Posts tagged with "Robert Venturi":

Placeholder Alt Text

Robert Venturi, pioneer of Postmodernism, passes away

The family of Pritzker-prize winner and giant of contemporary architecture Robert Venturi has reported to AN that Venturi has passed away at the age of 93. Venturi was a pioneering author of books on architectural theory (especially Learning from Las Vegas and his introduction to the history of Rome) and, along with his wife and partner Denise Scott Brown, founded Venturi Scott Brown Associates—later renamed VSBA. Together they have been credited with ushering in the Postmodern period in architecture. The firm would go on to design a number of important postmodern buildings, many of which are currently under threat, though Venturi himself retired from VSBA in 2016. Venturi accrued a number of architecture’s highest honors during his life and worked with Eero Saarinen and Louis Kahn during his early career. Besides his Pritzker win in 1991, Venturi was an honorary fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, a fellow of the American Institute of Architects, a Rome Prize Fellowship winner, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. AN will follow this announcement up with a more complete obituary and remembrances from friends and colleagues in the coming days. Venturi's family requests that their privacy be respected at this time. See the following statement from Venturi's family on his passing: "Last night, Robert Venturi passed away peacefully at home after a brief illness.  He’s been surrounded by his wife and partner, Denise Scott Brown and his son, Jim Venturi.  He was 93.
The family is planning to have a memorial service to celebrate Venturi’s life and this will be announced in the coming weeks."
Placeholder Alt Text

Barbara Bloom dissects architectural drawings at Cleveland’s FRONT art festival

Barbara Bloom is not an architect. Yet, her current exhibition, part of FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art, would fit in at any of the innumerable architecture biennials and triennials around the world. Entitled The Rendering (H x W x D =), the solo exhibition explores the relationships between images, objects, and space. Located in the Robert Venturi–designed Ellen Johnson Gallery, at the Allen Memorial Art Museum on the campus of Oberlin College, Bloom takes full advantage of the museum’s collection and the gallery’s pedigree. Invoking architectural language and imagery, the installation is at once both thoughtful and funny. With the Ellen Johnson Gallery, Venturi actively questioned the logic of the typical white box, and Bloom uses this to her advantage. Divided into several discrete pieces, The Rendering reverse engineers a number of two-dimensional architectural images into three-dimensional installations. In each case, Bloom uses primary documents from the museum’s collection, and in one case engages with the building itself. This happens in a glass corner looking out onto Venturi’s “Ironic Ionic” column. Like the other pieces Bloom constructed for the show, the column is matched with a series of column drawings, effectively making Venturi an unaware collaborator in the project. The other pieces in the show include a bridge, garden, tea house, and screen, which are all constructed based on overly literal readings of historic architectural drawings. The largest piece, Garden, for example, is based on a 19th-century Indian print, which is a mix of perspective, plan, and axonometric drawing techniques. As such, the construction fluctuates from legible to confusing (in a good way) as the viewer moves around the piece. A similar effect takes place with the Tea House, which, on first inspection, looks to be a traditional Japanese space for tea ceremonies. This reading falls apart as one works out the relationships of angles and surfaces, which were pulled directly from an 18th-century woodblock print. These larger pieces are augmented by two series of flat works that flank the entry to the gallery. One set of 20 works from the museum’s collection are “framed” in such a way to hide most of the image, revealing only select architectural moments. Another set of photographs curated by the artist from the larger museum collection are hung to temper the palette of viewers entering the space. This attention to procession into the space is just another example of how the artist worked in a distinctly architectural way while conceiving the show. The FRONT Triennial has many exhibitions and pieces that architects may find interested, but Bloom's The Rendering is likely the most directly relatable. The Frank Lloyd Wright–designed Weltzheimer/Johnson House is also hosting works by artist Juan Araujo, and the Richard D. Baron ’64 Art Gallery has the striking architectural paintings of Ciu Jie, both just a short distance from the college. Though these works are a bit of a hike from Cleveland, where most of the triennial is taking place, they are well worth the trip. Considering the popular argument that all these new architecture biennials are, in the end, mostly self-absorbant, it is somehow fitting that the best architectural installations might just be happening at art shows. The Rendering (H x W x D =) and FRONT will be open through September 30 at at the Allen Memorial Art Museum and across the City of Cleveland.
Placeholder Alt Text

