Artist: Robert Venturi
Title: Vanna Venturi House, Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia
Period/Style/School (region, movement, medium): American Postmodern domestic architecture
Artist: from Philadelphia. Went to Princeton and studied under Beaux Arts professor Jean Lebatu. Worked for Eero Saarinen and Louis Kahn. Published Complexity and Contradiction in 1966, which explored the architectural history of the Italian Baroque and Mannerist prototypes and argued that the great architecture of the past was not classically simple but often ambiguous and complex. First rebuttal to International Style.
Subject: prototypical Venturi building, made for his mother. Work of exceptional humor, sophistication, irony whose apparent ordinariness is just enough off to tell the alert viewer that something extraordinary has gone into design. Accepted conventions of ugly and ordinary suburban crackerbox (stucco veneer, wood frame, pitched roof, front porch, central chimney) and parodied them. Scale of façade extends past roof, creating false front. Divided in center to reveal conceit with recessed porch. Arch shaped strip of molding and stretched lintel above the entrance (paper thin) joins halves. Slip echoes stone architecture of the Baroque. Chimney as central mass. Five same-sized windows on each side, arranged asymmetrically (unexpected unity). Complicated interior: rooms are irregularly shaped and small in scale. Plan is tight and rational, not whimsical. Stairs narrow to show difference in publc to private scale. Does not impose a living pattern but expresses client’s patterns of living.
History: reaction to modernism, arose in 1960s and 1970s, celebration of Pop culture, commercialism, historicism, middleclass values.
Style: his firm (Venturi,. Rauch, Scott Brown) called their works dumb buildings or decorated sheds. Using historic styles that modernism denied, but in inventive way. High art from vernacular sources. Shape of house reminiscent of HH Richardson and McKim, Mead and White shingle houses. And arch particularly reminiscent of Richardson, but also could be an Art Deco motif. This is decorative historicism. Rectangular, curvilinear, diagonal elements. Interior focues on fireplace (like Wright)