Sponsored by The Hyatt Foundation

Ceremony Acceptance Speech

Robert Venturi

My thanks to Jay Pritzker for his most gracious and generous introduction this evening.

My thanks also to President Salinas de Gortari and those officials of the government of Mexico, young and creative, who were our gracious hosts today, and to Ricardo Legorreta for his kindness to me, and from all of us here our gratitude to him for the restoration of this Palacio de Iturbide with its exquisite aesthetic, bold and delicate at once.

Frank Lloyd Wright said architects should design from the inside out. But we now accept within our more complex view of things, as we acknowledge context as an important determinant of design, that we design from the inside out and the outside in, and—as I said a long time ago—this act can create valid tensions where the wall, the line of change between inside and out, is acknowledged to become a spatial record—in the end, an essential architectural event.

And as a building is designed from the inside out and the outside in, so, one can say, is an architect designed in that way—that is, his own development as an artist can work through his development inside—through his intuition, ordered by means of analysis and discipline, but also through his development outside, via the influence of persons and places. As I refer to persons and places I borrow from George Santayana’s title of his biographical essays, but I shall include as well in this description of an architect’s development from without, persons, places and institutions.

At this moment I feel a special obligation to acknowledge the need—the need, psychological and material—for support, for appreciation and encouragement—this need, as significant for artists as for children in their development. No matter how sublime your intuition as an artist might be, and how disciplined and acute your own cultivation of that intuition inside, your need for appreciation and recognition from the outside is crucial: as growing children need loving parents and supportive home and school environments, so do artists need their supporters—trusting patrons and encouraging mentors, the latter sometimes in the historical form of the work of artists of the past.

And so I appropriately and sincerely express at this moment my gratitude to the sponsors of the Pritzker Prize as persons, and to The Hyatt Foundation as institution, for their acknowledgement of good design in architecture and their support, via recognition of architects—and then to the selection committee of the Pritzker Prize that is particularly and signally honoring me today. But I like to acknowledge here as well, as I’ve said, those persons, places, and institutions who and which, very simply, have meant much to me as a growing artist—and I shall focus on them as well at this moment.

I trust, as I satisfy this need to enumerate particular persons, places, and institutions, that I shall appear not egotistical, but rather the opposite in emphasizing my indebtedness to outside influences; also as I speak I might enlighten younger architects via the example of my particular experiences as these younger architects choose paths of their own as they work.

First—chronologically and perhaps substantively—come my parents without whose intellect, integrity, aesthetic sense, and love I would not have become me, my parents who supplied me with lots of blocks to build with when I was little, and with whom I lived among beautiful objects and good books. And with whom I could share their love of architecture. I remember vividly on one of my first trips to New York City—maybe I was 10 years old—my father’s impulsively instructing the cab driver to pull over and wait as we approached the old Penn station on Seventh Avenue, and then conducting me down the gallery that overlooked the great hall based on the Baths of Caracalla. I shall never forget the breath-taking revelation of that monumental civic space bathed in ambient light from the clerestories above. And then my mother, whose sound but unorthodox positions, socialist and pacifist, worked to prepare me to feel almost all right as an outsider. And again my father through whose hard work I was left a modest inheritance that allowed me to be braver and more independent as a young thinking architect.

Princeton University where as an undergraduate in a beautiful environment I walked on air as I could discover multitudes of things within many disciplines hitherto not dreamt of in my philosophy; where Jean Labatut whose vivid and creative historical analogies in his drafting room critiques worked to enrich and expand my outlook; where Donald Drew Egbert, who later became my closest mentor, described the glories of Modern architecture, but always within the context of history, history employed to discover and enlighten, never to justify or promote—history that implicitly acknowledged architectural Modernism as a valid direction for that time, but a Modernism we students could evolve out of—not a modernism as an end of history, as an ideology: at Princeton I was truly a student and not a seminarian—one who receives the word that was to be universally disseminated. At Princeton we students of architecture were encouraged to go beyond.

Fellow students in that college community, especially my roommate, Everett de Golyer who revealed to me by his example the attributes of grace, wit, and understanding—and whose widow, my friend Helen de Golyer, it moves me to say is here tonight.

Rome, as I first saw that city that Sunday in August, 1948, as I walked on air—this time in a place rather than an institution -discovering unimagined pedestrian spaces and richness of forms bathed in the “golden air of Rome” ...

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