Venturi and Rauch, Robert Venturi, John Rauch, Denise Scott Brown. Façade Panels from Best Products Showroom, Langhorne, Pennsylvania. 1973-79. Porcelain-enameled steel, 92 x 235 3/4 x 1 3/4" (233.7 x 598.8 x 4.4 cm). Gift of Carlin McLaughlin, Nalin Patel, Rajnikant Shah and Gregory Zollner

“[W]e live architecture.”

Robert Venturi

Robert Venturi stands out among the architects in the second half of the 20th century for his rejection of what he saw as architecture’s reductive goals. He outlined his approach in Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, which grew out of his research at the American Academy in Rome in the 1950s and his teaching at the University of Pennsylvania in the early 1960s. The book has been described as a gentle manifesto for a non-straightforward architecture. History, popular culture, Mannerist complexity, and symbolic meaning achieved through signs and context became the richly layered basis of his work. The highly acclaimed house he designed for his mother, the Vanna Venturi House (1964, Philadelphia)—with its references to classical and Mannerist architecture in its monumental façade’s broken pediment and applied ornament; International Style modernism in its ribbon window for the kitchen; and 19th-century shingle-style American architecture with its pitched roof—succinctly illustrated his ideas about formal complexity and contradiction. In his influential critique of modernism, Venturi was at the forefront of postmodernism.

In the early 1960s, Venturi met Denise Scott Brown, a planner and architect who also taught at Penn. They forged a remarkable professional partnership, and in 1967, they married. Taking the rhetorical question that concluded Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture —“Is not Main Street almost all right?”—seriously, they expanded their interest in the everyday landscape and in popular art and culture. Teaching together at Yale University in the late 1960s, they famously led studios on subway systems, the so-called Levittown suburban developments of mass-produced ranch houses built after World War II, and Las Vegas. These interests culminated in another publication, Learning from Las Vegas, a controversial reading of the ugly and ordinary, and of that city’s iconic commercial strip.

Venturi continued to emphasize the communicative function of architecture through signs and symbols. One of the clearest examples is his firm’s design for the Best Products catalog showroom. An instance of what the architect called a “decorated shed,” the large, boxlike building was clad in decorative panels painted with oversized, colorful flowers—a pattern derived from the commercial wallpaper in Venturi and Scott Brown’s own bedroom, but also an homage to Pop art and popular culture.

The architects continued to develop their ideas across a wide variety of projects, including furniture and product designs, houses, institutional commissions, and urban planning programs. Venturi retired in 2012.

Note: Opening quote is from Andrea Tamas, “Interview: Robert Venturi & Denise Scott Brown,” ArchDaily, April 25, 2011.

Peter Reed, Senior Deputy Director, Curatorial Affairs, 2016

Wikipedia entry
Robert Charles Venturi Jr. (June 25, 1925 – September 18, 2018) was an American architect, founding principal of the firm Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates. Together with his wife and partner, Denise Scott Brown, he helped shape the way that architects, planners and students experience and think about architecture and the built environment. Their buildings, planning, theoretical writings, and teaching have also contributed to the expansion of discourse about architecture. Venturi was awarded the Pritzker Prize in Architecture in 1991; the prize was awarded to him alone, despite a request to include his equal partner, Scott Brown. Subsequently, a group of women architects attempted to get her name added retroactively to the prize, but the Pritzker Prize jury declined to do so. Venturi coined the maxim "Less is a bore", a postmodern antidote to Mies van der Rohe's famous modernist dictum "Less is more". Venturi lived in Philadelphia with Denise Scott Brown. He is the father of James Venturi, founder and principal of ReThink Studio.
Information from Wikipedia, made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
Getty record
Born 25 June 1925. Studied, Princeton University, New Jersey, 1943-1950, B.A. 1947, MFA, 1950; American Academy, Rome (Rome Prize Fellowship) 1954-1956. From 1950 to 1958, Venturi worked successively for Oscar Stonorov, Eero Saarinen, and Louis I. Khan. Partner, Venturi, Cope and Lippincott, with Paul Cope and H. Mather Lippincott, Philadelphia, 1958-1961. Partner, Venturi and Short, with William Short, Philadelphia, 1961-1964. Partner, Venturi and Rauch, with John Rauch, Philadelphia, 1960-1980 or 1964-1980. Denise Scott joined the firm as Architect and Planner in 1967. Married the architect Denise Scott Brown in 1967. Partner, Venturi, Rauch, and Scott Brown, with Rauch and Scott Brown, Philadelphia, 1980-1989 Principal, Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates, with Scott Brown, Philadelphia, since 1989.
Artist, Architect, Professor, Designer, Photographer
Robert Venturi, Robert Charles Venturi
Information from Getty’s Union List of Artist Names ® (ULAN), made available under the ODC Attribution License


18 works online



  • MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art Flexibound, 408 pages
  • MoMA Now: Highlights from The Museum of Modern Art—Ninetieth Anniversary Edition Hardcover, 424 pages
  • Complexity and Contradiction at Fifty (Boxed Set) Slipcased, 336 pages
  • Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture Paperback, 136 pages
  • Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture Hardcover, 136 pages
  • Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture Paperback, 136 pages
  • Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture Hardcover, 136 pages

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