Jimmy Venturi's new website...

Louisville Architect

i'll be a student and probably an asshole my whole life. i hope never to stop being a student anyway.

but i'll never be "just a student". i think, having never written a book, i can also be an architect, a friend, a husband....there are lots of things i can be, having never written a book!

have i heard of this book? i mean, other than on this site.

Oct 12, 05 4:35 pm  · 

here is a little booky for the sake of this tread. 3 of my unforgattable visits to venturi's mastery.
so far, the porcelain panel goes to quondam via the friend.

Oct 12, 05 5:00 pm  · 

Gosh, suddenly I'm a student again. So far I've only seen No. 9, Indian summer 1977 I think. The friend a few years ago actually did a design for an addition to No. 9--"Bob" passed the job along. Never happen for real, but the addition built off that back corner triangle, and that was neat.

Virtual (museum) panels in jpeg, yes.

Oct 12, 05 5:06 pm  · 

npc, no one's read the book except me; like you, I'm keeping it as anonymous as possible.

Oct 12, 05 5:19 pm  · 

I'm glad I came back to this thread.

quondam, I find your 12:09 post especially interesting. Perhaps some of the "development" or "evolution" that we spoke of earlier (by critiquing VSBA) is being carried on by MVRDV and others. I appreciate your insightful comparison.

Oct 12, 05 5:24 pm  · 

AP, I find it interesting too, like, is it all conscious or sub-conscious, or osmotic even. I like it too because the 'artifacts', the designs, speak for themselves within a much larger architectural continuum. Abra brought up No. 9, and seeing it again here made me think of the early Gehry three-in-a-row houses in Santa Monica(?), and then a lot of the "glass/wall boxy" houses designed now. And a couple of weeks ago the "pitched roof house" thread and seeing the Vanna Venturi House among the contemporary stuff also brought a perception to my eye that wasn't there before.

I'll go for the continuum idea as to where architecture is really at.

Oct 12, 05 5:46 pm  · 

this reminds me, while in undergrad I saw Anthony Ames lecture and his closing remarks implied that he was consciously carrying on the legacy of Le Corbusier, directly and deliberately (although during the lecture he credited the NY5 with some influence).

continuum...wonder how Frampton would feel about that?

Oct 12, 05 5:53 pm  · 

Does Frampton already speak of a/the architectural continuum? I've read very little Frampton, and not in a long time. If there is a contiuum, it's there whether anybody talks about or not. Isn't that how a continuum operates?

No doubt (the architects/book) NY5 "influenced" a lot (if not most, if not all) of the 3/4 20th century interest in Le Corbusier's 'Purist' architecture among other architects and students of architecture.

Whose gonna do a movie on Michael Graves?

Oct 12, 05 6:17 pm  · 

from what I understood, Frampton's history finds its end it Critical Regionalism. maybe not end...but it is the final chapter of his text: Modern Architecture: A Critical for continuum, I don't remember if there is any specific reference, but he definitely illuminates themes as they move from one to the next, locale to locale, how architect 'A' travels to such and such a place, sees so and so's work, is influenced...I guess the shortcoming to this method is the need for categorization that it calls for (Sola-Morales).

Graves? HA!

Oct 12, 05 11:53 pm  · 

Thanks AP, I'll check out the "Critical Regionalism" chapter, although I have Modern Architecture and the Critical Present, a Frampton edited issue of Architectural Design 52, summer 1982:

This issue of AD is largely devoted to a number of essays which I have written over the last five years. Comprising five separate pieces, the central thesis here is the last chapter of my book Modern Architecture: A Critical History.

I know I haven't read all of this AD issue either, but I might just do it now.

Anyway, back to the continuum (kind of). I'd like to address the issue of "While Venturi is credited as the father of postmodernism, he feels this movement perverted his ideas rather than embraced them." I feel the "perversion" did happen, but for me it because of misintrepretation, copy-catting and faulty teaching.

Steven Ward wrote here:

c+c was earth-shattering at the time, changing the course of architectural history.


c+c helped break the gospel of modern as part of a linear progression, reintroducing the possibility that all art/design/invention is both linear AND recurring/cyclical. architects once again had permission (so to speak) to look to the past for guidance and inspiration. both good and bad things came of this.

Was C&C really "earth shattering?" Did it really change architectural history?

