Posts tagged with "Robert Venturi":

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Seeing Rome through the eyes of Robert Venturi

Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture is not an easy book, or so we were told by Vincent Scully in the introduction to Robert Venturi’s seminal 1966 publication. The book’s release is the stuff of modern architectural mythology. When initially published, Venturi’s text signified a daring step away from modern orthodoxy. It encouraged the design community to actively participate in broad architectural discourse, to treat the past as prologue rather than discarding it as merely vestigial. The book was loathed by many. Treated as critical contraband, it was seen as incendiary and vulgar, and was perceived to be a jab to the prevailing momentum of Western architectural progress. However, to a small fraction of midcentury architects, the book was a welcome embrace of architectural inheritance. It was a permissive, if soft, manifesto allowing designers to stretch out, to embrace a messy and nonlinear practice, to get a little weird. Frederick Fisher and Stephen Harby proudly identify with Team Venturi. The first pages of Robert Venturi’s Rome, to which both contribute text and watercolor illustration, celebrate the profound influence Complexity and Contradiction had on the way they practice, teach, and understand the built environment. Reading the book as students proved to be a shared watershed moment. Fisher immediately shifted focus from art and art history to architecture, and has worked in Rome as both an architect and Rome Prize Fellow. Harby received the book from Vincent Scully in a fateful transaction that led to a Rome Prize Fellowship and a recurring teaching position in the Eternal City. Robert Venturi’s Rome is ostensibly a travel book for the architecturally inclined, exploring some, though not all, of the Roman sites referenced in Complexity and Contradiction. Fisher and Harby “propose to take the reader on a journey through time and ideas by visiting and discussing nearly thirty Roman places that exemplify Venturi’s revolutionary ideas,” and they use the Complexity and Contradiction table of contents, and supplemental quotes from the original text, as a framework for ten short tours. Unsurprisingly, by pairing buildings and urban spaces with the tenets of Venturi’s work, including “ambiguity,” “contradiction” (both “adapted” and “juxtaposed”), and the “double-functioning element,” Robert Venturi’s Rome is quickly revealed to be more complex, and yes, more contradictory, than a standard travel guide of the Fodor’s or Rick Steves variety. Fisher and Harby pragmatically outline locations and hours of operation, but eschew detailed photography for their own watercolor illustrations. The images of buildings, architectural elements, and plans are gorgeous, lovingly rendered and evocative, but leave details to be examined solely by text. Accordingly, the text often carries an unevenly distributed burden. Venturi populated Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture with more than 250 images, mixing architectural photographs and drawings with mannerist and abstract paintings, an approach that buttressed his criticism and apologia. Conversely, Fisher and Harby are successful when describing formally familiar work, like the Pantheon or Casa Girasole, but struggle when examining complicated baroque spaces, like Francesco Borromini’s San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane.   Vacillating between highlight reel and inside baseball, the tone of the book is inconsistent. It is simultaneously a travelogue for the architecturally curious and a series of esoteric incantations relying on the erudition of the reader to spot the sly relationship between Fisher and Harby’s text and Venturi’s design exegesis. The esteem in which the authors hold Venturi—and his work—and their admiration for Roman architecture is evident. Venerating both theorist and city, Fisher and Harby note, “it is possible that, without acknowledging it, Venturi…is celebrating the fact that in the hands of Borromini and many other architects, classical language is a living, fluid thing, and not the dead language that Venturi’s modernist contemporaries would have considered it.” By design or otherwise, the publication of Robert Venturi’s Rome feels timely and in keeping with a broader revivalist spirit currently underway. It fits easily with the recent Ettore Sottsass show at the Met Breuer, the successful effort to designate Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo’s Ambassador Grill as a New York City landmark, and the recognition of the glass pyramid–topped Musée Louvre renovation with an AIA 25-year award. Still, it takes a unique kind of architectural navel gazer to appreciate the meta-narrative of a book about a book by an architect designing buildings about architecture. Scully suggested that Complexity and Contradiction might shift our professional perspective from the Champs d’Elysées to Main Street. Through thoughtful analysis and vivid illustration, Fisher and Harby remind us that Rome is a complex city of interwoven Main Streets populated by both historic exemplars and idiosyncratic oddities. Robert Venturi’s Rome “evokes many levels of meaning and combinations of focus,” write the authors. “Its space and its elements become readable and workable in several ways at once.” Coincidentally, so does Robert Venturi’s Rome. Brian Newman is an architect and university campus planner and has taught at Washington University in St. Louis. Robert Venturi's Rome Frederick Fisher and Stephen Harby, ORO Editions, $25.00
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Sharif, Lynch: Architecture transforms a California bungalow into a multigenerational home

