The term grand narrative or in otherwords, the “metanarrative”, which when you derive the word itself, it basicallymeans a complex idea formed by the concept of a story, inside a story, thatexplains the theoretical aspects of knowledge and history. It is basically aglobal narrative theory of the ancient historic events, which completes anaspect of a proficient idea. These narratives vary from the notion of religionto the emergence of the modern era to the criticism and critiques of the perspectiveof the post-modern world.
The expression of the “GrandNarratives” 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 formof 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 seethe world In terms of a “perforation ofmicro-narratives”. 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 postmodernismera was about.
Postmodernism had this ideology of getting away from theconstraints of modernism, and to follow different paths and connect them to thelocal culture. One of the main concepts that Lyotard keeps mentioning in his book isthe “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 legitimacyof the truth.
A particular historical period that affected our belief about the ideaof the “Grand narrative” disappearing, occurred in (1966)which is when post-modernism started. It officiallystarted 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 slumbuildings into new astonishing flats, that’s also where architect “MinoruYamasaki” designed the well-known “World Trade Centre”. A key feature thatpostmodernism likes to see is the “eradication” of the thing that went before (creating an image of destroying the thingthat proceeds it). It’s the stage where the transcendenceof meta-narratives took over the micro-narratives. It’s the phase where we movefrom modernism to postmodernism, how “modernism” was mostly recognized as a style, a kind of concept of the view of theworld. Whereas in “postmodernism” it was taken in a much more deeper concern to develop architecturewithin the different cultures that we are surrounded with. The idea of irony isalso repeatedly being conveyed in postmodernism. Turning the “Slum buildings” into new upgraded” A good example is a book whichwas written by landscape designer and architectural historian, “Charles Jencks” , who was “called “The languageof Post-Modern Architecture” (1977).
In this book Charles Jencks defines postmodernism,as an emphasis on “plurality andirony”, the irony as a critical approach. The major notionthat he wanted to indicate as a designer was, if you do something ironicallyyou as a designer are putting it up for questioning, putting it up to be criticized.As Ben stringer quoted in thepostmodernist lecture, Charles Jencks was “Mr. Postmodernism”. One example of the postmodern buildings that created serious controversiesbetween architects, journalists and authors, was between (1964-1968), that was when the “Whitney Museum of Art in New York” designed by the Hungarian Architect “MarcelLajos Breuer” (1902-1981) was built.
This buildingcreated a lot of controversies as it created an extremely strong statement inthe place where it was located in, which was in the southeast corner of the 75thstreet in “Madison Avenue”, near the upper east side of Manhattans neighborhood. The reason this buildingwas easily distinguished was because of its unusual façade that kind ofsignifies a “staircase”, how it was made out of “granite stones”, where all thehouses 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 isthe “exterior upside windows”, that signified its uniqueness even more. The Whitney Museum of Art is extremely interesting because it representshow architects, in this specific period were “obsessed with symmetry”. That isbecause symmetry is often thought of as a kind of compositional approach, towhich one associates with authority (aministerial kind). The kind of “Templelike Building” that emphasizes the idea of hybridity. Anexample of that would be a “church”, where it’s very controlling and singularas a composition.
This concept definitely affected our thinking today becauseright 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 toeverything”, having no limit. This indicates that postmodernism was driven by aradical desire to change the world. Lastly, which is an extremely important book written by the famousauthor “Jane Jacobs”, called “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”in (1966).
In this book jane Jacobs was sending a message to the postmodernarchitects, stating that they should look at what’s happening to the street andhow neighborhoods work in relation to the urban form. How the buildings that theywere exploding and eliminating, actually give an idea of a collective memory tothe surrounding space. Jacobs emphasized the buildings as elements in thecities that last for centuries, to give a deep understanding of therelationship between architecture and history, not the idea of postmodernismwhich was basically to sweep away the old buildings and replace them with newinnovate ones.
Unfortunately, that aspect of throwing away the old and replacingit, is still happening until now, with architects. An example of this ismentioned in the extract “The Architectural Uncanny”. Essays in The ModernUnhomely pg. 177-186.
In the “Posturbanism” section by Anthony Vidler (1992).Where an extract is mentioned by “Albert Camus” of him explain how postmodernbuilding carry no significant meaning to the city they’re located in, how theywill be forgotten, because a new building will be built after it right away.This contradicts his perspective about the “renaissance period” where buildingswere like “monuments”, they carry a significant meaning to the city.