THE MODERN HOUSE III: Robert Venturi’s Vanna Venturi’s House

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Architects: Venturi, Scott Brown
Date: 1962-64
Location: Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, PA
Client: Vanna Venturi

Vanna Venturi asked her son, Robert, who was fresh out of architecture school, to design a house for her. Sensing parental indulgence, Venturi took the occasion to design and build a case study of the theory he would expound in his book Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966).

The Vanna Venturi House is generally considered to be the first post-modern structure to be raised. Venturi’s design was so much anti-modernist as it was anti-Mies. The reigning aesthetic in 1962 was high formalism: grid-based, spare, and rational. For Venturi, it was oppressively ascetic and embodied ideals antithetical to the way people lived.

Vanna Venturi lived in the house from 1964 through 1973 and enjoyed showing visitors the out-of-scale architectural ornaments, the irregularly-grouped windows, oversized fireplace, and staircase that led to nowhere.

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