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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.  

Review: Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture

User Review  - Bart - Goodreads

Exceeds even highest expectations. Begins like this (and barely relents): I like elements which are hybrid rather than "pure," compromising rather than "clean," distorted rather than "straightforward ... Read full review

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