Robert Charles Venturi, Jr. (born June 25th, 1925) in Philadelphia) was an award-winning American architect and founding principal of the firm Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates. Robert Venturi and his wife and partner, Denise Scott Brown, are regarded among the most influential architects of the twentieth century, both through their architecture and planning, and theoretical writings and teaching. Venturi was awarded the Pritzker Prize in Architecture in 1991. Venturi lived in Philadelphia with Denise Scott Brown.
Venturi attended school at the Episcopal Academy in Merion, Pennsylvania. He graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1947 and received his M.F.A. there in 1950. In 1951 he briefly worked under Eero Saarinen in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and later for Louis I Kahn in Philadelphia. He was awarded the Rome Prize Fellowship at the American Academy in Rome in 1954, where he studied and toured Europe for two years.
From 1954 to 1965, Venturi held teaching positions at the University of Pennsylvania, where he served as Louis Kahn’s teaching assistant, an instructor, and later, as associate professor. It was there, in 1960, that he met fellow faculty member, architect and planner Denise Scott Brown. Venturi taught later at the Yale School of Architecture and was a visiting lecturer with Scott Brown in 2003 at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design.
A controversial critic of the architecture of corporate modernism during the 1950s, Venturi has been considered a counterrevolutionary. He published his "gentle manifesto," Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture in 1966, described in the introduction by Vincent Scully to be "probably the most important writing on the making of architecture since Le Corbusier's 'Vers Une Architecture', of 1923." Derived from course lectures at the University of Pennsylvania, Venturi received a grant from the Graham Foundation in 1965 to aid in its completion. The book opened the way for a new appreciation of architectural history as inspiration for new designs, and made a case for "the difficult whole" rather than the diagrammatic forms popular at the time. The book has been translated and published in 18 languages.
Immediately hailed as a theorist and designer with radical ideas, Venturi went to teach a series of studios at the Yale School of Architecture in the mid-1960s. The most famous of these was a studio in 1968 in which Venturi and Scott Brown led a team of students to document and analyze the Las Vegas Strip, perhaps the least likely subject for a serious research project imaginable. In 1972, with co-authors Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour, Venturi published the folio, A Significance for A&P Parking Lots, or Learning from Las Vegas later revised in 1977 as Learning from Las Vegas: the Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form using the student work as a foil for new theory. This second manifesto was an even more stinging rebuke to orthodox modernism and elite architectural tastes. The book coined the terms "Duck" and "Decorated Shed" - descriptions of the two predominant ways of embodying iconography in buildings. The work of Venturi, Rauch and Scott Brown adopted the latter strategy, producing formally simple "decorated sheds" with rich, complex and often shocking ornamental flourishes. Though he and his wife co-authored several additional books at the end of the century, these two have proved most influential.
Venturi created the firm Venturi and Short with William Short in 1960. John Rauch replaced Short as partner in 1964, changing the name to Venturi and Rauch. Venturi and Denise Scott Brown were married on July 23, 1967 in Santa Monica, California, and Scott Brown joined the firm as partner in charge of planning in 1969. The firm became known as Venturi, Rauch and Scott Brown in 1980, and, finally, after Rauch’s resignation in 1989, Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates. The firm, based in Philadelphia, was awarded the Architecture Firm Award by the American Institute of Architects in 1985.
Venturi was a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome, the American Institute of Architects and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects.
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