Exclusive: Venturi Scott Brown-designed house suffers secret demolition

Only a month-and-a-half after a colorful Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown-designed house in Shadyside, Pittsburgh was put up for sale, AN has learned that the new owner plans on tearing it down. The Abrams House, commissioned by Irving and Betty Abrams and completed in 1979, is a striking example of Venturi’s playful postmodernist style. One-half of the roof curves and swoops like a cresting wave over the more traditionally-shaped rectangular portion, with a 20-foot-high vaulted ceiling below. The house’s front facade is capped with a window arrangement that resembles both a ship’s wheel as well as the rising sun and is accentuated with green-and-white “rays” emanating from the window assembly. A ribbon window wraps around the house and illuminates the interior, allowing the primary colors used everywhere from the soffits to the furniture to stand out. A mural by Roy Lichtenstein in the living room accentuates the house’s pop art aesthetic. Other than the colorful flourishes, the Abrams House is particularly notable for its location; the house is surrounded by midcentury work from well-known architects, including the Frank House by Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer and the Giovannitti House by Richard Meier. The two-bed, two-and-a-half bath was put up for sale in mid-June of this year for $1.1 million, and the new buyer, Bill Snyder, closed on the building on July 20. Preservationists had briefly hoped that Snyder, who also owns the Giovannitti House, would restore the building, but a demolition permit was filed on July 23. Pittsburgh requires a 15-day wait period between the filing of a demolition permit and the start of work, but an anonymous source has informed AN that the interior of the house has already been gutted. The large Lichtenstein piece has been covered and removed, either causing or revealing significant degradation in the wall behind, and fixtures throughout the house have been cleared out. Snyder had purchased the Giovannitti House from its original owners, Frank and Colleen Giovannitti, in 2017 and is currently restoring the exterior of the home to its original condition. With the demolition of the Abrams House, the entire lot may become a landscaped addition to complement Meier’s building. Brittany Reilly, a board member at the nonprofit Preservation Pittsburgh, has been trying to raise awareness of the house. According to Reilly, the home is a unique piece of architecture for Pittsburgh in a neighborhood full of architecturally-significant houses. The problem? The Abrams House isn’t visible from the street, and Reilly believes that seclusion has led the public to overlook it. The next step for preservationists is to “respectfully” drum up community attention to the demolition. Preservation Pittsburgh has reached out to VSBA Architects & Planners, who were unaware of the demolition, as well as other Pittsburgh-based preservation groups, and is currently trying to establish a dialogue with Snyder. Update: After this story was originally published, the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation (PHLF) has been working to mount an individual landmark nomination with the Historic Review Commission, planning commission and Pittsburgh City Council before the 15 day period elapses. Denise Scott Brown expressed her displeasure with the demolition reached for comment by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Why does he need to do that? Why doesn’t he save it,” said Brown. “This is not very honorable.” AN will follow this story up as more details become available.
Placeholder Alt Text

You can buy a rare Robert Venturi-designed house in Pennsylvania for $1.1 million

Heads up for those house-hunting in Pennsylvania: A house in Shadyside is up for grabs. But it’s not just any house; it’s a house designed by famed architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. Built in 1983, the Abrams house is a two-bed, two-and-a-half bath house on sale for $1.1 million. It’s located near Chatham University’s campus and is featured by Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation for being one of the select few in the world. Venturi, who won the Pritzker Prize in 1991, and his associated firm Venturi Scott Brown and Associates, is known for breaking away from the stark modernist style of the 1960s. His buildings often feature a playful element, such as the Vanna Venturi house with its broken gable roof. While the Abrams house doesn't have the same name recognition as the "Mother's House," the design is still classically Venturi. As in his other Postmodern buildings, this house juxtaposes classical forms—both inside and out. The roof has a sweeping, curved side that allows for an unorthodox, 20-foot-high vaulted ceiling wall of windows patterned like a ship’s wheel. The interior features bold primary colors, and graphic art that complements Venturi’s style. Other highlights include ribbon windows that bring in plenty of natural light, a lap pool, and an idyllic setting that places the house beside a century-old stone bridge. The house is located at 118 Woodland Road and is in the Squirrel Hill North neighborhood of Shadyside. Woodload Road was developed as an elite residential neighborhood in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, according to Pittsburgh Art Places. Houses were designed by other prominent architects, including the Frank House by Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer and the Giovannitti house by Richard Meier.
Placeholder Alt Text

