As previously noted, I am proposing to research the reasons behind the deliberate selection of postmodern architectural materials when crafting globally visible buildings because I want to find out how countries’ motivations for using the postmodern style align or differ. This will help my reader understand how architecture is harnessed to evoke a particular identity or message on the world stage. For small-n research design, I have chosen to compare two cases: the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium in China and the San Cataldo National Cemetery in Italy. Thus, my research question is: what explains the similarity of the designs of the Bird’s Nest Stadium and the San Cataldo Cemetery? Exploring the causal mechanisms for these striking parallels between the visually similar buildings—in entirely different countries, constructed in entirely different decades—will help me to conclude the similar reasons, employed by both countries, that postmodernism is used. (I have used Kurt Weyland’s research on the Arab Spring and the revolutions of 1848 as a model for this comparison.)
I have modified the dependent variable for qualitative research. The dependent variable is now the outcome, or the presence, or selection, of postmodernism as the style for the globally visible landmark. The other outcome, or potential value the dependent variable could take, would be the absence of postmodernism, or the selection of another style. Thus, for these two particular cases, the outcome is the same, and in my research, other variables and their indicators will help me to figure out why.
There are existing bodies of scholarship that have determined what makes a building postmodern, thus leading to the outcome of “present” postmodern style. It is important to note that not all of the features of postmodernism identified are necessary for a building to be considered postmodern, so I have selected the three most distinctive features from scholarship as indicators, which are bulleted below. The existing body of scholarship I have used that has helped me to determine the key features of postmodernism is Robert Venturi’s book Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, published in 1996. (The publishing year is important because it demonstrates that postmodernism had already gained traction as an architectural movement throughout the 1970s, and this book was a compilation of its most prominent features not in its conception and nascence but in its peak, after it had already been around for two decades.) In this book, Venturi identifies “the manipulation of beams, mostly steel… twisted and contorted,” “odd silhouettes or ground plans straying from the traditional….” and “a noted tension between, and somehow a seamless blending of, a country’s past and present” as the most important features of postmodernism.
I have used the primary source of the images and architectural plans of the Bird’s Nest stadium and San Cataldo cemetery that have been made available since the buildings have finished construction. This primary source helps me to determine whether the following features of postmodernism are present, as operationalized by the existing research I will cover below:
- The presence or absence of steel cantilevered beams
- The presence or absence of an asymmetrical silhouette (no clean, square lines; instead, oddly-shaped ceilings and walls to create a whimsical exterior profile)
- At least one architectural element from the historical period (the element is specific to, and varies depending on, that country—China’s historical architecture does not have the same elements as Italy’s) integrated into the postmodern design
For reference, here is one image of the architectural plan for the San Cataldo cemetery, which helps me to see that there was, indeed, the presence of an asymmetrical and unusual silhouette (a conical, triangular tower surrounded and offset by a cube-shaped ossuary).
“Beijing National Stadium, The Bird’s Nest.” DesignBuild Network, Projects, Plans. https://www.designbuild-network.com/projects/national_stadium/
Kurt Weyland, “The Arab Spring: Why the Surprising Similarities with the Revolutionary Wave of 1848?” Perspectives on Politics 10, no. 4 (December 2012): 917–34.
“San Cataldo Cemetery / Aldo Rossi for ArchEyes.” ArchEyes Architectural Plans, December 21, 2016. http://archeyes.com/san-cataldo-cemetery-aldo-rossi/#targetText=The San Cataldo Metropolitan Cemetery.
Venturi, Robert, and Vincent Scully. Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. London: Butterworth Architecture, 1996.
 Kurt Weyland, “The Arab Spring: Why the Surprising Similarities with the Revolutionary Wave of 1848?” Perspectives on Politics 10, no. 4 (December 2012): 917–34.
 Venturi, Robert, and Vincent Scully. Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. London: Butterworth Architecture, 1996.
 Venturi, Robert, and Vincent Scully. Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. London: Butterworth Architecture, 1996, 45-46.
 “Beijing National Stadium, The Bird’s Nest.” DesignBuild Network, Projects, Plans. https://www.designbuild-network.com/projects/national_stadium/
 “San Cataldo Cemetery / Aldo Rossi for ArchEyes.” ArchEyes Architectural Plans, December 21, 2016. http://archeyes.com/san-cataldo-cemetery-aldo-rossi/#targetText=The San Cataldo Metropolitan Cemetery.