linguistic discipline, metaphor could be interpreted in the context of the meaning of denotative and connotative. The denotative signify the real meaning of a context, while connotative indicates the implicit or the hidden meaning of words. Similarly, in architecture, buildings are not only playing with visual image of the form, but it play with the hidden message and meaning of it.

Postmodern architecture movement appeared in the late 1970s, and has been developed largely as a reaction to the inability of modernism and the International Style to satisfy and express human being’s cultural and traditional issues. Postmodern architecture, essentially representing a revival of period styles for all types of buildings with variety of forms. In the forefront of this movement is the prominent architect Robert Venturi. His Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, published in 1966, is a seminal book that helped in the development of postmodern architecture, as well as in criticizing the dominant principles of modern architecture.

Venturi emphasized the importance of the building in communicating a meaning to the public. Venturi explained that the physical appearance of a building could be interpreted in many ways, and each interpretation is more or less true for its moment because any work of architecture have many dimensions and layers of meaning. The Language of Postmodern Architecture’, 1977, by Charles Jencks is another instrumental book, which clarified many of the illusion of the postmodern movement. Jencks categorized the different forms of buildings into number of aspects including, Historicism, Eclecticism, Straight revivalism, Neo-Vernacular, Ad-hoc Urbanist, and Metaphor and Metaphysics, which represent the subject of this article.

Metaphor can be defined as a straightforward comparison between two or more different and unrelated subjects. In linguistic discipline, metaphor could be interpreted in the context of the meaning of denotative and connotative. The denotative signify the real meaning of a context, while connotative indicates the implicit or the hidden meaning of words. Similarly, in architecture, buildings are not only playing with visual image of the form, but it play with the hidden message and meaning of it.

The process of transformation of intangible or abstract aspects into physical or visual image is known as the process of “Metaphoric Process”. The most successful metaphoric process is probably Notre Dame du Haute - Ron champ Chapel, built by Le Corbusier in France in 1955. The architectural form of the chapel begins the idea of a ship, but the viewers could interpret it in many different ways such as a crab, a hat or a bird.

    Notre Dame du Haute - Ron champ Chapel, by Le Corbusier, France, 1955

             Supplicating hands                                                    A sailing ship

                           Bird                                                                 Hat

The Sydney Opera House, by Jorn Utzon, 1957 is another remarkable example, which expresses extraordinary popular metaphors. The building is characterized by its organic shape, and abstracted unadorned surface. In fact, this building demonstrated how architecture can add and integrate to the environment as well as extending its metaphorical architecture to future generations.

                               The Sydney Opera House, by Jorn Utzon, 1957

The form of the Sydney Opera House remained a controversial issue and it played an important role in clarifying the concept of metaphor in architecture. In fact, over the last 70 years, the figurative form of this building represented a rich source of inspiration to architects and artists worldwide. Even in the official inauguration of the Opera House by Queen Elisabeth II, the Australian students of architecture presented a caricature of the building featuring number of turtles overlooking the sea.

Caricature of the Sydney Opera House by the Australian students of architecture

Artists such as Brett Whiteley and Julie Duell were also influenced by the architectural form of the building and they expressed their artistic emotions by creating beautiful and imposing paintings. They metaphorically visualized the building as a sailing ship with birds flying around.

        The Sydney Opera House painting by Brett Whiteley (Sailing ship)

In Sydney Harbour on ‘Australia Day’ March 2007, the painter Julie Duell expressed her artistic feeling towards the striking form of the Opera House by sketching a draft pencil drawing, which was later developed into oil paintings called “Opera House Dreaming”. The original pencil sketch showed a metaphorical harmonious relationship between the sailing boats, birds and the Opera House, by using fine curves, which represented the wings of the birds swooping across similar curves in the sails of the building.

                             Pencil sketch by Julie Duell, 2007

                          Sydney Opera House by Painter Julie Duell

Not only artists, but also theatre designers were influenced by the forms of the Opera House and were able to interpret them and create artistic productions. In an exhibition of futuristic work by Edward Gordon Craig (1872-1966), an English modernist theater practitioner, there were number of selected distinctive designs including the Dame Edna's Hat, whose design was inspired by the architecture of the Sydney Opera House.

    The Dame Edna's Sydney Opera House hat, by Edward Gordon Craig

Again, the location of the Opera House overlooking the Sydney Harbour inspired the renowned architect Renzo Piano to design the new Aurora Place Office Tower, about 800 meters from the Opera House. The curved and twisted shape of east façade is aimed to correspond spatially with Opera House. This building featured fins and sails extending metaphorically, at the top of the high building. It is made of reinforced concrete shell segments, which resemble wind-stretched sails.

Aurora Place and Macquarie Apartments by Renzo Piano, Sydney, 2000

Aurora Place and Macquarie Apartments by Renzo Piano, Sydney, 2000

Another expressive example to metaphor in architecture is the Milwaukee Art Museum, Wisconsin, designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. This sculptural building featured a cathedral-like space, a vaulted glass ceiling, a moveable sunscreen with a wingspan that unfolds and folds twice daily. The museum is rich with metaphors and was interpreted as “ships and birds” that move up and down in the lakefront site.

