Less Is A Bore claims the American architect Robert Venturi’s maximalist dictum - and retort to the Modernist Mies van der Rohe’s saying "less is more" - for its title. The book is composed of a collection of Postmodern architecture, chosen by writer and curator Owen Hopkins, interspersed with quotes by artists, designers and architects.

It opens with an extract from Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. “The doctrine,” Venturi writes, “'less is more' bemoans complexity and justifies exclusion for expressive purposes. But architects can exclude important considerations only at the risk of separating architecture for the experience of life and the needs of society.”

He was writing in 1966, a time when many Modernist architects believed that not only was ornamentation superfluous but that it was also an affront to the pure rationality of their structures. Venturi, however, suggested that these sentiments were overly puritanical and that the use of decoration would create environments that were more sensitive to living, the urban context and could engender humour (unlike the monumental structures that the Modernists favoured).

“I like,” he wrote “elements which are hybrid rather than ‘pure,’ compromising rather than ‘clear,’ distorted rather than ‘straightforward.’ … I am for messy vitality over obvious unity. I include the non-sequitur and proclaim duality.”

The buildings themselves in Less Is A Bore span the movement’s beginnings in the 1970s, through its heyday in the 1980s and 90s and the more recent pomo resurgence, exemplified by buildings such as Camille Walala’s 2018 Industry City Mural in New York and Grayson Perry’s 2015 A House For Essex. An eclectic mix, they form a collection that is (perhaps rather ironically) defined by non-conformity.

Less Is A Bore is published by PHAIDON and is available here.

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