While the popular image of Los Angeles is often that of Bel Air mansions and ocean-side surf towns, the heart of the city is more accurately characterized by long rows of small single-family bungalows. When L.A.-based Sharif, Lynch: Architecture took on a project to transform one of these ubiquitous structures into a multigenerational home, the firm looked to the ideas of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, such as "ugly and ordinary" from Learning from Las Vegas, to guide the nature of the project. "I suppose it’s a paradox—wanting the house to both appear as a thing and disappear at the same time—to be self-consciously un-self-conscious," explained Mohamed Sharif, partner at Sharif, Lynch: Architecture, about the project’s balance of design and restraint. The 2,500-square-foot, four-bedroom home in the quiet Mar Vista neighborhood started out as a typical bungalow. By removing the rear of the home, and building a new two-story "L" addition, the project is able to accommodate a completely new lifestyle. The house now accommodates a family with three sons, ranging in age from pre-K to high school, and a mother-in-law flat. The addition also provided a chance to brighten and integrate the interior, which like most California bungalows can be dark with small spaces. With an eye on a tight budget, spaces are adorned in mostly off-the-shelf details, and a clean white palette is used throughout. Rather than focusing on expensive materials and finishes, the firm let the large architectural moves become the driving force behind decisions. Each decision was made with light, fresh air, and a connection to the large outdoor patio in mind. The position and size of the windows, in particular, provide delineation among all of the spaces. "The relationship between the two realms is the spatial engine of the house," said Sharif. "Axially placed openings provide framed views that give the spatial sequence a sense of hierarchy, while diagonally placed openings set up successions of the incidental, of episodes that activate deeper peripheral and lateral perception of the broader context.” Sharif, Lynch’s addition exudes Southern California; with its sun-worshiping interior and its simple bungalow front, the home transcends its original typology, while maintaining its classic charm.
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With Kahn, Venturi, and others, a new exhibition explores the Philadelphia School

A new exhibition at the University of Pennsylvania highlights the work of the Philadelphia architects whose work resisted modernism. The school is hosting a monthlong exhibition on the work of Louis Kahn, Robert Venturi, Romaldo Giurgola, and others who were affiliated with Penn's architecture program. In considering its subjects, "What was the Philadelphia School?" uses a 1961 Progressive Architecture article that called Louis Kahn the "spiritual leader" of the Philadelphia School as its point of critical departure. “There are some architectural historians who have the view that the term ‘Philadelphia School’ isn’t really a school—it’s just a bunch of people who were at Penn at one time. We’re pushing back against that,” exhibition co-organizer Izzy Kornblatt told Curbed. The school claims that "What was the Philadelphia School?" is one of the first to consider the affiliated architects' work "as a bona fide movement reflecting a distinctive culture and set of ideas, rather than just a collection of architects united by affiliation with the university and physical proximity." The exhibition features more than 50 models and drawings, including a rare Kahn drawing from his early years and Venturi model of a concert hall that could have been built on the lot the Kimmel Center now occupies. What was the Philadelphia School? runs through April 17 at the University of Pennsylvania in College Hall.
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Denise Scott Brown on AIA Gold: “It was worth being a witch”

Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi finally got the recognition for their collaborative efforts over the last half-century in the same way they conceived some of the 20th century's seminal architectural works and texts: together. The duo wrote the 1972 treatise Learning from Las Vegas, and designed a series of beloved projects, including Franklin Court Independence Historic National Park in Philadelphia, the National Sainsbury Wing in London, and the National Collegiate Football Hall of Fame (Competition). Venturi won the Pritzker Prize in 1991 but Scott Brown was not included. The AIA Gold Medal makes up some lost ground for the pair, and the profession, as equal credit is given for collaboration. A group of Harvard students calling themselves "Women in Design" petitioned the Pritzker committee to recognize Scott Brown alongside Venturi. While the Pritzker didn't budge, the AIA did recognize this effort, as the Philadelphia AIA convention featured its own "Women in Design Dinner." At the AIA Gold Medal ceremony, a screen played a video of the duo in their home accepting the award. Scott Brown appeared on the stage, and said, with a bit of that V-SB wit, "It was worth being a witch" for. She said she is excited to be breaking ground for other pairs of collaborators, of which she said there are 20 or so that could win this award in the future.
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Vanna Venturi House to be preserved by new buyer

