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8 Short Architectural Texts You Need To Know

09:30 - 14 November, 2016
© Sharon Lam, using an image by <a href='https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Adolfloos.2.jpg'>Wikimedia user Martin H.</a> licensed under Public Domain
© Sharon Lam, using an image by Wikimedia user Martin H. licensed under Public Domain

Update: We've added links to help you find these books for purchase and, in 5 of 8 cases, tracked down a way you can read them online for free!

Quality over quantity, so the saying goes. With so many concepts floating around the architectural profession, it can be difficult to keep up with all the ideas which you're expected to know. But in architecture and elsewhere, the most memorable ideas are often the ones that can be condensed textually: “form follows function,” “less is more,” “less is a bore.” Though slightly longer than three words, the following lists a selection of texts that don’t take too long to read, but impart long-lasting lessons, offering you the opportunity to fill gaps in your knowledge quickly and efficiently. Covering everything from loos to Adolf Loos, the public to the domestic, and color to phenomenology, read on for eight texts to place on your reading list:

Sin City Embellishment: Expressive or Kitsch?

12:00 - 23 October, 2016
Sin City Embellishment: Expressive or Kitsch?, Randy’s Donuts shop and sign (a “decorated shed”) by Extra Medium (CC BY 2.0). Image via 99 Percent Invisible
Randy’s Donuts shop and sign (a “decorated shed”) by Extra Medium (CC BY 2.0). Image via 99 Percent Invisible

Though the Las Vegas Strip may be garish to some, with its borderline intrusive décor and “pseudo-historical” architecture, some professional architects, most notably Robert Venturi and Denise Scott-Brown, have become captivated by the “ornamental-symbolic elements” the buildings present. The two architects developed the curious design distinction between a “duck” and a “decorated shed”, depending on the building’s decorative form. In his essay for 99% Invisible, Lessons from Sin City: The Architecture of “Ducks” versus “Decorated Sheds”, Kurt Kohlstedt explores how the architects implemented their knowledge of ornamentation in their own works and began an architectural debate still ongoing today.  

Vanna Venturi House by Robert Venturi featuring playful and non-structural ornamentation. Image via 99 Percent Invisible Longaberger Basket Building image by Barry Haynes (CC BY-SA 3.0). Image via 99 Percent Invisible Guild House by Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates. Image via 99 Percent Invisible “Duck” versus “decorated shed, with Big Duck in Long Island (upper right). Image via 99 Percent Invisible +5

Machine Learning from Las Vegas – Volume #49: Hello World!

04:00 - 20 October, 2016
Machine Learning from Las Vegas – Volume #49: Hello World!, Aspen Movie Map application and interface, Architecture Machine Group, MIT, 1978. Image © Volume
Aspen Movie Map application and interface, Architecture Machine Group, MIT, 1978. Image © Volume

The following essay by Pierre Cutellic was first published by Volume Magazine in their 49th issue, Hello World! You can read the Editorial of this issue, Going Livehere.

The relevant revolution today is the current electronic one. Architecturally, the symbol systems that electronics purveys so well are more important than its engineering content. The most urgent technological problem facing us is the humane meshing of advanced scientific and technical systems with our imperfect and exploited human systems, a problem worthy of the best attention of architecture's scientific ideologues and visionaries.

—Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, Steven Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas

Denise Scott Brown On the Past, Present and Future of VSBA's Groundbreaking Theories

09:30 - 7 October, 2016
Denise Scott Brown On the Past, Present and Future of VSBA's Groundbreaking Theories, Franklin Court, Philadelphia (1976). Image © Mark Cohn
Franklin Court, Philadelphia (1976). Image © Mark Cohn

Through their books, theories and design projects, there's no doubt that Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi dramatically altered the course of architecture at the end of the Modernist period. In this interview conducted at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 2013, Shalmali Wagle and Alen Žunić talk with Scott Brown about the origins of the groundbreaking theories that underpinned the work of Venturi Scott Brown and Associates, what she is working on now, and her hopes for the future of the profession.

When you decided to practice architecture, was there a second option? What could have been your alternate career?

Because my mother had studied architecture, I wanted as a child, to be an architect, and as she drew a great deal for us, I spent much of my preschool life drawing and painting. In grade school I loved my teachers and wanted to do what they did. And in middle school I wanted to write, study languages, travel, and perhaps be a librarian—a career I saw as appropriate to my interests and open to women. But on entering architecture school, I saw only men there (5:60 was the ratio everywhere, until almost 1980). But the architects I knew were women, so I had thought it was a female's profession. "What are all these men doing in the studio?" I asked myself. When I was 40 I looked back and realized I had had all the roles I hoped to have but within the framework of architecture.

