Robert Venturi | The right approach to architecture

Robert Venturi

I love this cover photo, because it is able to capture much of the essence of Robert Venturi, meaning his simplicity and his being humble towards architecture and everything that surrounds it. Among all the great teachers, he is the one that gave me more.


Once more on Archiobjects blog we talk about Robert Venturi. Once more in addition to many other times, we could say.
Architects, critics and historians usually elaborate theories and express thoughts as a consequence of the “experienced life”, being of a man or of architecture. They feed each other, setting implicit and explicit debates, creating in this way a kind of literary circle that goes on, in time, on books and in cultural gatherings.

Robert Venturi’s different approach to Architecture

Even entering in the category of architect and critic, Robert Venturi has a different approach. He doesn’t study architecture starting from other textbooks or reworking on already known concepts, he goes in the streets and get to discover reality, not the one written in books – he investigates the contemporary society, he examines facts. He proceeds without any prejudice, being free to think what he wants. And he also shows that often who talks about history doesn’t have a proper comprehension of it.

Robert Venturi
Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. Photograph by Andreas Laszlo Konrath

By analyzing Las Vegas, Venturi understands how some architectural rules have changed and some others have been introduced, in the years. For example, expedients like the emphasized lightening or the memory of distant worlds, throughout sensations, represent together with objects like signs, elements that have been introduced from the society independently from the architectonical culture and from conventions.

From this observation, Venturi gets to understand many things and, thanks to his method, he can look at reality with an objective eye – introducing the concept of “inclusion” and making it parallel with contemporary architecture. “All that shows the vitality that can be obtained thanks to an architecture of “inclusion” and, on the other hand, the dead immobility that derives from an excessive worry for the nice taste and for the total planning..”. “The inclusion of the daily in the surrounding, sacred and profane: this is what modern architecture lacks.” – ( “Learning from Las Vegas”, Robert Venturi, Denise S. Brown, Steven Izenour).

His conclusions deal moreover with his way to look at architecture, but the American professor teaches us that an architect has to be able to look around, he doesn’t have to wait for the architectonical practices to be translated in theory to get to know them.

Venturi was awarded the Pritzker Prize in Architecture in 1991 – If you are interested in this link you will find a list of its projects – Or (better) read his books. If I were forced to keep only one book of all my personal library .. definitely I would keep one of his.

The Architect’s Bibliography

Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture | New York: The Museum of Modern Art Press. 1966.

Learning from Las Vegas | Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour (1972). Revised 1977. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.

Iconography and Electronics Upon a Generic Architecture: A View from the Drafting Room | MIT Press. 1998.

Architecture as Signs and Systems: For a Mannerist Time (The William E. Massey Sr. Lectures in the History of American Civilization) | Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown (2004).Harvard University Press.