Londres, capitale du post-modernisme?: Transformations des modèles et des pratiques de l'architecture dans la culture britannique à la fin du XXe siècle

The advantage of the dynamism of the London architectural scene seems rather ignored by historians and theorists. Not only is London absent from the grand narrative of modernity, but it is also denied the status of avant-garde, although since the 1960s, the British capital has been one of the main testing grounds of the renewal of forms and architectural ideas. The emergence of the of notion “post-modernism” at the turn of 1970s, initiated within the London specialized publishing, confirms this central role. This theoretical notion was created by the historian Charles Jencks (whose professor was Reyner Banham, initiator of the New Brutalism with Alison and Peter Smithson) as an alternative to modernism. It has transformed the architectural scene by establishing the return of historicism, the great moral taboo of a modernity based essentially on functionalism. This theoretical revolution, however, did not occur without causing grotesque postures, fueling a debate exacerbated and soon disrupted by the controversial speech of Prince Charles, who became the spokesman of the traditionalists. The impact in the media of this “post-modern affair” has led to believe in the manifestation of a crisis of legitimacy and of reception for the work of architects, in the context of heated debates concerning the cancellations of three major architectural and urban planning competitions for the capital city – the extension of the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square, the No.1 Poultry programme in the City, the redesigning of Paternoster Square near St Paul’s Cathedral. Yet, this intense sequence of the reappraisal of modernism has not curbed the development of an innovative and a radical architecture. On the contrary, it has led to the deregulation of the modern discourse by problematizing the architect’s responsibility in the creation of the built environment and by forcing to reconsider the challenges of integrating radicalism in a located environment. In this, “post-modernism” questions the foundations and the revival of a specifically British culturalist approach, as an alternative to the progressive model that has guided the idea and the act of modernity.

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