WORKS / BIOGRAPHY / BOOKS

 

 

ROBERT VENTURI
 
 
 
 
  Name Robert Charles Venturi Jr. 
     
  Born September 18, 2018
     
  Died June 25, 1925
     
  Nationality USA
     
  School POSTMODERNISM
   
  Official website www.vsba.com
     
     
 
BIOGRAPHY
 

Robert Venturi is the principal partner of Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates with Denise Scott Brown, Steven Izenour, and David Vaughn. He is best known for his architectural ideas outlined in his two influential books, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966) and Learning from Las Vegas (1972), written with Scott Brown and Izenour. Both texts critique the often dogmatic and narrow design agenda of modernist architecture and have been viewed as an antidote to the polemics of modernist architects such as Adolf Loos, who famously wrote that “ornament is crime,” and Le Corbusier, who authored the classic manifesto Towards a New Architecture (1923). Directing 20thcentury architects to study the commercial landscape of Main Street and the roadside as well as the classical tradition, Venturi and Scott Brown embrace historicism, decoration, language, and vernacular symbols. Learning from Las Vegas in particular argued for the celebration of both “high” and “low” architecture of the past, from the richness of classical Rome to the messiness of the commercial strip. Its emphasis on visual ambiguity, contradiction, dialectic, context, and complexity led to designs that were full of wit and rich in connotations. Venturi’s residential architecture of the 1960s expressed his interest in the vernacular symbols and historical allusions outlined in Complexity and Contradiction. The Guild House (1960), a senior citizens apartment complex in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, referenced the classicism of Andrea Palladio in the design of its facade and pointed to the architecture of commerce with its prominent sign above the entry. The Vanna Venturi House (1962) in Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania, borrowed from the forms of the American saltbox (shingle style) and emphasized axial symmetry.

The humorous and historical came together in Venturi’s creation of Benjamin Franklin’s “house” and museum (1973–76) in Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia. Rather than reconstructing the long-demolished home of Franklin, Venturi and partners designed a vividly colored steel-frame outline of the house, which had been described by Franklin in letters to his wife, and placed the museum in the ground below. The firm has long had an interest in urban design, reflecting its focus on the American landscape. Planning work has included the South Street Rehabilitation Plan (1970) for Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Avenue Project (1978–79) for Washington, D.C.

Other projects have included industrial design and furniture design as well as exhibitions. “Signs of Life: Symbols in the American City” at the Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. (1976) was an exhibit of historical and contemporary signs. The display celebrated the American bicentennial by presenting the rich variety of signage found in the United States. Such work remained consistent with the firm’s appreciation of the vernacular and illustrated how Venturi and his partners have refused to limit the application of their ideas to one field.

After 1980 Venturi received a number of large commissions. Such projects, while remaining true to the original theories of the firm, have tended toward the practical, thus helping shed Venturi’s reputation for superficial cleverness. Important commissions for universities and museums evidence the office’s wider acceptance. Princeton University commissioned three buildings, including Wu Hall (1983), which referenced the style of English manor houses, thus complementing the campus’s eclectic mix of buildings. The Sainsbury Wing (1991) of the National Gallery in London alluded to the adjacent classical building yet reconfigured the purist style, referencing Victorian train sheds in the interior. Recent designs continued to reflect the firm’s commitment to historical styles and vernacular symbols. The Seattle Art Museum (1991) contained sensitive gallery spaces as well as massive incised lettering along the top of the limestone exterior. The Mielparque Nikko Kirifuri Resort (1997) in Nikko, Japan, reflects the traditional rural architecture of Japan.

The global influence of Venturi and his partner Denise Scott Brown has been widely recognized through extensive writing, teaching, and lecturing. Consistent with an aesthetic of contradiction, Venturi’s works deal with both the formal and theoretical intersections of modernism and Postmodernism by engaging with the conditions of contemporary society, construction, and culture.

NICOLAS MAFFEI

 
 
 
 
 
TIMELINE
 

25 June 1925 Born in Philadelphia, USA;

1943–50 Attended Princeton University, New Jersey ;

1947 bachelor of arts degree, Princeton University, New Jersey;

1950 master of fine arts degree, Princeton University, New Jersey;

1950–58 Designer with the firms of Oscar Stonorov, Philadelphia; Eero Saarinen, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan; and Louis I. Khan, Philadelphia ;

1954–56 studied at the American Academy, Rome, on a Rome Prize Fellowship ;

1957–65 Assistant professor, then associate professor of architecture, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia ;

1958–61 Partner with Paul Cope and H. Mather Lippincott, Venturi, Cope and Lippincott, Philadelphia ;

1961–64 partner with William Short, Venturi and Short, Philadelphia ;

1964 partner with John Rauch from ;

1965 State Department Lecturer in the USSR ;

1966 architect-inresidence, American Academy, Rome ;

1966–67 member, Panel of Visitors, School of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of California, Los Angeles ;

1966–70 Charlotte Shepherd Davenport Professor of Architecture, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut ;

from 1967 partner with Rauch and Denise Scott Brown ;

1967 Married architect Denise Scott Brown :1 child;

1969 visiting critic, Rice University, Houston, Texas ;

1969–72 member, board of advisers, department of art and archaeology, Princeton University ;

1969–74 trustee, American Academy, Rome ;

1972 Fellow, American Institute of Architects; fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences; fellow, American Academy, Rome; fellow, Accademia Nazionale de San Luca, Rome; honorary fellow, Royal Institute of British Architects; honorary fellow, Royal Incorporation of Architects of Scotland. Gold Medal, American Institute of Architects ;

from 1977 Ossabow Island Project, Savannah, Georgia;

from 1977 member, board of advisers, School of Architecture and Urban Design, Princeton University ;

1982 Walter Gropius Lecturer, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts ;

1986 Commander, Order of Merit, Italy ;

from 1989 principal, Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates, Philadelphia ;

1991 Pritzker Prize ;

18 September 2018 Died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.

 
 
 
 
 
FURTHER READING
 

A+U, 12 (1981) (special issue entitled “Venturi, Rauch, and Scott Brown”) Futagawa, Yukio (editor), Vanna Venturi House, Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1962: Peter Brdnt House, Greenwich, Connecticut, 1973: Carll Tucker III House, Westchester County, New York, 1975, Tokyo: A.D.A. Edita, 1976 Ghirardo, Diane, Architecture after Modernism, New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996 Upton, Dell, Architecture in the United States, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1998 Von Moos, Stanislaus, Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates: Buildings and Projects, 1986–1998, New York: Monacelli Press, 1999 Wiseman, Carter, Shaping a Nation: Twentieth-Century American Architecture and Its Makers, New York: Norton, 1998 The Work of Venturi and Rauch: Architects and Planners (exhib. cat.), New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1971

Selected Publications

Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, 1966 Learning from Las Vegas (with Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour), 1972 A View from the Campidoglio: Selected Essays, 1953–1984 (with Denise Scott Brown), edited by Peter Arnell, Ted Bickford, and Catherine Bergart, 1984 Iconography and Electronics upon a Generic Architecture: A View from the Drafting Room, 1996

 
 
 
 
 
RELATED
 
POSTMODERNISM
 

 

 

Architects

Schools

Objects

Library

New Projects

 

About

Contact

Sitemap