Robert Venturi

Iconography and Electronics Upon a Generic Architecture


What you see [at the Church of the Cuore Immaculata di Maria Santissima] is a harmonius and dissonant architectural symphony of complexly layered elements--formal and symbolic, masterfully defined by shade and shadow, combining rhetoric and substance, Baroque fanfare in Palladian drag, and whose juxtapositions--or rather, collisions--of curves, rectangles, diagonals--as squat columns, gross piers, useless buttresses, eloquent walls and voids, domeless drum, protruding and receding segmented pediment--must in the end compose in the Fascist era a glorious final gesture of what can be considered Baroque survival.
Thank God--or Maria Santissima--the church, as Iíve said, was never finished: The dome is missing and this circumstance diminishes the historical literalism of the architecture and establishes the building, in my opinion, as a grand and fortuitous fragment--as an unfinished symphony. And it makes the rhetoric of the now functionless buttresses more poignant and eloquent in their effect.
Robert Venturi, Iconography and Electronics upon a Generic Architecture (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1996), pp. 60-1.

Towards a New Dexterity
C. Tomkins' New Yorker article on manual skill. Venturi's negative critique of CAD

animated gifs @ Quondam
f. an animated gif as the new mural at the Altes Museum--this is a fantastic idea--very Venturi.

Viva Villa d'Este
...the hydraulic connection between Las Vegas and the Villa d'Este --"... Viva Villa d'Este." ...the following is a list of the salient points:
a. the hydraulic power behind the lighting of Las Vegas has never been mentioned by the "Learning from Las Vegas" camp.
b. Hoover Dam is analogous to Roman aqueducts.
c. it is interesting to note that R. Venturi has now turned his attention to "electronic" architecture whereby the "box" of the building is decorated with ever-moving murals composed of hundreds and thousands of tiny programmed lights.
d. Las Vegas's giant electronic signs and facades are analogous to the vast array of fountain types on display throughout the water garden of the Villa d'Este.
f. the notion that Las Vegas is now more becoming an "oasis" and its architecture now reflects that motif.

first virtual house of the 20th century
...the minimal aspects of the design.
I still have to review Venturi's latest texts regarding virtual architecture and wireframes.

the generic - a support system
...I recently noticed that Venturi and Koolhaas both wrote about the generic in architecture and urbanism in 1994... ...thinking how generic basically means a support system that is built upon.

5. Venturi reenactment at Princeton -- In taking pictures at Princeton yesterday, I saw a real contextual disparity between Wu Hall and the other Wu Hall like building next to the late-modern library. Should Venturi have reenacted the "white" formalist aesthetic of the library rather than easily (facile-ly?) repeat Wu Hall and the collegiate Gothic motifs? Regarding the two lab buildings, does the new lab reenact the older lab? Anyway, all the Venturi labs are variations on a theme.
6. reenactments at Uof P -- I see the Mitchell/Giurgola parking garage reenacting Kahn's Richard's Medical Towers, and the large clerstory at the new Venturi lab reenacting the large (upper) clerstory of the Furness Library tower.
9. infinite collection -- manipulating the new images of the Venturi Best Products Showroom, I again saw a clear example of how I could exploit Quondam's collection in terms of digital "infinitude".
10. hypermural -- I particularly like relating the hypermural to the opening day curtain/stage-set at the Schauspielhaus.

"Elegance", Aesthetics and Formalism
You might be interested to read:
Christian Norberg-Schulz, "Kahn, Heidegger and the Language of Architecture" in Oppositions 18 (MIT Press, 1980).
Robert Venturi, "Context in Architectural Composition", in Iconography and Electronics Upon a Generic Architecture (MIT Press, 1996). "Context in Architectural Composition" is a reprint of Venturi's M.F.A. thesis project from Princeton 1950. An exerpt from the 1996 introduction to the thesis:
"I include this work because its subject, context in architecture, represents almost a cliche in our field and because the origin of this idea has become almost forgotten: a Philadelphia architect, for instance, recently confidently referred to context as an architectural element that evolved in the seventies. But I vividly remember my Eureka-like response in 1949 when I came across the idea of perceptual context in Gastalt psychology as I perused a journal of pshychology in the library in Eno Hall at Princeton and recognized its relevance for architecture..."
Robert Venturi

