Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture

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First published in 1966, and since translated into 16 languages, this remarkable book has become an essential document of architectural literature. A gentle manifesto for a nonstraightforward architecture, Venturi's Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture expresses in the most compelling and original terms the postmodern rebellion against the purism of modernism. Three hundred and fifty architectural photographs serve as historical comparisons and illuminate the author's ideas on creating and experiencing architecture. Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture was the winner of the Classic Book Award at the AIA's Seventh Annual International Architecture Book Awards.

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Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture by Robert Venturi is insightful, compelling and has been uniquely influential on the architecture of today. The perspective it offers can not be fully appreciated today. It was written in reaction to the narrow tyranny of modernist ideology imposed and enforced in the schools of architecture (first by Gropius at Harvard) and then in professional journals and the profession itself.
Under that regime pre-modern buildings could not be imitated admired or looked to for insight. Venturi found that boring, pointless and a creative impediment. (Not a rejection of modern architecture itself.) Modern architecture seemed a spent force by the mid-sixties. Others would agree and Postmodernism was born. Postmodernism was less a style or movement that a reaction and a transition to a creative renewal of modernism.
Vincent Scully - "probably the most important writing on the making of architecture since Le Corbusier's 'Vers Une Architecture', of 1923."
originally published: 1966
(Review of reviews: Warning - some of the previous 12 reviews offered here are just ridiculous.)

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This is an appeal of a practicing architect to treat architecture more as literary creation, rather than as a rigid, highly function, economically feasible and strictly utilitarian. He believes that tensions and complexities makes structure interesting and must not be sacrificed to efficiency and function. High level balance is achieved in a dynamism of parts and logical resolution of the whole. Venturi provides illustrations of the old and new architecture, making connections with art criticism of T.S. Eliot and others. This is an essay concerning more of philosophy of architecture rather that guidelines for practicing architects.  


Contradiction Juxtaposed
9 The Inside and the Outside
The Obligation Toward the Difficult Whole

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About the author (1977)

Robert Charles Venturi Jr. was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on June 25, 1925. He received undergraduate and graduate degrees from Princeton University. He worked for Eero Saarinen and Louis Kahn, before winning a fellowship at the American Academy in Rome. Venturi spent two years in Europe studying buildings. After returning to the United States, he joined the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania. He went into private practice in 1960, first in partnership with William H. Short and then, starting in 1964, with John Rauch. His wife Denise Scott Brown joined the Venturi Rauch firm in 1969. In 1989, Rauch resigned, the firm was renamed Venturi, Scott Brown & Associates. It is now known as VSBA Architects & Planners. His buildings and books helped inspire the movement known as postmodernism. His buildings included the Guild House in Philadelphia, an addition to the National Gallery in London, and the Seattle Art Museum. His books included Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture and Learning from Las Vegas written with Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour. He won the Pritzker Prize in 1991. He died from complications of Alzheimer's disease on September 18, 2018 at the age of 93.

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