Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture

Museum of Modern Art, New York City and Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania

COMPLEXITY AND CONTRADICTION IN ARCHITECTURE

Thursday, November 10, 6:30 p.m. – Museum of Modern Art, New York City

Friday, November 11, 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. – Museum of Modern Art, New York City

Saturday, November 12, 10:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m. – Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania

To mark the 50th anniversary of the publication of Robert Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966), The Museum of Modern Art and the University of Pennsylvania have co-organized a three-day symposium, bringing together international scholars and architects to discuss the significance and enduring impact of this remarkable book, published by MoMA 50 years ago in association with the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.

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.

Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture 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 MoMA’s Department of Architecture and Design, to inaugurate an intended series of texts on modern architectural theory. With the Venturi and Scott Brown archive now housed at the Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania, The Museum of Modern Art and Penn are the fitting sponsors for the symposium.

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Programs on November 10 and 11 will take place at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, while programs on November 12 will be held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. See the full schedule of programs and events below.

Programs are free and open to the public, with the exception of the bus tour, for which a limited number of tickets will be sold [THIS PROGRAM IS NOW SOLD OUT], and the closing reception and conversation with Denise Scott Brown, for which seating is limited. To register for the closing reception, contact ccaatfifty@gmail.com, as explained below.

Thursday, November 10

Architects’ Roundtable
6:30–8:30 p.m.

Celeste Bartos Theater, Museum of Modern Art, New York City; use the Cullman Education and Research Building entrance, at 4 West 54 Street. Seating is limited and cannot be guaranteed.

David Brownlee and Martino Stierli: Welcome and Introduction

Sarah Herda, Graham Foundation (introductory remarks)

David De Long, University of Pennsylvania (moderator)

Kersten Geers, Office Kersten Geers David Van Severen, Brussels

Sam Jacob, Sam Jacob Studio, London

Momoyo Kaijima, Atelier Bow-Wow, Tokyo

Stephen Kieran, KieranTimberlake, Philadelphia

James Timberlake, KieranTimberlake, Philadelphia

Michael Meredith, MOS Architects, New York

Friday, November 11

Session 1: Post Modernism
10:00 a.m.–12:30 p.m.

Celeste Bartos Theater, Museum of Modern Art, New York City; use the Cullman Education and Research Building entrance, at 4 West 54 Street. Seating is limited and cannot be guaranteed.

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David Brownlee, University of Pennsylvania (moderator)
Stanislaus von Moos, University of Zurich: “CCA or: Architecture as Perception”
Joan Ockman, University of Pennsylvania: “The Idea of Complexity circa 1966”
Andrew Leach, University of Sydney: “Dilemmas without Solutions”
Emmanuel Petit, Independent Scholar: “Complexity, Figure, Architecture”

Session 2: Creative Contexts
2:00–4:30 p.m.

Celeste Bartos Theater, Museum of Modern Art, New York City; use the Cullman Education and Research Building entrance, at 4 West 54 Street. Seating is limited and cannot be guaranteed.

Alice Friedman, Wellesley College (moderator)

Martino Stierli, The Museum of Modern Art: “Robert Venturi and MoMA; Institutionalist and Outsider”

Mary McLeod, Columbia University: “Venturi’s Acknowledgements: The Complexities of Influence”

Jean-Louis Cohen, Institute of Fine Arts, NYU: “Opus 2: Robert Venturi’s Metamorphosis of Horace Trumbauer’s Duke House”

Pier Paolo Tamburelli, Baukuh, Milan: “Book of Pictures, Book of Books. Gentle Manifesto, Rough Manifesto.”

 

Saturday, November 12 

Session 3: Making the Book
10:00 a.m.–12:30 p.m. (check-in and complimentary coffee and pastries from 9:00-10:00 a.m.)

Philadelphia Museum of Art, Van Pelt Auditorium, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia. Seating is limited and cannot be guaranteed.

Kathryn Hiesinger, Philadelphia Museum of Art (moderator)
Lee Ann Custer, University of Pennsylvania: “Teaching Complexity and Contradiction: Robert Venturi’s Lecture Course ‘Theories of Architecture,’ 1961–1965”
Christine Gorby, Pennsylvania State University: “Manuscripts into Manifesto: The Evolution of Robert Venturi’s 1966 Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture”
Deborah Fausch, independent scholar: “Comparative Method in the Visual and Verbal Organization of Complexity and Contradiction”
Enrique Walker, Columbia University: “The ‘Difficult Whole’ [and the ‘Decorated Shed’]”

Bus Tour: The Philadelphia School

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1:00–4:00 p.m.

Depart from the west entrance, Philadelphia Museum of Art

Includes Robert Venturi’s Vanna Venturi House and Louis Kahn’s Margaret Esherick House, with commentary by William Whitaker, University of Pennsylvania, and Alice Friedman, Wellesley College

Cost of $45 includes box lunch. [THIS PROGRAM IS NOW SOLD OUT]

(As a free alternative, self-guided walking tours of the Philadelphia School on the Penn campus and in Center City will be available. Attendees may also visit the exhibition, “Back Matter: The Making of Robert Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture,” at the Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania.)

Conversation with Denise Scott Brown, viewing of the exhibition, “Back Matter: The Making of Robert Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture,” and closing reception
4:00–7:00 p.m.

Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania, 220 South 34th Street, Philadelphia

Limited capacity.  To register, contact ccaatfifty@gmail.com

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

This event is made possible through the generous support of Elise Jaffe and Jeffrey Brown.

Special thanks to the Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Program in Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania; the Office of the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, University Pennsylvania; Office of the Dean of the School of Design, University of Pennsylvania; Mellon Humanities/Urbanism/Design Initiative, University of Pennsylvania; the University Research Foundation, University of Pennsylvania; and to Paul Savidge, Dan Macey, and David Lockard.

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