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wexFrom an address by Ravi Zacharias:

I remember lecturing at Ohio State University, one of the largest universities in this country. I was minutes away from beginning my lecture, and my host was driving me past a new building called the Wexner Center for the Performing Arts.

He said, "This is America's first postmodern building."

I was startled for a moment and I said, "What is a postmodern building?"

He said, "Well, the architect said that he designed this building with no design in mind. When the architect was asked, 'Why?' he said, 'If life itself is capricious, why should our buildings have any design and any meaning?' So he has pillars that have no purpose. He has stairways that go nowhere. He has a senseless building built and somebody has paid for it."

I said, "So his argument was that if life has no purpose and design, why should the building have any design?"

He said, "That is correct."

I said, "Did he do the same with the foundation?"

All of a sudden there was silence.

You see, you and I can fool with the infrastructure as much as we would like, but we dare not fool with the foundation because it will call our bluff in a hurry.


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31 thoughts on “Postmodern Architecture”

  1. Matt says:

    rzach=steeltrap

  2. Russ says:

    I don’t usually comment much, but that deserves a WOW!

  3. Evan says:

    Postmodernism Fail.

  4. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    The Prayer Breakfast Lecture by Ravi is also superb.

  5. Dan Erickson says:

    Put so well! Thanks RZ & JT

  6. Chad says:

    That’s good.

  7. Freddy says:

    When I first heard that years ago my reaction was the same as most of the comments here. The Lord has used his ministry so much in my life, which is why I am so thankful for him. I love his new ministry motto, “Helping the thinker believe, Helping the believer think”

  8. Adam Ekelund says:

    They left off the quote just following the silence when Ravi says, “Mmmmm, that’s right! That just happened.”

  9. Matt Ritchey says:

    I went to OSU and in 2004 they had to redo much of the foundation, actually.

  10. Tyler W. says:

    That’s a fun anecdote (though the architect might have had an even funnier view of ‘postmodernism’).

  11. Scott C says:

    Before entering the ministry I was an architect. Poatmodernism as an architectural style was in vogue starting in the late 60’s and beginning to wane in the late 80’s (perhaps best represented by Robert Venturi and Michael Graves). It gave way in the 90’s to what is known as Deconstructivism (best represented by Frank Gehry). By the late 90’s there was a return to Modernism (i.e. 1920’s to 1960’s) in what is generally termed Neo-modernism (also more Vernacular styles). At least the Postmodern period had a penchant for creating buildings that still delighted in aesthetically pleasing motifs (although distorted in proportion, scale and color). Deconstructivists buildings were (are) disjointed, disorienting, anti-aesthetic and even less purposeful than Postmodern works. However, RZ’s comments would still apply and even more so. Interestingly enough, Postmodernism and now even Deconstructivism is all but dead in the architectural world. These fads (paralleled to some degree in the general arts and literature) long preceded their counterparts in the culture at large. I don’t know what the return to Modernism and Vernacularism in architecture portends for the culture at large, but it is fascinating.

  12. Boom goes the dynamite!

  13. As an OSU alum in ’95 I am glad to finally see some purpose in this building, though not at all what was intended by the architect.

  14. Theologian says:

    This antecdotal story makes it seem like the student was boasting in the postmodern architevture which very well may have been the case. But it seems like it would be incredibl odd to have a student who was hosting RZ be so out of touch with who he was hosting that he woukd bring this up as a positive. It doesn’t take away the point that RZ makes, a very insightful one at that, but it just seems a bit odd. My guess would be that the student was pointing it out to RZ brcause the host new RZ would find it interesting. If this is the case the silence is less a case of being stumped and more a case of being helped. Can somone who knows more of the context of the story please comment. I guedd I am just wondering if this is a case of Christian reconstructionism of a historical event to make an author or speakers poiny,t seem all the more powerful and make the story sound better, or if it actually happened that way.

  15. Greg Gibson says:

    Would you trust a postmodern surgeon? A postmodern trial attorney? A postmodern car mechanic? Etc. (Perhaps someone can develop those illustrations.) Then why trust a postmodern preacher?

  16. Josh Golackson says:

    Theologian, are you serious? You are questioning the historicity of a 2 minute conversation that happened in a car between 2 people and asking if anyone knows more about the context of the story? If you can’t take RZ at his word for an accurate retelling of such a simple story, why on earth would you trust some other person who you’ve never heard of to jump on here and claim they have the real “facts”? That is skepticism at its finest!

    1. Theologian says:

      joah thank yuou for your response. To better understand where I am coming from read the story again. The host calls the building a sensless building and seems to bemoan that fact as if he was saying can you believe someone gave him money to build a senseless building. However, in the version JT reproduces RZ seems to make a non-sequitor by saying that the foundation question caused silence. Anyone who has ever praeched or taught a lot has faced the temptation to change a story just a bit to make one’s point. RZ is brilliant and makes a good point, so I wondered if when he shares this in a talk he gives more explanation. I apologize if my sincere questioning caused you to become upset. I think your initial comments to me were helpful, but your last comment seemed more like an ad hominem attack. Nevertheless, thank u for responding

  17. Bill says:

    I do like the quote, but postmodernists actually eat this kind of thing up. The reason postmodernists are postmodernist is because they know that when humans make philosophical/epistimelogical foundations, those foundations are dust in the wind. The true foundation is the one that God gives us, but in this quote, RZ seems to be saying that humans can and should set up a foundation for what they believe. I love apologetics, but sometimes it seems like revelation is left out.

  18. Do the majority of the people in here actually know what postmodernism is?

    I doubt it.

  19. Bill says:

    Peter Leithart has an interesting post about foundations and postmodernism:
    http://www.leithart.com/2010/01/28/postmodernism-rightly-understood/#more-7432

  20. Chris Reeder says:

    Dropped the HAMMER!

  21. Jessica Lyon says:

    Ravi Zacharias is one of the most profound writers and speakers I have ever read/heard. If you ever get the opportunity to hear him – do it – especially when he does large public forums at public universities.

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Justin Taylor, PhD


Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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