A new book on Rome’s urban formation probes its political and historical roots

In one of his last interviews, Vincent Scully claimed, “When you go abroad for the first time, most of your thoughts are about your home. Because you need to define yourself as you confront a very different culture.” Americans, Scully believed, “experienced this phenomenon with special intensity.” Indeed, for traveling American architects, going back to Daniel D.H. Burnham and forward to Robert Venturi, and of course for Scully himself, this was never truer than with regard to their experiences in Rome. In Rome: Urban Formation and Transformation, the author, Jon Michael Schwarting, maintains a certain distance from the American academic context and produces a rational, detailed examination of Rome (and other Italian cities) and a method of investigating and understanding architecture and urbanism by searching its rational basis. Both of these aims are achieved without claiming historical precision but by using history in a polemical, rather than factual, manner. A collage of a great amount of information and studies regarding Rome’s urban structure, this material was gathered over years of research, formally conducted at Cornell University in the 1970s and further elaborated in five case studies by students working in Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture program in Rome during the early ’80s. Schwarting was a student of Colin Rowe’s at Cornell, who, Charles Jencks said, “[gave] the younger generations of architects the metaphor of the past, of history, of references, as a viable generator of present form.” Influenced by Rowe’s vision, the author collects historical, analytical, and graphic data derived from these elaborate examinations of the ancient city, which is seen as a perfect case study to comprehend and demonstrate how urban formation, transformation, and architecture in general are in a critical relationship with the concepts of the ideal, the utopian, and the physical reality. Schwarting’s principle interest is to explore how, at various scales, the political, social, and cultural scenario of a specific time in history has influenced the forma urbis and affected its architecture. Rome, he proposes, offers a critical example of these dynamics for the American architect: The city’s developments and transformations have always been in a dialectic relationship with the existing environment. This urban strategy begins with the development of the Roman Republic and Imperial periods, gradually modified by medieval urban fabric, and finally transformed in the Baroque period by Bernini and even Borromini. Schwarting starts by clarifying fundamental concepts required to examine and understand the city’s history. At first, he introduces the issue of the progressive use of tradition in architectural language, which leads directly to the debate regarding utopia, the ideal, and the real and their dialectical relationships within architectural speculation. This argument was the main concern of Renaissance intellectuals such as Da Vinci, Scamozzi, Vasari, Filarete, and Francesco di Giorgio Martini, who all engaged in the designing of perfect, ideal cities. The author points out that none of these prototypes, except for Scamozzi’s fortified city of Palmanova, were ever built. According to this, the author states that—platonically—the enthusiasm typical of the early Renaissance treatises must be interpreted as instructive for cities’ potential transformation rather than reflecting an ambition for actual construction. The solution was instead realized in the adaptation of ideal principles and rules, derived from classical knowledge, to the real, existing conditions, with respect and according to a context that was rarely intended to be altered. In particular, the book focuses on the period from the 15th to the 18th century, between the Renaissance and Baroque periods, in which Rome was to be completely transformed into the new center of Christianity. The city needed a rethinking of its structure in order to create monumenti, piazze, chiese, e palazzi for the new dominant aristocratic families and for the Vatican, with a large flow of pilgrims. Popes Giulio II, Clemente VII, and Sisto V saw the possibility of giving Rome new life by creating ideal spaces and conditions in fragmented interventions related through a complex radial street system developed from important urban nodes in order to reach each other. Sisto V ultimately wanted to create an urban stellar system, namely, Roma in sideris forma. The lesson learned from Rome is a realization of how the principles of the ideal and the perfect would be impracticable for the whole but can exist in fragments, in a dialectical relation with the real, chaotic physical context in which the Renaissance architects, instructed by popes and noble families, imagined their projects as a representation or a recollection of the idea of perfection. Schwarting writes: “Each architect built according to the existing city, developed strategies to enhance the ideal plan notion, by creating a building and spaces that reinforced it.” These projects “are ideal set-pieces inserted into an existing urban fabric and, thereby, provide a degree of order, by providing a reference [...] for the surrounding area.” It is important to mention the quality of the graphics—produced thanks to extensive analysis and fieldwork by the researchers and students—are exceptional and very rigorous. These technical hand drawings aim to visualize the architecture and buildings in relation to their context and to the city as a whole, exemplifying a concern to consider each piece as part of a more complex structure. To conclude, we could quote Giancarlo De Carlo in his description of the work for the Piano Programma in Palermo by Giuseppe Samonà, to portray the research by Schwarting in Rome as well. “He [Samonà] used to spend all his energy—both physical and intellectual: The surveys in Palermo were long and frequent, and his days at work started early in the morning and finished late at night, when he used to go out with students to have an arancino or a gelato, depending on the season.” Rome: Urban Formation and Transformation By Jon Michael Schwarting, Applied Research & Design $30.59
Placeholder Alt Text

How are image-sharing apps affecting architecture and design?

