Conversation With Robert Venturi

Venturi attended the American Academy in Rome from 1954 to 1956, at age 29, a relatively short time after graduating from Princeton University and before his professional practice began in earnest. Upon his return from Rome, he held various teaching positions as the University of Pennsylvania. The course material on architectural theory he developed at the University of Pennsylvania later become the basis for his seminal 1966 book Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. Between 1961 and 1964, Venturi designed his mother's residence, the Vanna Venturi House, in Philadelphia, which was a pivotal representation of his then controversial ideas. He founded his firm with John

4 The firm's practice has been prodigious and includes buildings worldwide, including: the Sainsbury Wing (1991), National Gallery, London (1991); Provincial Capitol Building Toulouse, France (1999); Guild House, Philadelphia (1966); and Vanna Venturi House, Chestnut Hill (1964). Publications by Robert Venturi (and Scott Brown) include: Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966), Learning from Las Vegas (1972), A View from the Campidoglio: Selected Essays, 1953-1984 (1984), Iconography and Electronics Upon a Generic Architecture: A View from the Drafting Room (1996), and Architecture as Signs and Systems for a Mannerist Time (2004).

Rauch in 1964, and Denise Scott Brown joined them as partner in 1967. Rauch retired in 1989, and the firm was renamed Venturi Scott Brown & Associates. Venturi and Scott Brown have won numerous design awards and honors, and Venturi won the prestigious Pritzker Prize in 1991.4

After the success of his first building at the Princeton University campus, Gordon Woo Hall (1983), Venturi was commissioned to design the Lewis Thomas Laboratory (1986) in partnership with Payette Associates of Boston. This was a collaboration that divided design tasks: Payette Associates designed the interior spaces, while Venturi's firm designed the building's exterior. Despite the fact that critics, including Paul Goldberger (goldberger 1988), have maintained that the nineteenth-century New England Gothic Revival was the façade's inspiration and primary reference, as the conversation with Robert Venturi will confirm, the building - in its rationally planned facade and the systematic ordering of windows - is essentially analogous to Renaissance palazzos such as Palazzo Farnese (1535) designed by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger (1484-1546) and Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564). Also, the laboratory's façade is constructed as a single skin (brick veneer) and appears to be three-dimensional by way of the brick pattern. This type of illusion is a clear analogy to Baroque trompe l'oeil, in which two-dimensional surfaces are painted to appear to have three-dimensional depth. On the north façade, lounge and conference areas project outward in a bow that is analogous to Palazzo Massimo alle Colonne (1539) designed by Baldassarre Peruzzi (1481-1536), one of Venturi's favorite buildings in Rome. In the chapter 'Contradiction Adapted' in Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, Venturi cites Palazzo Massimo alle Colonne as an example of the design strategy of juxtaposing contradictions in order to 'make the whole impure' (VENTuRi 1966: 52).

MILOVANOVIC-BERTRAM: Can you describe your education at Princeton University and point at potential connections to the curriculum of the American Academy in Rome?

venturi: It was most significant that I had gone to Princeton University when the School of Architecture there was out of fashion. At that time, at Harvard University or Massachusetts Institute of Technology there would have been hardly any history within the curriculum. Modern architecture was all that students there were relating to and evolving from; modern architecture was the ultimate end of architectural evolution, and history was not relevant. At Princeton, modern architecture was not an end; professors there taught architecture as continuing to evolve. So, it was appropriate to look at history and understand the evolution. At Princeton, the Department of Architecture was within the History of Art department, which, at the time, was considered the leading such de-

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