This Week in Architecture: Complexity and Contradiction

Robert Venturi - and the postmodernist movement he helped to form - was occasionally a divisive figure. For hardcore modernists, the referencing of prior styles was an affront to the future-facing architecture they had tried to promote. For traditionalists, the ebullient and kitschy take on classicism was an insult to the elegance of the past.

But on closer examination, post-modernism is not about contradiction, but of mixing. It combines the best of both modernism and classicism: it is pragmatic and functional, exhuberant and thoughtful about the past. Venturi was keenly aware of the active role architecture plays in our lives, but rather than intellectualizing it in abstraction encouraged us all to think in more honest terms. Do you love it? Do you hate it? Minimalism is not necessarily a marker of quality; less can indeed be a bore.

This week, we cherish a figure who shone nothing but light on architecture, who saw buildings as the remit of not just architects but of us all.

Saying Goodbye  

Robert Venturi, famed-postmodernist and icon of American architecture, passed away Tuesday at the age of 93. Among Venturi’s many accolades were the 1991 Pritzker Prize, a Fellowship from the American Institute of Architects, and an Honorary Fellowship from the Royal Institute of British Architects. He started his firm in 1964, running it with his partner and wife Denise Scott Brown from 1967 until 2012. His legacy lives on as the firm continues under the name VSBA (Venturi Scott Brown Associates).

Venturi, Scott Brown + Vegas

© Public Domain user Jean Beaufort licensed under CC0 Public Domain

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.

Love in the Lights

© Rollin LaFrance / VSBA

Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown’s partnership is one for the ages. But how and where did their story begin? In the bright lights and sandy expanse of Las Vegas, of course. This story from 99% Invisible tells how they met, how they fell in love, and how their shared vision created a movement that lives on today.

Projects to Catch Up On

Courtesy of Glenn Howells

About this author
Cite: Katherine Allen. "This Week in Architecture: Complexity and Contradiction" 21 Sep 2018. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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