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The Vanna Venturi House

A Postmodernist Architect Designs for His Mother

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1961-1964: Postmodern house in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Designed by Robert Venturi, a Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate.
Unique, whimsical, and surprising Postmodernist home

The Vanna Venturi House by Pritzker Prize Laureate Robert Venturi

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When architect Robert Venturi built this home for his mother, he shocked the world. Postmodern in style, the Vanna Venturi house flew in the face of Modernism and changed the way we think about architecture.

The design of Vanna Venturi House appears deceptively simple. A light wood frame is divided by a rising chimney. The house has a sense of symmetry, yet the symmetry is often distorted. For example, the façade is balanced with five window squares on each side. The way the windows are arranged, however, is not symmetrical. Consequently, the viewer is momentarily startled and disoriented. Inside the house, the staircase and chimney compete for the main center space. Both unexpectedly divide to fit around each other.

Combining surprise with tradition, the Vanna Venturi House includes numerous references to historic architecture. Look closely and you will see suggestions of Michaelangelo's Porta Pia in Rome, the Nymphaeum at Palladio, Alessandro Vittoria's Villa Barbaro at Maser, and Luigi Moretti's apartment house in Rome.

The radical house Venturi built for his mother is frequently discussed in architecture and art history classes and has inspired the work of many other architects.

Further Reading:

  • Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture
    In this groundbreaking book, published in 1966, Robert Venturi challenged modernism and celebrated the mix of historic styles in great cities like Rome. (Compare Prices)
  • Learning from Las Vegas
    Subtitled "The Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form," this postmodernist classic called the "vulgar billboards" of the Vegas Strip emblems for a new architecture. Published in 1972, the book was written by Robert Venturi, Steven Izenour, and Denise Scott Brown. (Compare Prices)
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