Spotlight: Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown

12:00 - 25 June, 2016
Spotlight: Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, © Frank Hanswijk
© Frank Hanswijk

Through their pioneering theory and provocative built work, husband and wife duo Robert Venturi (born June 25, 1925) and Denise Scott Brown (born October 3, 1931) were at the forefront of the postmodern movement, leading the charge in one of the most significant shifts in architecture of the 20th century by publishing seminal books such as Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (authored by Robert Venturi alone) and Learning from Las Vegas (co-authored by Venturi, Scott Brown and Steven Izenour).

GAA Foundation and PLANE—SITE Create Video Interviews with Architects for the Venice Biennale

16:00 - 12 May, 2016

The Global Arts Affairs Foundation (GAA), in collaboration with PLANE—SITE, is releasing a series of video interviews with architects to be shown as part of the TIME SPACE EXISTENCE Exhibition at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale. At the start of Denise Scott Brown's interview, the architect declares,"I've fought to make buildings useful and beautiful, and in that order." In her segment, Scott Brown elaborates on the need for architects to consult multiple precedents to be most effective, the view that photography has become a sub-discipline of architecture, and her position as a role model for young female architects. For her complete perspective, watch Scott Brown's interview, and read on for a complete list of the other interviewees.    

AD Classics: Sainsbury Wing, National Gallery London / Venturi Scott Brown

04:00 - 10 February, 2016
AD Classics: Sainsbury Wing, National Gallery London / Venturi Scott Brown, The Sainsbury Wing as seen from Trafalgar Square. Image © Valentino Danilo Matteis
The Sainsbury Wing as seen from Trafalgar Square. Image © Valentino Danilo Matteis

Venturi Scott-Brown’s National Gallery Sainsbury Wing extension (1991) was born into a precarious no-man’s land between the warring camps of neo-Modernists and traditionalists who had been tussling over the direction of Britain’s cities for much of the prior decade. The site of the extension had come to be one of the most symbolic battlefields in British architecture since a campaign to halt its redevelopment with a Hi-Tech scheme by Ahrends Burton Koralek had led to that project’s refusal at planning in 1984.

The 'Echo Façade'. Image © Valentino Danilo Matteis Ground floor lobby with rustication. Image © Valentino Danilo Matteis © Valentino Danilo Matteis Stairway. Image © Valentino Danilo Matteis +17

Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi Win 2016 AIA Gold Medal

09:25 - 3 December, 2015
Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi Win 2016 AIA Gold Medal, © Frank Hanswijk
© Frank Hanswijk

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has announced Denise Scott Brown, hon. FAIA and Robert Venturi, FAIA, as joint winners of the 2016 AIA Gold Medal. The AIA cited the duo for their "built projects as well as literature that set the stage for Postmodernism and nearly every other formal evolution in architecture." Scott Brown and Venturi are the first ever pair to receive the Gold Medal, after the AIA approved a change to its bylaws in 2013 that allowed the award to be presented to up to two individuals working together.

Best Products Showroom, Langhorne, Pennsylvania (1978). Image © Tom Bernard Episcopal Academy Chapel, Newtown Square (2008). Image © Matt Wargo Franklin Court, Philadelphia (1976). Image © Mark Cohn Vanna Venturi House (1964). Image © Rollin LaFrance +7

Exhibition: Childhood ReCollections

07:00 - 25 August, 2015
Exhibition: Childhood ReCollections, Daniel Libeskind with accordion in Lodz, Poland, 1955
Daniel Libeskind with accordion in Lodz, Poland, 1955

Zaha Hadid, Kengo Kuma, Daniel Libeskind, Nieto Sobejano, Denise Scott Brown and Philip Treacy reveal the childhood recollections that have shaped their outstanding visions and work.

Architects and designers are often asked whose work inspired them as students and influenced their thinking, but Roca London Gallery’s autumn show suggests that design inspiration actually goes back much further than this, into early childhood, and can take some unexpected forms. 

Light Matters: A Flash Back to the Glittering Age of Las Vegas at the Neon Museum

09:30 - 23 June, 2015
Light Matters: A Flash Back to the Glittering Age of Las Vegas at the Neon Museum, Fremont Street at night in Downtown Las Vegas in 1952. Image © Edward N. Edstrom (Public Domain via Wikimedia)
Fremont Street at night in Downtown Las Vegas in 1952. Image © Edward N. Edstrom (Public Domain via Wikimedia)

Thanks to the increasing availability of giant LED screens, the Golden Age of Neon has quietly faded in Las Vegas. For decades casinos defined their visual identity with colorful neon signs and competed for the most innovative signage. But with casinos closing, being refurbished and the arrival of new lighting technology a lot of neon signs were replaced, and for many years the Young Electric Sign Company kept the old neon signs in their "boneyard" for storage and recycling. Fortunately historic preservation groups rescued these signs. With support of the arts council The Neon Museum was born to save neon treasures and to educate the public.

