The Philadelphia School, deterritorialized


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Venturi and Rauch

Guild House

It may not be coincidental that the villa at La Chaux-de-Fonds has as the principal motif of its main facade a flat white panel, divided into three--"the central one, elaborately framed, comprises an unrelieved blank white surface." Although the sources of Le Corbusier's panel are obviously different, the formal similarities to Venturi & Rauch's white brick billboard panels at the Guild House (1960-1965) and Fire Station No. 4 (1965) are unmistakable.
C. Ray Smith, Supermannerism: New Attitudes in Post-Modern Architecture (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1977), p. 98.

In the Guild House apartments for the elderly, built in Philadelphia (1960-1965), Venturi & Rauch first combined all the elements that later became the hallmarks of their design: The building adopts the idiom of the everyday, ordinary red brick apartment house--an acceptance of our pop reality and the neighboring buildings--and combines it with historical allusions. In plan and massing the structure resembles the entrance porticos of mannerist architecture. In the street-front facade, which is no higher than the rest of the roof line but which has two vertical slits like crenelations, the center portion has the effect of a parapeted screen of red brick atop a white brick base. This base, the main entry, is Venturi's first architectural billboard with oversized, purposely clumsy lettering on a white field. As another historical allusion, the entry reiterates becolumned porticos: whimsically, a single polished-granite column is placed in the middle, as if blocking a large entry, although the entry is actually composed of two small doors flanking the false, nonstructural cylinder; above, a series of balconies, topped by an arched window to a recreation room, suggests a monumental gateway to palatial residences of old. All the facades are sensitively composed by fenestration of different square and horizontal shapes, many of them oversize double-hung windows that recall the ordinary apartment house idiom. This attention to fenestration is a design activity of Venturi and Rauch's that reaches a culmination in the skillfully windows punched, like a key-punch card, in the firm's Mathematics Building for Yale (1970). As a final Pop art symbol of our age, "and of the aged who spend much of their time watching TV at the Guild House," as Venturi said, the first designed a nonfunctioning gold-anodized television antenna that is placed as the crowning heraldic emblem atop the arched ceremonial portal.
The effect of Guild House is unsettlingly ambivalent. It clearly presents a realistic acceptance of the everyday fact and occurrence of ordinary contemporary building, and this seems a straightforward, direct, and honest approach to our urban environment. Yet it also includes motifs of earlier, more monumental and pretentious architecture in an attempt to symbolize the residential pride of its elderly occupants; this is an intellectual overlay. What this blend of ordinary mediocrity and monumental pomp creates, therefore, is a singular and tensioned response.
C. Ray Smith, Supermannerism: New Attitudes in Post-Modern Architecture (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1977), pp. 188-90.

In the vein of historical allusions, Robert Venturi's aesthetic theory is full of references to historical precedent from the beginning. His Pearson House project (1957) is said to have "domes"; the Duke House renovation (1959) is said to have "a Louis XIV scale in the Louis XVI building." His firm reiterated sixteenth and seventeenth screens in the design of the facades of the Guild House, Fire Station Number 4 in Columbus, Indiana, as has been mentioned, and they alluded to oriental moongates in the Varga-Brigio Medical Building
C. Ray Smith, Supermannerism: New Attitudes in Post-Modern Architecture (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1977), p. 262.

Venturi had compared the Guild House facade with the Château at Anêt.
C. Ray Smith, Supermannerism: New Attitudes in Post-Modern Architecture (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1977), p. 268.

