Robert Venturi

(b. 1925) American architect, pioneer of postmodernist architecture

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(1925– )

US architect and writer on architecture, regarded as the leading exponent of the postmodernist style.

Venturi was born in Philadelphia and educated at Princeton University. In the 1950s he worked as a designer in the offices of the leading modernist architect Eero Saarinen (1910–61) and Louis I. Kahn; he also became (1954–56) a fellow of the American Academy in Rome, the first of several academic appointments. Venturi's rejection of the dogmas of the international style first became apparent from the idiosyncratic house he built for his mother in 1962 (the Vanna Venturi House, Philadelphia). In 1966 he published his Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, which decried the element of puritanism in modernist theory and championed eclecticism, ornamentation, and a sense of wit. A still more provocative book was Learning from Las Vegas (1972; with Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour) in which Venturi defended the garish environment of Las Vegas and other US cities against aesthetic strictures.

Since the mid-1960s Venturi has worked in partnership with John Rauch and Denise Scott Brown, his wife from 1967. His buildings of the 1970s, such as the Brant-Johnson House in Vail, Colorado (1976), and the Gordon Wu Hall, Butler College, Princeton (1980), are celebrated for their playful use of historical references, which sometimes involves a deliberate element of kitsch. Venturi's work was perhaps the leading influence on the design of offices and shopping malls in 1980s Britain.

When the intervention of Prince Charles led to the rejection of a proposed modernist design for the extension to the National Gallery in London, Venturi won the commission to produce an alternative. The new wing opened amid great publicity, mostly favourable, in 1991.

Subjects: Architecture — Industrial and Commercial Art.

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