Read on to explore Las Vegas' luminous landmarks and The Neon Museum.

Neon Museum featuring more than 150 unrestored signs, Las Vegas. Image © Neon Museum, www.neonmuseum.org Front exterior of the Mint Hotel, Las Vegas / Nevada, circa 1957. Image © University of Nevada, Las Vegas University Libraries. Young Electric Sign Company (YESCO) Collection. Colour-changing neon sign on the façade of the Stardust Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, 1969. Image © University of Nevada, Las Vegas University Libraries. Young Electric Sign Company (YESCO) Collection. La Concha Motel lobby building, designed in 1961, was rescued from demolition and moved to its current location in 2007 to serve as the Neon Museum’s visitors’ center. Architect: Paul Williams. Las Vegas. Image © Neon Museum, www.neonmuseum.org +7

Arquitetas Invisíveis Presents 48 Women Architects: Part 2, In the Shadows

16:00 - 9 March, 2015
Arquitetas Invisíveis Presents 48 Women Architects: Part 2, In the Shadows, Courtesy of Arquitetas Invisíveis
Courtesy of Arquitetas Invisíveis

To celebrate International Women's Day, we asked the Brazilian non-profit group Arquitetas Invisíveis to share with us a part of their work, which identifies women in architecture and urbanism. They kindly shared with us a list of 48 important women architects, divided into seven categories: pioneers, "in the shadows," architecture, landscape architecture, social architecture, urbanism and sustainable architecture. We will be sharing this list over the course of the week. 

Yesterday we brought you The Pioneers, and today we present the women architects that have lived in "the shadows" of the some of the great names in the architecture world. 

Eileen Gray. Courtesy of Christie's Ray and Charles Eames. © Eames Office Lilly Reich. Image via rauminhalt Chartlotte Perriand. Image via The Lost Innocence +17

Where Are the Women? Measuring Progress on Gender in Architecture

00:00 - 3 October, 2014
Where Are the Women? Measuring Progress on Gender in Architecture, Courtesy of ACSA
Courtesy of ACSA

Today is American architect Denise Scott Brown’s 83rd birthday. It is no secret that the woman has made an indelible mark on architectural history and has significantly advanced the role of women in architecture, though many would argue that her success hasn’t fully been accredited.  

In light of Brown’s success and birthday, we would like to share some fascinating statistics presented by Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) that measure the progress on gender in architecture. According to the report, women make up 51% of the 316 million people residing in the US, however only 25% of the 193,000 registered architects are women. This presents the question, “Where are all the women?”

The statistics on US women in architecture, after the break.

Happy Birthday Robert Venturi

00:00 - 25 June, 2014
Happy Birthday Robert Venturi, © Denise Scott Brown
© Denise Scott Brown

Robert Venturi, the architect famous for "less is a bore," turns 89 today. Venturi started his firm in 1964 and ran it with his wife and partner Denise Scott Brown from 1967 until 2012. Today the Pritzker Prize winner's legacy lives on as the firm continues under the name VSBA (Venturi Scott Brown Associates). 

AJ's Women in Architecture Survey Reveals Discrimination and a Pronounced Pay Gap

00:00 - 15 January, 2014
AJ's Women in Architecture Survey Reveals Discrimination and a Pronounced Pay Gap, Denise Scott-Brown in Las Vegas. Image © Frank Hanswijk
Denise Scott-Brown in Las Vegas. Image © Frank Hanswijk

Following a year of high-profile debates surrounding women in architecture, the results from the Architects' Journal (AJ) third annual survey entitled Women in Architecture has been revealed. According to the AJ, "two thirds of women in architecture have suffered sexual discrimination at work, an eight point increase since the survey began in 2011", and "88% of women respondents believe that having children puts women at a disadvantage in architecture." Even though women in architecture believe that they are paid equally to men, they can in fact "earn as much as £10,000 ($16,500) less than their male counterparts." More, after the break.

