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Architect Robert Venturi passes away

October 17, 2018

Robert Venturi died this September at age 93. Known equally for his contributions to architectural theory and practice, he rejected both Modern and Postmodern labels. His often quoted line, “less is a bore,” was a playful response to Mies van der Rohe’s mantra, “less is more.” His architectural works since the 1960s included many influential counterpoints to the pure Modern aesthetic. Some examples include the Vanna Venturi House (1964), the Guild House (1966), the Lieb House (1967), and, more recently, the Seattle Art Museum (1991). His works have been praised for their use of decorative arrangements in “new, sometimes surprising combinations,” allowing for ornamentation and asymmetry in sharp contrast to Modernism. As a theorist, his writings, including Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture and Learning From Las Vegas, introduced generations of students to Postmodernist thinking about architecture. 

Venturi is survived by his son James, and his wife, Denise Scott Brown, who was also his fellow architect and business partner. When Venturi alone was awarded the Pritzker Prize in 1991, many, including Venturi and Brown themselves, thought she had been overlooked. This past September Brown was awarded the Sloane Medal, only the second time ever the Sir John Sloane Museum in London has made the award, which is given to architects who have made a major contribution to their field. The pair were actively involved in efforts to preserve their work, including a beach house on the Jersey shore that was moved to Long Island in 2009, and more recently, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.

Robert Venturi, Architect Who Rejected Modernism, Dies at 93,” New York Times, September 19, 2018.

Photo courtesy Rollin LaFrance/VSBA