1998.12.03 10:55
Re: CAD-CAM for a Higher and Better Use
Where are the two (newer) houses that you have sent images of? Even though you submit them negatively, I nonetheless find them intriguing. Are the two shown thus far close to one another? Are there more of the same ilk? I see them as very much descendants of Venturi and Rauch's Guild House (Philadelphia, 1966) as well as Venturi's Eclectic Houses (theoretical studies, 1977).

reenactment in Philadelphia
1. the Merchant Exchange and the choragic monument in Athens--this also relates to Schinkel's...
2. Strickland's Second Bank of the US and the Pantheon (and hence the model for many subsequent American banks).
3. Girard College as a "true" Corinthian temple.
4. B.F.Parkway as the Champs Elysee/Place de la Concorde.
5. the 2nd Street church tower reenacting City Hall tower--also the church on south 22nd street?
6. the Art Museum on Fairmont reenacting the Athenian acropolis.
7. Franklin Court.
8. Welcome Park.
10. cardo and decumanus.
11. Guild House reenacting Ahavath Israel Synagogue.

2000.10.06 15:30
Re: architectural photography
I believe Paul refers to a webpage called "Panic Architecture" re: Venturi and Rauch's Guild House in Philadelphia, and his comments lead me to believe that Paul knows Guild House only through photographs. Besides seeing Guild House in person, the next best way to understand an architectural design is to study the drawings of the design, that's where the real intention is recorded, e.g., the chain-link fences of Guild House are very intentionally designed.

2002.08.12 15:45
recent observations
As I was driving down Spring Garden Street yesterday, a detail of Venturi and Rauch's Guild House caught my eye. The white brick wall either side of the recessed entrance (in contrast to the red brick of the rest of the building) immediately reminded me of the new two-tone masonry at Ahavath Israel. As RE can confirm, from the first time I saw Ahavath Israel in 1998, I got the sense that Guild House was somewhat of a faint reenactment of the synagogue. Now one could say that the original is reenacting its reenactment.
Later, while touring Manayunk with a friend that had never been there, I couldn't help but notice the storefront display of the Venturi, Scott Brown & Associates office on Main Street. On the window is a big sign that reads "Learning From Everything" and in the display area is a ladder and saw and a smaller sign hanging from the ladder that reads "under construction." Do you suppose that the message there delivered is indeed for they and us to now "learn from everything under construction?"
Tomorrow, if the window display is still the same, I'm going to take a picture of it and title the picture Learning from Everything Being Incomplete.

2002.08.12 18:08
more reenactment than I thought
In just comparing images of Ahavath Israel and Guild House, there are several features strikingly similar between the two building:
1. the 'main' facades projects out to the street and stand in contrast to the adjacent building (elements).
2. the entrances are ground level recesses within the main facade. (Interestingly, Ahavath Israel had three columns later installed within the recess to augment failing support of the wall above, columns that are now removed due to the new facade work, while Guild House always had an exaggerated column standing within the recess.)
3. the three individual windows symmetrically framing the center balconies of Guild House very much echo the three sole windows to one side of Ahavath Israel's otherwise facade.
4. the cornerstone setting/detailing of each building is virtual identical, except for the dates, of course--5698/1937 vs. 1965.
I am now reminded of an anecdote R. told me the day after I took R. and S. to see Ahavath Israel some Sunday morning October 2000. After our visit to the Kahn building, R. and S. went to have lunch with Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. They told the famous architects about having just seen Kahn's first building. Venturi apparently acted in some kind of disbelief, as if the building didn't even exist. He said something like, "But it's not even in the catalogue!?!" I assume Venturi was referring the Louis I. Kahn: In The Realm of Architecture. R. told them to look up the (then) webpages at that displayed images of the building.
I was immediately suspect of Venturi's apparent lack of knowledge of the building. Granted 1965 is a long time ago, and we all have incomplete memories. Nonetheless, Congregation Ahavath Israel (original sign and all) was very much featured within Vincent Scully's 1962 book Louis I. Kahn.
[Now imagine the computer screen you're looking at right now as an incomplete window display somewhere in Philadelphia, and repeat to yourself for the next 28 years, "Learning From Everything Venturi Forgot."]