I was only 10 years old when C&C was published so I can't give any personal experience as to what happened then, but a few years ago someone at design-l wrote that "nobody read that precious book back then. Go and read the [bad?] reviews it got." I haven't checked out any of the reviews, but they are certainly a legitimate part of the continuum. C&C was not in the adult section of my local free library in 1972, but it was at the Northeast (Phila.) Regional library, and I can still remember seeing it for the first time. It looked "foreign" to me, and once I started reading it it just got worse--first sentence: "This is not an easy book," and that remained true for me in 1972. I bought my own copy of C&C at MoMA in 1975 (now a first year arch. student), and I started reading it again. I mentioned my reading to one of my teachers, Maria Romanach (daughter of Mario Romanach, sometime supplier of Cuban cigars to Mies van der Rohe) and she said, "Yeah, but you don't want to design that way!"

So, how many architects have since Complexity and Conrtradiction in Architecture designed:
nonstraightforward architecture
ambiguous architecture
complex and contradictory architecture vs. simple and picturesque architecture
"both-and" architecture
double-functioning element architecture
contradiction adapted architecture
contradiction juxtaposed architecture
different outside and inside architecture
difficult whole architecture

Are any of the above "architectures" really discussed when Post-Modern Architecture is discussed?

Charles Jencks published The Language of Post-Modern Architecture in 1977.

In 1978, one of the covers of Progressive Architecture looked almost exactly like this:

and the copy-cats where now uncontrollably out of the bag. I remember professors in school being literally afraid that students will start doing the same thing.

Oct 13, 05 1:41 pm  · 

To further flesh out the continuum, I was at MoMA in 1975 to see:
The Architecture of the École des beaux-arts
an exhibition presented at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 29, 1975-January 4, 1976
[funny time those seventies]

Oct 13, 05 2:40 pm  · 

since notper so gracefully [ahem] brought up the duck/shed theme, i'll respond to an earlier quondam question about how venturi-thinking, filtered through some other agendas and reading, affects my own personal thinking about design - maybe even to the point of enabling a 'nonstraightforward', 'ambiguous', et al...way of making architecture.

[warning: this is not original, the description will be oversimplified, and i haven't written a book about it.]

the duck was a way of describing the logical extension of two trends of modern architecture, an overly prescriptive functionalist and an overly sculptural approach to design, both common in the late 60s/early 70s. the decorated shed, as counterpoint to the duck, offered a way of achieving a just-as-appropriate response to need/accommodation without dedicating the building to that purpose in perpetuity, the building’s meaning/purpose communicated through things applied rather than the form itself.

now there was the opportunity (which already existed in the commercial vernacular, but had not been leveraged in the cause of ‘Architecture’) to recover the shell/tenant model that had existed in a lot of urban architecture through the 19th c but had been shelved in the push to make a more functionalist/prescribed architecture in the 20s/30s and beyond. (here i'm not talking about exceptions, the opera houses and palaces, so much as the fabric buildings between them.)

a few things things that were happening at mid-century:

-urban renewal in which the historic fabric buildings (non-ducks) were torn down and replaced with modern objects in free space (ducks) surrounded by parking.

-beginning of preservation efforts and the adaptive reuse of 18th/19th c warehouse and other generic structures and industrial structures, sheds that could accommodate a variety of uses.

-the rise of a spec office and spec retail economy in which use is on a 5-15 year timetable, after which a structure was disposable.

the idea that a modern architecture could be generic, that it could communicate its use through sign or symbol and that it could be a shell into which the elements that made it functional could be inserted, also meant that it could be recycled.

in this way, these ideas have affected my design work. after spending a lot of my early career working to adapt old structures to new uses, i now strive to get to a design strategy for new construction where the shell is one element of the architecture, a permanent piece of the urban landscape, responsive to its place (the critical regional discussion is pertinent here), but the stuff that makes it work for contemporary purposes is a separate architectural effort, one that can be changed: the tenant and the signs and symbols that identify the tenant. this approach provides a strategic approach to sustainable design – not as green/granola as pv panels and trombe walls, but equally effective as part of a both/and process if it allows for making use of shell construction materials over a longer term and utilizing less energy- and materials-intensive construction for the stuff inside.

venturi’s writings support and encourage this strategy, but many of the buildings of vsba run counter to it. the firehouse, as elegant as it is, has integrated its signs as integral elements of the architecture, as has the football hall of fame, the seattle art museum…

the mvrdv spin is interesting, too. while they may have similar graphic themes and similar ways of talking about their work, many of their projects are, in fact, ducks. the expo 2000 building, of which we’ve recently seen pictures in ruin, looks like a generic structure, but has limited extended life, limited adaptability. (not inappropriate, maybe, since I don’t think it was meant to stick around…and this may be proved wrong now that some ebay buyer may have a lick at it.) while villa vpro looks like it MIGHT be adaptable, a project like the edificio mirador can really only be what it is, despite looking like a big warehouse. same with the sildam. wozoco=duck, in fact representing an intentional and clever deformation/critique of the generic slab, or shed, through the addition of large protrusions in the name of [wink-wink] function. villa kbbw is very specific and prescribed, and the exterior is very clearly meant to be a direct expression of its function – ergo, duckish.

