The term grand narrative or in other
words, the “metanarrative”, which when you derive the word itself, it basically
means a complex idea formed by the concept of a story, inside a story, that
explains the theoretical aspects of knowledge and history. It is basically a
global narrative theory of the ancient historic events, which completes an
aspect of a proficient idea. These narratives vary from the notion of religion
to the emergence of the modern era to the criticism and critiques of the perspective
of the post-modern world.
The expression of the “Grand
Narratives” was first established by the French philosopher,
“Jean- Francois Lyotard” in (1979), where he hypothesized the term
“post-modern” by looking at different scopes of views and establishing a form
of knowledge from it. In his famous, well known book “The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge”, which was also published in (1979). Lyotard argues that we need to see
the world In terms of a “perforation of
He was driven entirely by the economic logic. He was also looking at the
“rejection of the grand narratives”, because to him that’s what the postmodernism
era was about. Postmodernism had this ideology of getting away from the
constraints of modernism, and to follow different paths and connect them to the
One of the main concepts that Lyotard keeps mentioning in his book is
the “death of the grand narrative”, was how in the postindustrial society “the grand narrative is dead”.
That is because to him “The People” decide what Is needed to determine the legitimacy
of the truth.
A particular historical period that affected our belief about the idea
of the “Grand narrative” disappearing, occurred in (1966)
which is when post-modernism started. It officially
started when the” Pruitt Igoe Scheme (1954)” got blown up in St. Louis,
Missouri, on July 15,1972 at 3:32 pm. After it
was demolished by dynamite, new projects started to ascend, turning the slum
buildings into new astonishing flats, that’s also where architect “Minoru
Yamasaki” designed the well-known “World Trade Centre”. A key feature that
postmodernism likes to see is the “eradication” of the thing that went before (creating an image of destroying the thing
that proceeds it). It’s the stage where the transcendence
of meta-narratives took over the micro-narratives. It’s the phase where we move
from modernism to postmodernism, how “modernism” was mostly recognized as a style, a kind of concept of the view of the
world. Whereas in “postmodernism” it was taken in a much more deeper concern to develop architecture
within the different cultures that we are surrounded with. The idea of irony is
also repeatedly being conveyed in postmodernism.
Turning the “Slum buildings” into new upgraded”
A good example is a book which
was written by landscape designer and architectural historian, “Charles Jencks” , who was “called “The language
of Post-Modern Architecture” (1977). In this book Charles Jencks defines postmodernism,
as an emphasis on “plurality and
irony”, the irony as a critical approach. The major notion
that he wanted to indicate as a designer was, if you do something ironically
you as a designer are putting it up for questioning, putting it up to be criticized.
As Ben stringer quoted in the
postmodernist lecture, Charles Jencks was “Mr. Postmodernism”.
One example of the postmodern buildings that created serious controversies
between architects, journalists and authors, was between (1964-1968), that was when the “Whitney Museum of Art in New York” designed by the Hungarian Architect “Marcel
Lajos Breuer” (1902-1981) was built. This building
created a lot of controversies as it created an extremely strong statement in
the place where it was located in, which was in the southeast corner of the 75th
street in “Madison Avenue”, near the upper east side of Manhattans neighborhood. The reason this building
was easily distinguished was because of its unusual façade that kind of
signifies a “staircase”, how it was made out of “granite stones”, where all the
houses surrounding the place where made out of either “limestone” or brownstone”
and of course let’s not forget the most ironic aspect of the building which is
the “exterior upside windows”, that signified its uniqueness even more.
The Whitney Museum of Art is extremely interesting because it represents
how architects, in this specific period were “obsessed with symmetry”. That is
because symmetry is often thought of as a kind of compositional approach, to
which one associates with authority (a
ministerial kind). The kind of “Temple
like Building” that emphasizes the idea of hybridity. An
example of that would be a “church”, where it’s very controlling and singular
as a composition. This concept definitely affected our thinking today because
right now, all architects think about, is the idea of making a building bigger,
with a lot of symmetry towards the façade. This idea of “saying yes to
everything”, having no limit. This indicates that postmodernism was driven by a
radical desire to change the world.
Lastly, which is an extremely important book written by the famous
author “Jane Jacobs”, called “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”
in (1966). In this book jane Jacobs was sending a message to the postmodern
architects, stating that they should look at what’s happening to the street and
how neighborhoods work in relation to the urban form. How the buildings that they
were exploding and eliminating, actually give an idea of a collective memory to
the surrounding space. Jacobs emphasized the buildings as elements in the
cities that last for centuries, to give a deep understanding of the
relationship between architecture and history, not the idea of postmodernism
which was basically to sweep away the old buildings and replace them with new
innovate ones. Unfortunately, that aspect of throwing away the old and replacing
it, is still happening until now, with architects. An example of this is
mentioned in the extract “The Architectural Uncanny”. Essays in The Modern
Unhomely pg. 177-186. In the “Posturbanism” section by Anthony Vidler (1992).
Where an extract is mentioned by “Albert Camus” of him explain how postmodern
building carry no significant meaning to the city they’re located in, how they
will be forgotten, because a new building will be built after it right away.
This contradicts his perspective about the “renaissance period” where buildings
were like “monuments”, they carry a significant meaning to the city.