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"Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture" at 50

It is generally agreed that Complexity and Contradiction,  described by its author as a “gentle manifesto,” has lived up to the prediction made by Vincent Scully in the book’s preface: that it would be the most important architectural text written since Le Corbusier’s 1923 manifesto Vers une architecture. Venturi’s book is conventionally interpreted as a potent early expression of postmodernism not only as that term applies to architecture, but in the culture at large, as its very title became a popular description of the postmodern condition. The book’s argument, however, is not in all ways congruent with what has come to be regarded as postmodern thinking, and its relationship to this phenomenon invites rigorous analysis. Conference speakers will locate the book in the intellectual and cultural context of its time, exploring its relationship to the diversity of thinking that may be labeled postmodern while also identifying its connections to other (and contradictory) intellectual tendencies. A more nuanced understanding of the work will contribute to contemporary discussions of modernism in architecture and throughout our culture.

Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, published by The Museum of Modern Art 50 years ago, in association with the Graham Foundation, was based in large part on materials Venturi assembled for the lecture course he taught at the University of Pennsylvania from 1961 to 1965, on which he collaborated, in part, with Denise Scott Brown, his future partner and wife. The manuscript was selected by Arthur Drexler, then the director of the Department of Architecture and Design at The Museum of Modern Art, to inaugurate an intended series of texts on modern architectural theory. With Venturi and Scott Brown’s archive now housed at the Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania, MoMA and Penn are the fitting sponsors for the symposium.

The conference opened on November 10 with a panel discussion of practicing architects from around the world, moderated by David De Long, Professor Emeritus, University of Pennsylvania. The panelists will be Kersten Geers, Sam Jacob, Momoyo Kaijima, Michael Meredith, Stephen Kieran, and James Timberlake.

Over the next two days, three sessions will explore the themes “Post Modernism,” “Creative Contexts,” and “Making the Book,” with papers presented by Lee Ann Custer, Deborah Fausch, Christine Gorby, Andrew Leach, Mary McLeod, Joan Ockman, Emmanuel Petit, Martino Stierli, Pier Paolo Tamburelli, Stanislaus von Moos, and Enrique Walker. David Brownlee, Alice Friedman of Wellesley College, and Kathryn Hiesinger of the Philadelphia Museum of Art will moderate these sessions.

Following the third session, a bus excursion will enable participants to visit key works of architecture by Venturi and Scott Brown and other members of the so-called Philadelphia School of the 1960s.

The conference will close at the Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania with an exhibition viewing, a reception, and a rare conversation with Denise Scott Brown. On view will be the exhibition Back Matter: The Making of Robert Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, organized in conjunction with the conference by William Whitaker, Curator and Collections Manager of the Architectural Archives, and Lee Ann Custer. The exhibition (on view October 28, 2016–January 13, 2017) will display original materials from the Venturi and Scott Brown archive, highlighting Venturi’s teaching at Penn, the production of the manuscript and book, and Venturi’s contemporaneous architectural design work. Whitaker will engage Scott Brown in a discussion about the book’s making, context, and consequences.


November 10-12, 2016
The Museum of Modern Art | Philadelphia Museum of Art | Penn Architectural Archives

Organized by : Martino Stierli, the Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design at The Museum of Modern Art, and David Brownlee, the Shapiro-Weitzenhoffer Professor of the History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania.

Full schedule and more information on MoMA’s website

 

Posted
26.Feb.2016 176 views 9 shares
Author
Martino Stierli

Martino Stierli (Zug, 1974) is The Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design at MoMA, since March 2015. He received his MA in art and architectural history, German, and comparative literature at the University of Zurich in 2003, and a PhD from the ETHZ in 2008. He has taught at the universities of Zurich and Basel as well as ETHZ. As the SNSF Professor at the University of Zurich’s Institute of Art History, he focused his research on architecture and media. His project The Architecture of Hedonism: Three Villas in the Island of Capri was included in the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale. He has organized and co-curated several exhibitions, including Las Vegas Studio: Images from the Archives of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown (2008–14). His scholarship has been recognized with a number of prizes, among them the Theodor Fischer Prize by the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, Munich (2008), and the 2011 Swiss Art Award for Architectural Criticism.

Posted
11.Nov.2016 176 views 9 shares
Author
David Brownlee

David Brownlee is an a historian of modern architecture whose interests embrace a wide range of subjects in Europe and America, from the late eighteenth century to the present. He is The Frances Shapiro-Weitzenhoffer Professor of 19th Century European Art at the Univerisity of Pennsylvania. He received his Ph.D. at Harvard University in 1980. Professor Brownlee has won numerous fellowships, and his work has earned three major publication prizes from the Society of Architectural Historians. He is a recipient of the University of Pennsylvania’s Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching. His recent books include Louis I. Kahn: In the Realm of Architecture (with David G. De Long,1991), Making a Modern Classic: The Architecture of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (1997), and Out of the Ordinary: Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Associates: Architecture, Urbanism, Design (with David De Long and Kathryn Hiesinger, 2001).

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