Oct 14, 05 10:46 am  · 

From the original Learning from Las Vegas, p. 64:

We shall emphasize image--image over process or form--in asserting that architecture depends in its perception and creation on past experience and emotional association and that these symbolic and repreentational elements may often be contradictory to the form, structure, and program with which they combine in the same building. We shall survey this contradiction in its two main manifestations:

1. Where the architectural systems of space, structure, and program are submerged and distorted by a overall symbolic form. This kind of building-becoming-sculpture we call the duck in honor of the duck-shaped drive-in, "The Long Island Duckling," illustrated in God's Own Junkyard by Peter Blake.

2. Where systems and structure are directly at the service of program, and ornament is applied independently of them. This we call the decorated shed.

The duck is the special building that is a symbol; the decorated shed is the conventonal shelter that applies symbols. We maintain that both kinds of architecture are valid--Chartres is a duck (although it is a decorated shed as well), and the Palazzo Farnese is a decorated shed--but we think that the duck is seldom relevant today, although it pervades Modern architecture.

- - - - -

You rarely hear that "We maintain that both kinds of architecture are valid," and it is certainly open to question as to whether "the duck is seldom relevant today." Prevalence (pervasiveness) harbors relevance by (at least) default, does it not? And note how nowhere in the 'original' terms of the duck and the decorated shed is the notion of "the decorated shed, as counterpoint to the duck, offered a way of achieving a just-as-appropriate response to need/accommodation without dedicating the building to that purpose in perpetuity" espoused. This "not in perpetuity" notion is subsequent interpolation of the duck and the decorated shed polemic and should not be attributed to V,SB&I.

Imagine the work of VSBA in complex contradiction to their own theory? When is Rome, I suppose.

Is the Columbus firehouse really contrary? I see the tower cum sign as double-functioning architecture. Does the sign "integral" to the tower really make the firehouse just a firehouse in perpetuity? You know, they don't make firehouses with towers now--there's not a function for them anymore. But then again, the notion of the decorated shed being a design methodology to accomidate adapted reuse is not what the decorated shed vs. duck argument is originally about.

In the Football Hall of Fame, the integral electronic billboard is prefect for adapted reuse, just program the sign with new content.

"Oh dear, what are we going to do about the "carved-in" sign of the Seattle Art Museum if it's ever not a museum. God forbid that people should know that it's the quondam Seattle Art Museum." The decorated shed becomes the duck becomes the decorated duck?!

[As to MDRVD, the fact that connections to VSBA do exist, especially in the present-day architecture culture that assumes there to be no connection at all, is far more important than pointing out MDRVD's otherwise independence yet still working well within the architectural continuum. Villa VPRO, for example, is so far the most successful reenactment of Le Corbusier's Palais des Congres, and given that the Palais des Congres was a design for the European Parliament and VPRO is television station(?) offices, adaptive reuse is kind of already part of the design.]

Is changing history the same as making history? I'd say the work of VSBA made history by their introduction of directions of architecture theory and practice other than the (then) status quo. Changing history is different and occurs in at least two different ways. History is changed when events are recorded and taught as history but are not really reflective of what actually happened, like the 'perversion' that Venturi feels happened to his theory, and inversely, history is changed when a discovery occurs that invalidates established certainties, like the discovery of there actually being two renditions of Piranesi's Ichnograhia Campi Martii.

Oct 14, 05 1:57 pm  · 

I still remember what Brigitte Knowles (the blonde student you see in one of Kahn's classes in My Architect, and in 1978 one of my teachers and my employer) told me after returning from Rome and having there seen the Roma Interrota exhibition: "Venturi's boards were terrible, really a disgrace. They just pasted some Las Vegas stuff on the Nolli map, and that was it. I think they are now finished."

I ain't 'fraid o' no ZeitGhost.

Oct 14, 05 2:11 pm  · 

"this 'not in perpetuity' notion is subsequent interpolation of the duck": exactly, that's what i'm attempting to bring to the discussion. conflation of venturi with other ideas as a way to talk about a recyclable architecture. (the idea that a generic building - in his case a standardized metal building - can be turned to a variety of uses merely by simply changing the signs was addressed by david byrne in 'true stories'.)

