Robert Venturi, 1925-2018

 John Hill
19. September 2018
Robert Venturi (Photo via venturiscottbrown.org)
Robert Venturi, the influential architect and theorist, died on Tuesday, September 18th at the age of 93 after a brief illness.
The news broke at The Architect's Newspaper, which included a statement from Venturi's family:

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.

Venturi was six years older than Denise Scott Brown, who is still actively working and has been in the public eye more than her husband in recent years, thanks to numerous prizes but mainly her call for "a Pritzker inclusion ceremony" two decades after Venturi received the 1991 Pritzker Architecture Prize. Although she was denied a retroactive Pritzker, the husband and wife received the AIA Gold Medal in 2016, the first duo to receive the AIA's highest honor.

To hear Venturi speak about his architecture was to hear him describe it as their architecture. And they produced some of the most influential buildings in the second half of the twentieth century, particularly the 1964 house for Robert Venturi's mother in a neighborhood of Philadelphia, the city where the architects practiced as Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates. Other notable buildings include the Guild House (1964) in Philadelphia, the Sainsbury Wing (1991) at London's National Gallery, and too many university buildings to list.

​Venturi's writings were probably more influential than his buildings. First came Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, published by the Museum of Modern Art in 1966. Translated into roughly 20 languages, the text is considered one of the most important manifestos in 20th century architecture and is often attributed as the main spark in the shift from Modernism to Postmodernism in the architecture profession. The following decade saw Learning from Las Vegas, written with Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour. It was the product of a studio at the Yale School of Architecture and made the Duck vs. Decorated Shed argument a lasting part of architectural discourse.

Venturi retired from practice in 2012, the same year Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates changed its name to VSBA Architects & Planners under new leadership. An archive of the architecture and writings of Venturi and Scott Brown can be found at venturiscottbrown.org.
Vanna Venturi House, Chestnut Hill, PA, 1964 (Photo: Courtesy of Kurfiss/Sotheby's)
A young Robert Venturi (Photo via VSBA's Facebook page)

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