2005.06.02 17:59
Re: the Edifice Complex
Maybe one aspect of the problem is that "creative context" is not just necessarily geographically based, meaning, an artist's context does not just necessarily mean the location within which the artists creates. Just because Gehry was in contact with other artists at Venice Beach, does that automatically mean that the work of these artists influenced Gehry's architecture? Again, not necessarily.
I do think creative context is at least often enough chronologically based. What else was going on around the world 1962-78? For example, what were the Progressive Architecture Design Awards like during those years?
I know I've seen working drawings of the chain link fence at Venturi & Rauch's Guild House (1960-66). Were these drawings published where other architects could see them back then? The earliest use of chain link fence by Gehry (that I can find) is at Santa Monica Place (1972-74). Interestingly, the big sign of Santa Monica Place evokes the Venturi & Rauch 1000 Oaks Civic Center competition design (1969) which was (at least) published in Learning from Las Vegas (1972). I wonder if any of these architects know that Karl F. Schinkel designed at Schloss Glienicke, Berlin (c. 1830?) what may be the first chain link fence ever.

2009.01.30 10:42
Venturi's Lieb (No. 9) House to be moved (or demolished)
Somol's "My Mother the House" really is a funny piece of architecture criticism. Funny in that it takes itself seriously as criticism while actually being very undercooked satire. Overall, what he accuses Scully's criticism of being, Somol then produces several times over--a magician who's tricks rely mainly on the likes of out-take editing. Very superficial and not surgical at all.
Two errors, one typical and sad, and the other just strange. Again the Immaculate Conception was confused for the Incarnation and Venturi did not "substitute the functionless TV antenna for the Madonna that he originally planned to place atop the Guild House." The Guild House was designed for a Quaker Institution.

2009.02.02 14:37
Venturi's Lieb (No. 9) House to be moved (or demolished)
It was asked above what's going on at Guild House. According to "on the boards" of the VSBA website, Guild House is undergoing rehabilitation. Just in passing, the physical context of Guild House changed drastically within the first decade of the building's existence. Spring Garden Street was much different/dense in the 1960s and bad zoning decisions changed the street into low-rise warehouses. It's kind of difficult to appreciate Guild House 'in context' now.

Schinkel -- Venturi ?
There is a very interesting/intriguing similarity between Schinkel's Jagdschloss Antonin and Venturi's Guild House. There is the antler-antenna connection and the three dimensional set-back of both buildings.

2015.02.14 22:02
This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things
Orhan, much of the Guild House (1966) context along Spring Garden Street was demolished by the mid-1970s, due to that section of the street and eastward 10 blocks down to the river having been rezoned commercial of the warehouse category. I can still remember some of the blocks being long rows of 19th century townhouses. Guild House was not so much a lone standing building when it was first designed and built, there was a strong built edge along both sides of the street.

2015.02.15 10:05
This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things
I haven't been to the area in about 10 years now, but I imagine it is not much different then what it developed into, i.e., one-story (low, flat) warehouse type buildings. I believe Guild House is still a Quaker housing institution--there is another newer Guild House a few blocks away. I imagine the land was long owned by Quakers (if not from the very beginning of Philadelphia itself), and that elderly housing is what they decided to do with the land. The multi-storied Guild House was not an anomaly on the street in the mid-1960s, as there were also a number of multi-storied 19th century/early 20th century office/warehouse buildings also along the street. Also, Guild House was just recently renovated by VSBA, perhaps even one of the last projects from the office while Venturi was still in charge.

2015.04.08 19:41
Low-income housing in Los Angeles: A look at the past, present and future
Do most architects today know that Guild House is "low-income housing"? It will be 50 years old sometime within the next 365 days.

2015.06.19 10:33
Are diagrams in architecture bullshit and ditto for process?
"The Duck and the Decorated Shed" came within a year or two after the completed construction of Guild House (1961-66), coinciding with the marriage of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown--23 July 1967.
Before Guild House there is George Howe's Maurice Speiser House (1933) and Louis Kahn's Congregation Ahavath Israel (1935-37) (Venturi's immediate Philadelphia architecture legacy) and Moretti's Casa "Il Girasole (1947-50) (effect of Venturi's study in Rome 1954-56).



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