"the notion of the decorated shed being a design methodology to accommodate adapted reuse is not what the decorated shed vs. duck argument is originally about": exactly, that's what i'm attempting to bring to the discussion. (the permanent structure/stuff discussion is fleshed out in stewart brand's 'how buildings learn'.)

sussing out a history of reenactment is certainly more clever and interesting than attempting to initiate a discussion about how to apply ideas in our own design. mea culpa.

Oct 14, 05 2:23 pm  · 

Steven, I surmised that the "not in perpetuity" is your direction, but you then also incorrectly held VSBA guilty of offening their theory because they offened "your" interpolation of it. And no one is stopping you from discussing anything. All my "sussing out" here in this thread is germane to the thread topic, and, moreover, since this place is more virtual than real, I'm "sussing out" stuff other than what will be seen in the movie.

I'm not familiar with Stewart Brand's How Building's Learn, and don't you think, for the sake of all the readers here and especially for Blake himself, that you should have credited Blake in your previous post, instead of letting us readers assume that VSBA should take credit for Blake's ideas?

Are you really that afraid that one discussion might be more interesting than another? What, a side or b side?

Oct 14, 05 2:56 pm  · 

who's blake?

brand wasn't the first, nor was byrne; there are veins of similar thinking in a lot of places. despite his not explicitly stating the same things, it's interesting (maybe just to me) to consider venturi's thinking as at least tangential, maybe more.

Oct 14, 05 3:04 pm  · 

Steven, yes it is all closely tangential, and I'll always be on the look-out for where all the tangents fit within the continuum. I did mean Brand when I wrote Blake. Moreover, I really have not dismissed (what I'll call) adaptive reuse designing from the discussion--the Football Hall of Fame and Palais des Congres/VPRO.

Venturi and Rauch's 1978 BASCO Showroom (the big alphabet sign) was a true decorated shed design. The shed existed long before 1978; it was NORMANDY MART, a precursor "big box" discount market. Normandy went out of business and within a couple of years BASCO bought the property. Venturi and Rauch simply painted the entire existing huge shed a dark blue and added a free-standing sign in huge letters spelling BASCO across the front facing the Roosevelt (12 green lanes of traffic) Boulevard (and across the boulevard from the local NABISCO plant whose big alphabet sign across the top of the plant's ten story production tower was already long a "landmark" on the boulevad). By 1998, BASCO then (adapted to) BEST was sitting derelict for almost a decade, and suddenly by that autumn the sign was gone. I wound up being the one to tell VSBA and Venturi sent me nice but sad thank you letter.

The interesting thing here is that with the removal of the sign also came the removal of the architecture. The shed is still there and now a self-storage facility with even the once enormous parking-lot full of a dozen or so rows of more self-storage sheds. The predominate color now is a cheap looking turquoise. I don't like driving by the place anymore because it makes me hate the fact that quondam archtecture actually exists.

Oct 14, 05 3:59 pm  · 

Some focus just got sharper. The first market was called NORMANDY SQUARE, with the shed a lighter blue and the 'sign' NORMANDY SQUARE painted across the very long one story 'facade' in ground to roof yellow letters. This then reminds of something I hadn't thought of in a long time, like maybe since 1979--Venturi and Rauch brought "Learning from Las Vegas" to Northeast Philadelphia, ie, to a place that already had the classic decorated shed complete with fast cars zooming by. The more things change the more they stay the same indeed!

Oct 14, 05 4:34 pm  · 
what's wrong with this picture?
Oct 15, 05 1:06 pm  · 

good old Nabisco

Oct 15, 05 1:43 pm  · 

Today's post delivered a copy of the A+U Louis I. Kahn book I recently won at eBay and a completely unexpected postcard from .

I love how the stamp on the postcard is 860-880 Lake Shore Drive.

Kind of like another shock in Philadelphia two days before Christmas.

Happy Holidays!

Dec 23, 05 4:06 pm  · 
vado retro

learning from rita...

Dec 23, 05 9:23 pm  · 

And then this past Wednesday came a completely unexpected phone call where he thanked me and then mentioned archinect just in the first sentence. I mean, talk about leaving obscurity behind.

[note to self: this is definitely No. 1 on my Best of 2006 list.]

Although I probably talked a little too much, the fact remains that what I enjoyed most was hearing him talk about the project, and then realizing that he has an excellent focus on it.

Jan 7, 06 12:22 pm  · 
vado retro

lovely rita...

May 9, 06 9:58 pm  · 

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