             The Milwaukee Art Museum, by Santiago Calatrava, Wisconsin,1975.

          The Milwaukee Art Museum, by Santiago Calatrava, Wisconsin,1975.

Another impressive piece of architecture is the Bahia temple at New Delhi, built by Fariborz Sahbathe in 1986. The structure of the building is made of reinforced concrete shells, which metaphorically could be perceived as the petals of a flower.

                                                    Lotus Flower

          Baha’i Lotus Temple, built by Fariborz Sahba in New Delhi, India, 1986

Bird’s eye view, Baha’i Lotus Temple, built by Fariborz Sahba in New Delhi, India, 1986

Sources:

1. http://transmaterialasia.wordpress.com/2006/11/01/hadids-metaphors-reading-her-biography-from-the-way-of-thinking/

2. http://www.arcspace.com/kk_ann/news_from_denmark/

3. http://www.smh.com.au/news/arts/big-blowzy-worth-megabucks/2007/02/14/1171405297605.html

4. http://artintegrity.wordpress.com/2008/06/22/29-opera-house-dreaming-original-painting-approach/

5. http://davidnice.blogspot.com/2010_09_01_archive.html

6. http://www.sydneyarchitecture.com/cbd/cbd4-009.htm

7. http://wideworldofgeometry.pbworks.com/w/page/14141605/Marissa-Hoffman

8. http://dummidumbwit.wordpress.com/2010/04/09/bahai-lotus-temple-new-delhi-india/

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Comments (22)

Very intriguing concept, and a remarkable presentation.

This is brilliant work.

Thank you James and Martin for your kind comments

Terrific work, really enjoyed reading it. votes it up as well

Thanks Gazu for your comment and I am happy that you liked it

Ranked #1 in Architecture

Expert analysis of this aspect of postmodernism. Like your article on Deconstructivism, it explains the link with linguistics.

Thank you Michael for your appreciated comment

all I can say is WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!...Remarkable work and descriptions as how it relates on both a physical, metaphysical, and emotional level that is unique to every person who views these structures...great job...voted up

It's amazing how one architectural idea can reverberate through the years and through architects. Great job!

fascinating thank you

Wonderful examples, Sydney Opera House is one of my favourite buildings and the Lotus Temple in New Delhi looks simply amazing!

Thanks Ann for the comment and yes Sydney Opera House will maintain its remarkable position for, I expect, a long time and the Lotus Temple in New Delhi is a promising project whose design is going to play a role in inspiring future generation.

Another wonderfully written and presented article - thanks. I love the diagrams underneath some of the pictures too, made it all clearer for me.

Another fantastic article about an intriguing subject.

Thanks Melissa for your appreciated comment

Great article, I shall look at architectural design in a different way now and give it more thought

Thanks Bridget for your appreciated comment and for your interest in architectural theories and design

I really like this topic. I had not thought of architecture as metaphors, well done. I buzzed up up too.

Thanks Christ for your insights.

Architecture: The Making of Metaphors

Author: Barie Fez-Barringten

Date Of Publication: Feb 2012 Isbn13: 978-1-4438-3517-6 Isbn: 1-4438-3517-X                    The author’s writings are based on his lecture series presented in 1968 at Yale University called “Architecture: The Making of Metaphors” which was then published in part in Main Currents in Modern Thought, then in many other journals including research into the works of Paul Weiss, Andrew Ortony, David Zarefsky and W. J. J. Gordon.

                       Barie Fez-Barringten is an Associate Professor at Global University in the United States. Currently, Barie is writing articles and speaking on architecture, urbanism and Saudi Arabia, and has recently published two books: Gibe and Legend. Barie is often invited to present his inspiring life story to students in public schools, colleges and universities.

                      In 2008, he was a Design Manager for Barwa City in Qatar and spent twenty years as an architect, business manager and project manager in Saudi Arabia, including teaching for five years at King Faisal University. As a Professor at KFU, he wrote over twenty monographs on metaphors and architecture which were widely published in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, England, America, Finland and Lebanon.

                      Price Uk Gbp: 39.99;  Price Us Usd: 59.99

                       Order at Amazon.com  and/or

Cambridge Scholars Publishing Ltd is registered in England. 

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Lecture:

http://globaluniversity.academia.edu/BarieFezBarringten/Books/1449761/Architecture_The_Making_Of_Metaphors 

Barie Fez-Barringten

Is the originator (founder) of “Architecture: the making of metaphors(architecture as the making of metaphors)"

First lecture at Yale University in 1967

First published in 1971 in the peer reviewed learned journal:"Main Currents in Modern Thought";

In 1970, founded New York City not-for-profit called Laboratories for Metaphoric Environments (LME) and has been widely published in many international learned journals including Springer publications, MIT, and Syracuse University.  

The book “Architecture: the making of metaphors" has been published in February 2012 by Cambridge Scholars Publishing in New Castle on Tyne,UK..

http://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=2433463466927232250#editor/target=post;postID=8019660831789826939

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