One of the most honored buildings in America has a new owner. The Vanna Venturi House in Chestnut Hill, Pa., designed by architect Robert Venturi for his mother and dubbed “Mother’s House,” has been sold to an anonymous buyer less than 10 months after it was put on the market. The sale was confirmed by Melanie Stecura, the listing agent with Kurfiss Sotheby’s International Realty in Philadelphia. She said the house is under contract and expected to settle by the end of June. At that time, she said, the sale price and owner’s identity will become public record.
“The buyer has chosen to remain anonymous until settlement,” Stecura said, adding that he is from the area and “he has every intention of preserving the property” as a private residence. Completed in 1964 at a reported cost of $43,000, the house at 8330 Millman Street is considered one of the most significant early examples of Postmodern architecture in America. In 1989, it received the AIA’s 25 Year Award for buildings that have stood the test of time. In 2005, it was featured on a U. S. postage stamp as part of a series of “twelve masterworks of modern American architecture.” It was included in a 2013 PBS documentary as one of “10 Buildings That Changed America.” Venturi’s scale models of the house are part of the collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
The two-story, three-bedroom house is distinguished by a monumental front façade that belies its relatively small scale and by an overriding sense of whimsy. Venturi has likened the front façade to “a child’s drawing of a house.” Venturi gave it a pitched roof rather than a flat roof, and a central fireplace and chimney. He used details in unexpected ways, including an ornamental arch over the main entrance and a broken pediment where the peak of the roof would normally be.
Venturi designed the house at the same time he was writing Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, a 1966 book that sparked widespread rethinking of Modernist ideals. Many of his design decisions with the Vanna Venturi house were seen as a rejection of the Modernist aesthetic. Architectural historian Vincent Scully once called it “the biggest small building of the second half of the twentieth century.” Vanna Venturi sold the house in 1973, and it remained a private residence. It has had only two owners, Vanna Venturi and Thomas and Agatha Hughes, who have both died. Their daughter has lived in the house for the past several years and put it on the market last July with an asking price of $1.75 million. The price was lowered this spring to $1.5 million. Local real estate observers said the buyer likely would be someone who already lives in the area and is aware of the house’s history.
Stecura, the real estate agent who handled the sale, said the house’s link to Venturi and its architectural significance were selling points that attracted the buyer. “He’s not an architect by trade, but his interest in the house is sincere,” she said. “He knows all about the house.” She also praised the Hughes family for keeping the house in “pristine” condition and respecting its architectural integrity. The Hugheses “were terrific stewards of the property,” she said. “It was very important to them not to sell to just anyone…It’s a house that needs to be lived in, not turned into a museum.” The sale comes just as Venturi and his wife and design partner, Denise Scott Brown, are scheduled to receive the Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects at its annual convention, which will be held later this month in Philadelphia. Now 52 years old, the house also is being considered for designation as a city landmark by the Philadelphia Historical Commission.
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A new future for Old City: Vision2026 puts Philadelphians, not tourists, first