With 800 million active users and 95 million photos and videos shared each day, Instagram is affecting our visual perception like no other platform. Users distribute literally millions of photos, spreading trends, popularizing places, and ultimately, influencing built and designed environments. Although it is still early for major buildings to outwardly reflect Instagram’s impact, architecture is rapidly becoming saturated from the inside out. Philippe Maidenberg, known for his interior work in hotels across Paris and the UK, including the Holiday House London, is very aware of how social media has altered clients’ expectations. “Clients have shifted from thinking about design to envisioning new ways of life,” he explained. “Hotel owners want public spaces that are more alive and more comfortable than ever before; office owners want spaces that look like hotels. The standards are getting higher and higher for the greater good.” In New York, firms like Paperwhite Studio and Home Studios have made veritable reputations from crafting “Instagrammable interiors” for restaurants such as Jack’s Wife Freda, Cha Cha Matcha (Paperwhite), and Elsa, Ramona, Sisters, and The Spaniard (Home Studios). Rich, memorable colors, personal touches—down to the custom sugar packets—and dramatic moments such as sweeping brass lamps and neon signs all apparently contribute to the restaurants’ Instagram popularity. Maidenberg believes the portmanteau “Instagrammable” merely means photogenic: “In reality, every space inside a project has to be ‘Instagrammable.’ There is a similar way of thinking among architects, directors, and photographers. On the top of their minds, they’re always considering, ‘What will visitors see when they see the building? When they go inside the building? How can we surprise them?’” Obviously, the basic notion of creating photogenic architecture is not new. It can almost be simplified to a 21st-century version of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown’s “ducks” versus “decorated sheds” in Learning From Las Vegas. But although there are definite parallels to postmodernism replacing modernism and maximalism writ large in pastel whimsy replacing high-minded minimalism, new equivalent definitions of ducks and decorated sheds remain murky. Somewhere in this vague category is the plethora of “museums” that opened in 2017. More pop-up galleries than actual museums, these repositories of vibrant mise-en-scènes provide opportunities for snap-happy visitors to create totally next-level selfies to share with their friends. The most notable are the Museum of Ice Cream (New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Miami), the Color Factory (San Francisco), and 29 Rooms (Los Angeles and Brooklyn). And by notable, we mean that going up against museums such as the Louvre, the Tate Modern, and the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Ice Cream landed the tenth spot on Instagram’s “Most Instagrammed Museums” list in 2017, and its Los Angeles location alone claimed the sixth top spot in “Most Instagrammed Museums in the U.S.” Legitimate museums have taken note, crafting photo-worthy installations and creating hashtags to promote sharing across social media. “It’s a level of feedback that we have never really had before,” said Andrea Lipps, assistant curator of contemporary design at Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum. “People do use the hashtags, and then we notice the trends of where people are taking these photos and how they are accessing the information and what they are interested in. It’s become a really valuable tool.” But those whose work is on display may see it differently. Brooklyn-based artist and designer Sebastian Errazuriz believes that the best name for these spaces and our new era of obsessive image sharing is “prop art.” “It is very disappointing to see work being misused as a prop for a self-portrait because when that happens, it stops being seen,” Errazuriz said. “And when more content is created just to be shared and to function as a prop, more people will see that as successful content to create and will emulate it.” At the same time, Errazuriz learned to harness the power of Instagram early when he created the entrance installation for the Collective Design Fair in 2013: a series of box fans that had “Blow Me” written across them in neon. “The ‘Blow Me’ fan, if you see it just by itself, is a funny association that is provocative and sexual in nature. But, when I get commissioned to design something like an entry piece in an art fair, I am essentially being told, ‘Go, Sebastian, do that thing you do, do the monkey dance, show me something impressive.’ So, in this case, I made a fan that literally blows them away. It takes a lot of balls for the artist to say ‘blow me,’ and it takes a lot of balls for the client to tell everyone to ‘blow me.’ Then, it has the neon pink which is the cliché of every art fair and was designed as a square precisely to be as Instagrammable as possible. It generated more press than the whole fair combined; and I did the monkey dance and it undermined the effects of the fair.… It was all about distilling enormous amount of stuff in one thing.” Errazuriz was also concerned about the implications of the Snapchat x Jeff Koons Balloon Dog in Central Park. “There is a very real risk of corporations like Snapchat taking over the digital art space and dictating new representations of what art is, like Jeff Koons’s Balloon Dog,” Errazuriz said. “So when I saw that, everyone in my studio stopped what we were doing and in 24 hours managed to recreate an exact replica of the dog, tagged it with graffiti, uploaded it, geotagged it to the same destination, submitted it to Snapchat, and sent out the press release. I think it generated a lot of interesting articles about public space and the notion of virtual vandalizing.” This is the inherent irony in Instagram: Even as designers and architects decry its influence, they are aware that they rely on it. Consider OMA: When it updated its website in 2014, the firm opted to change its landing page to an Instagram feed with software that picked up the geotagged images in a certain perimeter around OMA’s buildings and projects. “We’ve discovered that amateur pictures tell a different story,” said OMA partner Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli. “There are a lot of unexpected surprises and beautiful moments that are not as present in staged photography.” Shifting the power of perspective to boundless viewers creates possibilities, but also engenders limitations. The art, design, and fashion worlds have already begun to chafe against the effects of shortened trend cycles, altered client demands, and distorted design priorities. Will architecture follow suit? #maybe.
Placeholder Alt Text

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
Placeholder Alt Text

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.
Placeholder Alt Text

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.
Placeholder Alt Text

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.
Placeholder Alt Text

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.
Placeholder Alt Text

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.