ARCHITECT and BUILDER contributor Edward Keegan reports that Robert Venturi, FAIA, died on Tuesday at 93, according to a statement from VSBA Architects & Planners.
The 2016 AIA Gold Medalist (with partner and wife, Denise Scott Brown, Hon. FAIA) and 1991 Pritzker Prize laureate, Venturi will always be best known for his two seminal books, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (The Museum of Modern Art, 1966) and Learning from Las Vegas, with Scott Brown and Steven Izenour (The MIT Press, 1972). Venturi was born on June 25, 1925, in Philadelphia, and received degrees from Princeton University in 1947 and 1950. He remained a resident of his hometown for the rest of his life, with brief absences to work for Eero Saarinen (1951) and live at the American Academy in Rome (1954-56). He taught at the University of Pennsylvania from 1959 to 1967, and also taught at Yale University and Harvard University. He married Scott Brown in 1967, and they remained collaborators for the rest of his life. Their son, James Venturi, is the founder of New York–based ReThink Studio.
Declaring “less is a bore” in Complexity and Contradiction, Venturi skewered the orthodoxy of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and other modernists, while opening a formalist approach to a heterodox architecture. In Learning from Las Vegas, he posited that buildings could be categorized as either ducks or decorated sheds, while showing his willingness to move beyond the high art of architectural history, and embrace broader American culture in his work.