Denise Scott Brown: A Must-Read Interview

00:00 - 8 January, 2014
Denise Scott Brown: A Must-Read Interview, Denise Scott Brown outside Las Vegas in 1966; photograph from the Archives of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. Image © Frank Hanswijk
Denise Scott Brown outside Las Vegas in 1966; photograph from the Archives of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. Image © Frank Hanswijk

Designers & Books editors Stephanie Salomon and Steve Kroeter sat down with Denise Scott Brown for a conversation centered around Learning from Las Vegas, the seminal work penned by Scott Brown, Robert Venturi, and Steven Izenour in 1972. The must-read interview reveals some fantastic insight into Scott Brown's personal and professional life - her unending love of neon (one which led her to Las Vegas), her distaste for the "tyranny of white paper" (which gravely afflicted the design of the first edition of Learning from Las Vegas),as well as her - rather surprising - position on awarding group creativity. Read the full interview here and check out some select quotes from the interview, after the break.

The Indicator: Why 2013 was Denise Scott Brown’s Year

00:00 - 6 January, 2014
The Indicator: Why 2013 was Denise Scott Brown’s Year, Courtesy of Plataforma Arquitectura
Courtesy of Plataforma Arquitectura

A lot of things happened in 2013. Zaha was in the news about every other week. She was copied in China and then accused of designing a giant vagina in Qatar. Rem’s son is producing a documentary about his dad. We lost Prentice Women’s Hospital. We almost lost the American Folk Art Museum. There were a lot of stellar exhibitions and one that took things On the Road. It was the year of high-rise after high-rise, with Rem changing the game yet again by lifting the podium off the ground and sticking to his formal guns, refusing to indulge in curvy shapes. 

Things at Architecture for Humanity were shaken up with the departure of co-founders Cameron Sinclair and Kate Stohr. Resiliency became the new sustainability. China suddenly became defined less for its adventurous architecture and urbanism and more for its darker, smoggier flipside. My hometown, Los Angeles got a few more bike lanes, some big plans for its concrete river, plus a new Bloomberg-esque mayor with attendant sustainability tsar. There were people complaining about architecture and telling us why they left the profession. Kanye got attacked for daring to tell us why he likes architecture, and then architecture loved talking about Kanye for weeks on end until we just wanted architecture to shut up about Kanye. Poor Kanye. There are so many things we could say were key in 2013. It’s been a great year. And there were also a lot of fantastic buildings. 

On Gender, Genius, and Denise Scott Brown

00:00 - 2 November, 2013
On Gender, Genius, and Denise Scott Brown, Denise Scott Brown outside Las Vegas in 1966; photograph from the Archives of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. Image © Frank Hanswijk
Denise Scott Brown outside Las Vegas in 1966; photograph from the Archives of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. Image © Frank Hanswijk

"In the 10 years I’ve been running my architectural practice, I [...] have gotten accustomed to people assuming that my male employees — whether younger or older — are the lead architects who will be making final decisions. Yet this time a lingering frustration colored the rest of my day, a sense that while feminism has made significant progress on a conscious level, little change has trickled down into the unconscious of our culture." Check out the rest of Esther Sperber's column for Lilith, in which she details the past travails of female architects (particularly Denise Scott Brown's), and their future mission, here

Necessary Hauntings: Why Architecture Must Listen to its Forgotten Women

01:00 - 16 July, 2013
Courtesy of Women in Architecture, via Metropolis Mag
Courtesy of Women in Architecture, via Metropolis Mag

This article, by Alexandra Lange, originally appeared on Metropolis Magazine as "Architecture's Lean In Moment."

“Women are the ghosts of modern architecture, everywhere present, crucial, but strangely invisible,” writes historian Beatriz Colomina in “With, Or Without You,” an essay in the Museum of Modern Art’s 2010 catalog, Modern WomenArchitecture is deeply collaborative, more like moviemaking than visual art, for example. But unlike movies, this is hardly ever acknowledged.” 

Colomina goes on to chronicle the history of modernism’s missing women, acknowledged, if at all, as working “with” Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, Alvar Aalto, or Charles Eames. To put yourself in the shoes of Lilly Reich, Charlotte Perriand, and Aino Aalto, simply watch the cringe-worthy video of the Eameses on the Home show in 1956; Ray['s] introduced as the “very capable woman behind him” who enters after Charles has bantered with host Arlene Francis.

This spring, these ghosts came back to haunt us: Arielle Assouline-Lichten, a student at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard, read excerpts from an interview with Denise Scott Brown in which she mentioned her own absence from partner Robert Venturi’s 1991 Pritzker Prize. “They owe me not a Pritzker Prize but a Pritzker inclusion ceremony,” Scott Brown said. “Let’s salute the notion of joint creativity.” 

Read all of Alexandra Lange's essay, after the break...