2002.06.19 13:00
Re: dead languages
My thoughts where about Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) as now 'virtually' killing the book. Moreover, I was thinking how HTML manifests the 'structure' of virtual architecture, thus bringing back [re-enacting?] an "architecture as delivery of content," which happens to be Quondam's 7th definition at www.quondam.com . Right now the entire internet is a virtual place constructed via HTLM that delivers content, content, content.
Robert Venturi in his latest theory regarding electronics and iconography upon a generic architecture is almost saying the same thing as far as architecture again being a delivery of content, but, for me at least, Venturi's theory becomes flawed when he admits to not knowing what the content should be. More than anything, what he so far fails to acknowledge is that iconography on buildings today, be it either electronic or not, is almost always advertising, advertising, advertising--essentially a very limited, narrowly focused delivery of content. Since 1999 when I did a large number of webpages utilizing the HTML 'marquee' tag, I've wondered if HTML might not be a better 'programmer' for the 'screens' that are now on buildings (as in Tokyo and NY's Times Square, and that other Manhattan building RE has told us about). For example, if I were commissioned to design content for some real (generic) building whose 'skin' was an electronic screen, I'd propose a vast series of 'webpages' that act as a museum of architecture, thereby making the building, at least on the surface, a 'virtual museum of architecture.' I wouldn't necessarily be advertising Quondam, rather I'd be cloaking real generic architecture with many architectures. It wouldn't really matter what goes on inside the building because that will probably change from year to year, and the 'bulk' of the building's real architecture will be literally superficial and ironically really virtual.
I could go on and on, like pondering what kind of content I would propose for a hospital that had screen facades, or electronic/iconographic houses that change decorations by seasons or holidays, or even imaging the imaging of a house of ill-repute.

2006.01.04 16:53
BobandDenise, etc.
The Mansion morphed into a museum circa 1920 (Zantzinger, Borie & Medary Architects) and is now what I like to call "a museum of someone's shopping," hence "Venturi Shops" 100 years ago. What I like about Ryerss Museum is its further adding of (Philadelphia) context to some of VSB's work.
...because VSBA architecture has long been an antidote to "chromophobia."
...in 1998 I came to the realization that Franklin Court is unwittingly the first virtual house of the 20th century. In the mid-1990's there were several 'avant-garde' architects making much ado about designing a virtual house, yet no one then realized that a real "virtual house" had been already designed and built 20 years earlier!
I'm interested in aspects of VSBA architecture that are outside of the common analysis...
While I'm doing "virtual" architecture via web sites, I'm then also always designing (on) a screen, which I see very much in tandem with "Iconography and Electronics upon a Generic Architecture."

2007.07.12 12:49
Sarcastic Architecture
...yes, 'iconography and electronics' is an entirely different set of texts (like almost 30 years after Learning from Las Vegas), and the bitterness therein may well stem from the aftermath of Learning from Las Vegas.

2009.02.02 13:07
Venturi's Lieb (No. 9) House to be moved (or demolished)
the ugly and the ordinary
the extraordinary
both deserve an appropriate response
and then/now there's museumification
Robert Venturi, "Some Agonizing Thoughts about Maintainance and Preservation Concerning Humble Buildings of the Recent Past"
"Do you know the BASCO sign is now gone?"
"No! Do you know where it is now? We'd like to save it."
A typed letter signed by Robert Venturi, wherein he laments the demolition of his BASCO 'baby', is currently up for auction at eBay
"What's the address of the Nurses' Office in Ambler?"
"It's better now if you just look at the pictures."
[found the building and took my own pictures anyway]
Best Building demolished; flower pattern porcelain enamal panels saved, many now in private and museum collections
Lieb House; another chapter in the architecture of removement.




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