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The 1960s saw the revival of interest in the question of meaning in


This was mirrored in the self-consciousness in the use and definition

of terms with which the discipline described itself

These two issues together led to the so-called linguistic analogy:

The idea that architecture

could be understood as a form

of visual language

The questions raised by this:

To what extent does architecture have conventions, in the way
language does;
And are these conventions so widely understood that there is a social
contract in architecture, which enables the comprehension of

Peter Eisenman, Post-functionalism

Questioned the term postmodern, claiming

modernism itself never happened

Claimed the relationship between form and

function had been present since the

The quest for type, or ideal themes in form,

was balanced with programmatic

Industrialisation introduced new functions,

making existing typologies inadequate
This resulted in the form follows function
But the postmodern period is just a
continuation of the questions that started
with the Renaissance

Eisenman, House II, 1969-70

He proposes postfunctionalism:
fragmentation of
typical forms into
This would, according to
Eisenman, constitute the
actual modernist project

This is partly in tune with the

work of Robert Venturi and
Denise Scott Brown:

Like Eisenman they reject

literal representation of

But they accept that the idea

that function is still worthy of
representation, as a meaning
in architecture

If you take the signs away

there is no place - the
statement challenges
phenomenology and its
insistence on place-making

Decorated shed preferred over the Duck (Learning from Las Vegas)

Umberto Eco in Function and Sign: Semiotics in Architecture

asserted that function is the primary meaning in architecture
Which is in direct contrast with Eisenmans position
Charles Jencks and George Baird, Meaning in Architecture
Compilation of writing that uses structuralist and semiological ideas
in architecture
Jencks: semantization is inevitable
two points are relevant to my purpose: (1) that every act,
object and statement that man perceives is meaningful (even
nothing) and (2) that the frontiers of meaning are always,
momentarily, in a state of collapse and paradox. (Jencks)

Charles Jencks, The Language of Post-Modern Architecture


A wide-ranging study of the expressive content of architecture

Looks at film sets, hotel lobbies, hot-dog stands, etc., not just
Widely read (a bestseller); he announces the death of modernism

Diana Agrest and Mario Gandelsonas propose an interpretation of the link

between linguistics and architecture
The influence of Roland Barthes is evident in their work

the idea of reading the city, for example

Gandelsonas investigated this in The Urban Text

In Semiotics and Architecture Agrest and Gandelsonas distinguish between

linguistics and communication theory

1 Semotiocs/semiology: science of the different systems of linguistic signs

It deals with the nature of signs and how they behave within a system
It involves signification, or the production of meaning
This is accomplished through two components of the sign: the signifier (word)
and the signified (object)

2 Communication theory: use and effects of signs - their function and

reception - in the transmission of a message

For Agrest and Gandelsonas, semiotics offers a way of understanding the

production of meaning in architecture

In their project, this is closely related to the notion of critical theory as opposed
to ideology

Geoffrey Broadbent, A Plain Mans Guide to the Theory of Signs in Architecture

architects should understand how this

meaning is created in order to prevent accidental meanings

Modern functionalism failed to create a machine-like and meaning-free

Architecture, according to Broadbent, has an inescapable semantic dimension

Buildings carry meaning and

Robert Venturi, Vanna

Venturi House,
Philadelphia, 1962

The distinction between the semantic and the syntactic aspects of language is made
to show that architecture might work primarily in the former realm
Robert Venturi, Michael Graves, Robert Stern and Charles Moore are shown to be
postmodern architects in whose work the semantic aspect is prominent

Graves, Humana Building, Louisville, 1982

Graves, Portland Building, 1980

Unlike Agrest and Gandelsonas, Broadbent insists that ultimately the social
contract is missing in architecture (as opposed to language)

Apart from the linguistic and communication theories, Broadbent also tackles
behavioural and environmental psychology
But rather than just being read visually, architecture should be (and inevitably is)
approached with all the senses

FAT (Fashion Architecture Taste)

Blue House, Office, Apartment, London, 2004

The Villa, community

building, Hoogvliet,The
Netherlands, 2008

Refurbishement of Tanner Point, Brookes Estate, London, 2005

Islington Square - Social Housing, New Islington, Manchester 2006