At first pass, Philadelphia's Elfreth's Alley looks like any other quaint, well-preserved historic street in a typical northeastern U.S. city. Look closer, though, and it'd apparent that the rowhouses are much older than the 19th-century homes found in New York's West Village or Boston's Beacon Hill. That's because Elfreth's Alley welcomed its first residents in 1702: the block-long lane is the oldest continually occupied residential street in the United States. Although the street is afforded protection by its National Historic Landmark status, escalatingultra-bland development in Philly's historic core means that it, and the surrounding urban fabric, must protect their assets by conceiving of a future that balances site-sensitive private development with public amenities that cater to Philadelphians.
Old City District, a city-sponsored historic preservation group, commissioned planning consultants RBA Group and Philly–based Atkin Olshin Schade Architects to stake out a future for Old City. Vision2026 is intended to complement the City Planning Commission's Philadelphia2035 plan and, in a nod to local heritage, will coincide with the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
To some, Old City is thought to be bound by the Delaware River to the east, 4th Street to the west, Vine Street to the north, and Walnut Street to the south. The Old City District's definition is narrower, encompassing a 22-block area bounded by Front Street to the east, 6th Street to the west, Florist Street to the north, and Walnut and Dock streets to the south. The genesis of Vision2026 was a community discussion on development goals that began in January 2015. Traffic studies and user surveys evinced a desire for standard-issue urban features: Quality public space, public transportation access, better bike infrastructure, stores that serve the community's needs (especially a grocery store), and a development vision that encourages new investment without overriding the neighborhood's charm. The suggestions take a deep dive into specifics. To reduce car traffic, Vision2026 suggests improving bike infrastructure (addressing a lack of bike lanes and inconsistent linkage to the waterfront, for example) concurrently with initiatives to consolidate commercial package delivery, privilege commercial loading access over private parking, and promote the use of car shares. The population of Old City has grown 16 percent since 2000, and the area needs Complete Streets (streets designed for safe use by pedestrians, cars, and bicycles alike) to enhance the neighborhood's vitality. A proposal for a 2nd Street Station plaza (the 200 block of Market Street) envisions 14-foot sidewalks flanked by an allée-meets-bike lane. The proposal suggests eliminating street lights—a counterintuitive but effective traffic-calming measure—on the 10-foot-wide stretch of road set aside for private cars.
Although the vacancy rate hovers at around ten percent, studies show that, if current trends continue, the area could support an additional 122,000 square feet of retail. More than 1,000 new residential buildings in the district are proposed or currently under construction. Vision2026 echoes Robert Venturi's 1976 master plan for Old City, calling for redevelopment of the area's Victorian commercial and industrial buildings erected between 1840 and 1890. Eight parks, including the Venturi–designed Welcome Park, are highlighted as spaces to improve and capitalize upon. Activating underused areas around the Benjamin Franklin Bridge is a priority: Proposals include an under-the-overpass market (like New York's Queensboro Bridge, but hopefully more successful) with restaurants and vendors, as well as wayfinding improvements, especially at night, to enhance connectivity between neighborhoods rent by the interstate. Next steps include beta-testing the ideas via tactical urbanism, temporary bike lanes, and legislative action, through zoning and permitting amendments, to pave the way for concrete improvements.
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Basket builders vacate Ohio’s famous basket building

After nearly twenty years, the Longaberger Company, makers of wooden baskets, will be moving out of its trademark Longaberger "Medium Market Basket" shaped building in Newark, Ohio. Designed by the Longaberger Company, with NBBJ as architects of record, the corporate headquarters sits just about 40 miles north of Columbus. At 160 times larger than the basket it is based on, the seven-story building has 180,000 square feet of office. Longaberger will be moving its workers to its nearby manufacturing facility in Frazeysburg, OH. The Big Basket, as it is referred to, is an example of novelty, or programmatic architecture. Though built in the 1990s, examples of novelty buildings stretch back more than 100 years, and include the Tail o’the Pup hot dog stand in Los Angeles and Lucy the Elephant in Somers, New York. Another example is the Big Duck of Flanders, New York, made infamous by Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi’s theories on the “duck,” describing buildings which combine their function with their shape as a symbol of that function. As such, ducks and duck eggs are sold in the Big Duck. As reported by the Columbus Dispatch, the basket company has a back tax debt of $570,000. If that amount is not eventually paid, the county could repossess the property and sell it in a sheriff’s auction. The starting bid would be set at the tax amount plus court costs. At around $600,000, that would make the building possibly the most expensive picnic basket ever sold, but an excellent bargain for an office building.
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On View> 100 Years of Architecture Education at Yale

Any fan of architecture is familiar with the rich history of the Yale School of Architecture (YSoA). If they aren't they are likely familiar with some of the projects that have resulted from the school's influential concrete halls. From Paul Rudolph's heroic brutalism to Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown's "Learning From" series—and the productive friction between the two—the school has had an impact on much of the history of 20th and 21st century century architecture. A new exhibition, “Pedagogy and Place," organized by YSoA dean Robert A.M. Stern and curator (and AN contributor) Jimmy Stamp with Alfie Koetter, presents a range of student work that tracks the history of Yale architecture, and in parallel, the history of American architecture alongside political change in the U.S. The show is located in the YSoA Gallery in Rudolph Hall and is free and open to the public. With the bush-hammered concrete walls enveloping visitors, the show unfolds as a series of eight "eras" in Yale's history, including its beginnings as the American Beaux-Arts, to the beginnings of Modernism, to the high-flying Heroics of Rudolph and company, to the radical experiments of John Johansen and Charles Moore. The material in the exhibition is all student work, labeled as such with student names and their professors credited as well. It reads like the old issues of Domus or Progressive Architecture, but with student work illustrating each period and line of thinking. Education and the academy plays a serious role in the pursuit of intellectual innovation in architecture, and Yale is one of the leaders. A related publication, “Pedagogy and Place: 100 Years of Architecture Education at Yale,” will be published in April 2016 by Yale Press. A symposium, “Learning/Doing/Thinking: Educating Architects,” will be held April 14–16 in New Haven. All of this coincides with the changing of the guard as Stern moves on and Deborah Berke, architect and founder of the New York-based design firm Deborah Berke Partners, assumes deanship July 1. Pedagogy and Place YSoA Gallery in Rudolph Hall 180 York Street Monday–Friday 9 a.m.–5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

