Architecture is a profession about wood, bricks, stones, steel and glass. It is also an art form that is based on words, ideas and conceptual frameworks. Few architects of the twentieth century have been able to combine both aspects of the profession, and none have done so more successfully than Robert 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. Of the former, his thin but potent volume, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, published in 1966, is generally acknowledged to have diverted the mainstream of architecture away from modernism.
The extent of the influence that this treatise has had on everyone practicing or teaching architecture is impossible to measure, but readily apparent. In this landmark book, Venturi looked with fresh eyes at the architectural landscape of America and described the inherent honesty and beauty of ordinary buildings. 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.
Not content with just theory, Venturi began to implement his convictions. He provided full-scale illustrations of his ideas through his pioneering early buildings. His first houses, including one for his mother in 1961, gave form to his beliefs, confounding the critics and angering many of his peers. Over the intervening years he methodically forged a career that established him not only as a theorist of exceptional insight, but also as a master practitioner of the arts.