Post modernism as an architectural style evolves as a critical response to the crisis of modernism with its functional everyday architecture of the post-war era. Rooted in the theoretical debate at the end of the 1960s, post modernism experiences its practical application primarily in the 1970s and 1980s in western industrialised countries.
In opposition to modernism, post modernism regards the traditional formal canons of the past as a rich collection of stylistic elements for an architecture of memory, through which the narrative diversity of an architectural language can be achieved.
Pure functionalism is rejected by post modernism and set against Venturi’s notion of the “decorated shed”: through an arbitrarily applied façade, every simple building can take on any kind of appearance.
A collage architecture emerges, based on these theoretical principles, using diverse references, signs and symbols. In its styling, post modernism referred primarily to the antique classical architectural vocabulary, most visibly through the frequent use of colonnades, architraves and cornices.
The objective was, however, not pure imitation of historical models, but rather, individual creation utilising historical stylistic elements in an often ironic manner.
Following the 1990s, when decorative post modernism was already considered a past epoch, historicising tendencies that refer back to post modern approaches have become increasingly discernible in architecture and urban design at the beginning of the 21st century. These tendencies are particularly visible in shopping centres, commercial buildings and housing estates.
Due to their playfulness and arbitrary expression, many of these post modern buildings fail to do justice to their actual ambition of representing a theoretical reform of modernism.