                    
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Finally! The 2016 AIA Gold Medal goes to Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown

The AIA has named Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown the winners of the 2016 AIA Gold Medal. The honor, the AIA's highest, goes to architects whose work is likely to have a lasting influence on the practice of architecture, design, and related fields.

The Philadelphia-based architects’ most recognizable works include the 1964 Vanna Venturi House, in Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania; the Seattle Art Museum (1985); and the Provincial Capitol Building in Toulouse (1999).

In addition to buildings, they designed furniture, most notably the Chippendale chair, a postmodern take on the ornate Colonial furniture of Thomas Chippendale.

Scott Brown and Venturi co-authored Learning from Las Vegas: the Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form (1977) and Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966), two texts that analyzed postmodernity in architecture and the American landscape. The award, to be bestowed next year, comes on the 50th anniversary of the publishing of the latter text.

The couple works together on most projects. In 2013, the AIA revised its selection criteria to allow the award to be granted jointly, perhaps in response to the Pritzker Prize committee’s famous exclusion of Scott Brown, granting the prize to Venturi only in 1991. A 2013 petition initiated by students at the Harvard Graduate School of Design to retroactively honor Scott Brown (and signed by Venturi himself) was rejected by the committee.

Last year, the AIA granted the gold medal to Moshe Safdie. Venturi and Scott Brown's legacy will be set in stone: each gold medal winner has his or her name chiseled into the granite Wall of Honor at the AIA headquarters in Washington, D.C.

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For the first time in 43 years, the Vanna Venturi House is for sale!

The Vanna Venturi House in Philadelphia is for sale. That’s right, the Vanna Venturi House. Robert Venturi’s 3 bed, 2 bath, 1,986-square-foot work of seminal Postmodern architecture can be yours for only $1,750,000. Located in a quiet Philadelphia neighborhood, the house is for sale for the first time in 43 years. The house was built in 1965 and is best known as “Mother’s House,” Robert Venturi’s manifesto that exemplified many of his concepts outlined in Complexity and Contradiction. Many consider it the first self-consciously Postmodern building in the world. The subtle changes in composition and the juxtaposition of classical forms and contemporary language are classic, playful Venturi. Take a look around the interior in AN's tour of the house from 2011. Inside, original Carerra marble floors remain in the entryway, while an oversized fireplace warms the living room, which also features built-in bookcases and a Venturian chair rail. Skylights and shifting volumes give the rooms plenty of light and shadow. The house is located in Chestnut Hill and has been featured on a 2005 postage stamp. The house is also in the school district of Jenks Elementary, which is an ironic and double-coded bonus.
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Eavesdrop Grab Bag> The latest gossip from the west coast

Word has it that Art Center, which seems to already own all of Downtown Pasadena, has just bought the area’s massive Jacobs Engineering Building. Also on the move, USC Dean Qingyun Ma has relocated his firm’s offices to none other than Downtown LA’s Bradbury Building. How’s that for pressure? And we’ve learned of the initiation beverage of our favorite architecture-related women’s drinking and discussion group: Denise Scotch Brown. What group would Venturi inspire? We shudder to think... Something about Vermouth?
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On View> Form/Unformed: Design from 1960 to the Present

Form/Unformed: Design from 1960 to the Present The Dallas Museum of Art 1717 North Harwood Street Dallas, TX Extended through December 2014 The Dallas Museum of Art is celebrating the work of prolific designers and architects from the 1960s to the present with its first comprehensive design exhibition. Some of the featured designers include Robert Venturi, Frank Gehry, Aldo Rossi, Zaha Hadid, and Donald Judd. Drawn entirely from the Museum’s own collection, the exhibition reveals the evolution of forms and ideologies that have shaped international design over the last half century. “Several of the works on view are recent acquisitions that reflect the continuing expansion of the Museum’s decorative arts and design program to include historic American and European work, as well as contemporary objects of international significance,” said Bonnie Pitman, The Eugene McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art. From modern jewelry like The Golden Fleece, to iconic furniture, the exhibition spotlights the extraordinary work of some of the best designers of our time.