Architect Robert Venturi Is Named the 1991 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate

Robert Venturi, who has always identified himself as a Philadelphia architect, but whose projects are international in scope, has been selected to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize of 1991, generally acknowledged as architecture's highest award. Venturi, often described as one of the most original talents in contemporary architecture, has not only made his mark with built works, but with his writings, teaching and theories.

He has been credited with saving modem architecture from itself by making it possible to accept the casual and the improvised. After Venturi issued his now famous "Less is a bore," response to the Mies van der Rohe modernist dictum, "Less is more," architecture has not been the same.

In making the announcement, Bill Lacy, secretary to the international panel of jurors that elects the Laureate, quoted from the jury citation lauding Venturi, "He has expanded and redefined the limits of the art of architecture in this century, as perhaps no other has, through his theories and built works."

The prize, consisting of $100,000 grant, a medallion and formal certificate, will be presented by Jay A. Pritzker, president of The Hyatt Foundation, in a ceremony on May 16 at Palacio de Iturbide in Mexico City, Mexico. Robert Venturi is the seventh American to become a Laureate since the prestigious prize was established by The Hyatt Foundation in 1979. Seven other architects from as many countries have been so honored in the same time period, making him the fourteenth Laureate.

Venturi, who will be approaching his sixty-sixth birthday when he receives the honor, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and received his Bachelors and Masters degrees from Princeton University. He furthered his studies as a Rome Prize Fellow at the American Academy in Rome.

In the past three decades, his works have ranged from cups and saucers to major buildings that are or will become landmarks. In his hometown, he is designing a new Philadelphia Orchestra Hall. On Trafalgar Square in London, a major addition to the National Gallery of Art will soon be opened. Halfway around the world in Washington State, the Seattle Museum of Art will soon be finished. Down the coast to the University of California at Los Angeles, a new Medical Research Laboratory has just been completed.

Many of his projects are for institutions of higher learning, including his alma mater, Princeton, where he has numerous completed projects, among the most recent being the Fisher/Bendheim Halls. Other buildings are found on the campuses of Oberlin College, University of Pennsylvania, Shippensburg University and Dartmouth College.


One of his first projects to capture attention was a home built for his mother in 1961 in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia, the Vanna Venturi House which just last year received the AIA's Twenty-Five Year Award for "enduring significance that has withstood the test of time."

His first book published in 1966, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, looked with fresh eyes at the architectural landscape of America and described the inherent honesty and beauty of ordinary buildings.

As the jury citation states, 'The extent of influence which this treatise has had on everyone practicing or teaching architecture is impossible to measure, but readily apparent ... From this simple observation he wove a manifesto that challenged prevailing thinking on the subject of American functionalist architecture and the minimalism of the International School." Lacy added, "No other book, with the possible exception of Le Corbusier's Versune Architecture has had such power in diverting the mainstream of architectural thought."

Denise Scott Brown has been his collaborator in the evolution of architectural theory and design for the past 30 years. They have been married for 24 years. They have written two other books, Learning from Las Vegas (with Steven Izenour) and A View from the Campidoglio: Selected Essays, 1953-1984 .

The distinguished jury that selected Venturi as the 1991 Laureate, including consists of J. Carter Brown, director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. (who is the chairman of the jury and founding member); and alphabetically, Giovanni Agnelli, chairman of Fiat, from Torino, Italy; Ada Louise Huxtable, author and architectural critic of New York; architect Ricardo Legorreta of Mexico City; Toshio Nakamura, editor-in-chief of the A+U architectural publications, of Tokyo, Japan; architect Kevin Roche of Hamden, Connecticut (who is also a Pritzker Laureate of 1982); and Lord Rothschild, chairman of the board of trustees of the National Gallery of Art in London, England. 


Read Robert Venturi's Essay