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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).

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

When Art, Architecture and Commerce Collided: The BEST Products Showrooms by SITE

09:30 - 7 December, 2015
When Art, Architecture and Commerce Collided: The BEST Products Showrooms by SITE

According to one survey, images of the BEST Products Showroom in Houston, Texas, designed by SITE (Sculpture in the Environment), appeared in more books on 20th-century architecture than any other building. The intentionally crumbling brick at that Houston store, known as “Indeterminate Façade,” and the eight other showrooms SITE designed, were simultaneously iconic and controversial, and most importantly for BEST, they brought in customers. Although SITE-founder James Wines never considered himself a Postmodernist architect, his designs for BEST, completed between 1972 and 1984, steeped in whimsical social commentary, came to symbolize the essence of Postmodernism. Today, all but one of the BEST showrooms have been demolished or altered beyond recognition, but they set a lasting precedent, and continue to influence the use of architecture in corporate branding today.

Cutler Ridge Building. Image © SITE Notch Building Plan/Elevation. Image © SITE Inside/Outside Building. Image © SITE Forest Building. Image © SITE +40

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

Robert Venturi and Rem Koolhaas Side with Denise Scott Brown on Pritzker Debate

00:00 - 4 April, 2013
Robert Venturi and Rem Koolhaas Side with Denise Scott Brown on Pritzker Debate, Denise Scott Brown outside Las Vegas in 1966; photograph from the Archives of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown © Frank Hanswijk
Denise Scott Brown outside Las Vegas in 1966; photograph from the Archives of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown © Frank Hanswijk

Robert Venturi has joined nearly 4,000 advocates in the call to retrospectively acknowledge Denise Scott Brown as a joint Pritzker Prize laureate, stating: “Denise Scott Brown is my inspiring and equal partner.”

His support was then quickly followed by Rem Koolhaas, who stated: “I totally support this action. The fact that one of the most creative and productive partnerships we have ever seen in architecture was separated rather than celebrated by a prize has been an embarrassing injustice which it would be great to undo.”

More updates after the break...

Denise Scott Brown Demands Recognition from Pritzker

00:00 - 29 March, 2013
Denise Scott Brown Demands Recognition from Pritzker, © Frank Hanswijk
© Frank Hanswijk

During a speech at the AJ Women in Architecture luncheon in London last week, postmodern icon Denise Scott Brown requested to be acknowledged retrospectively for her role in Robert Venturi’s 1991 Pritzker Prize, describing Pritzker’s inability to acknowledge her involvement as “very sad”.

Although at the time of the award Brown had co-partnered their practice Venturi Scott Brown and Associates for over 22 years and played a critical role in the evolution of architectural theory and design alongside Venturi for the over 30 years, as well as co-authored the transformative 1970’s book Learning from Las Vegas, her role as “wife” seemed to have trumped her role as an equal partner when the Pritzker jury chose to only honor her husband, Venturi.

More information and an online petition after the break...