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May 8th, 2001
Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates

One of the most influential architectural design and planning firms of the last half-century is the subject of a first-ever retrospective exhibition that debuts at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Organized by the Museum with unprecedented access to the firm's archives, Out of the Ordinary: The Architecture and Design of Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Associates is on view from June 10 through August 5, 2001. It contains some 250 works, many of which are on public view for the first time, including drawings, models, photographs, videos, furniture, and other objects. Designed and installed by the Museum with Tony Atkin, of Atkin, Olshin, Lawson-Bell and Associates, a Philadelphia-based design firm, the exhibition traces the provocative, playful, and often iconoclastic designs of this internationally known, Philadelphia-based firm, from Robert Venturi's earliest commissions in 1958 to major recent projects such as the National Gallery Sainsbury Wing, London (1985-91), the Mielmonte Hotel in Nikko Kirifuri, Japan (1992-97), and the Hôtel du Département de la Haute-Garônne in Toulouse, France (1990-99).

Among the exhibition's highlights is a dramatic multi-media installation called the Architect's Dream that is created for the exhibition by Venturi, Scott Brown, and Associates as a presentation of favorite things: historical architecture, iconic objects from everyday life, and some of the firm's own buildings and projects. The Architect's Dream centers on a large mock up of their unbuilt design for the National Football Hall of Fame, whose giant automated billboard will be brought to life by multiple video screens.

Venturi and Denise Scott Brown have been husband and wife since 1967 as well as partners in design. Their use of historical references have led many to credit them as founders of postmodernism. At the same time, their work has always been firmly grounded in ethical considerations related to urban planning and social welfare. Their famous books and buildings question the very foundations of the architectural status quo, and established new benchmarks for modern architecture with a strong sociological premise and engagement with historical tradition. Venturi's appreciation of a broad range of past architectural traditions and styles definitively marked the turning point from the strict modernism of the mid-century International Style toward the more varied and self-critical architecture of the past 40 years. Learning from Las Vegas (1972, Venturi, Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour), encouraged architects to respect the real conditions of people's lives, and to respond creatively with art that addresses modern problems in readily understood terms.

Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates' singular and independent vision links the firm's work to that of other distinguished Philadelphia architects whose work the Philadelphia Museum of Art has previously celebrated and documented in exhibitions: Frank Furness (1839-1912), and Louis I. Kahn (1901-1974), in whose office Venturi briefly worked. As the city where Venturi and Scott Brown live and practice, Philadelphia is home to some of the firm's most acclaimed work, including the Vanna Venturi House (1959-65), Guild House (1961-66), Franklin Court (1972-76), and the restoration of the Fischer Fine Arts Library by Frank Furness at the University of Pennsylvania (1985-91). Institutional buildings and academic master plans are, in fact, specialties of the firm. Ongoing projects for the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan, among others, encompass architecture, campus and urban planning, site design, programming, and feasibility studies for the use and reuse of land and buildings.

Venturi, Scott Brown has a longstanding relationship with the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The firm designed the Museum's Bicentennial exhibition Philadelphia: Three Centuries of American Art (1976); developed a comprehensive architectural plan to bring the Museum's galleries and period rooms into chronological sequence (1980); and produced a striking redesign of the West Foyer (1988).

The exhibition is supported by generous grants from the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative, a program funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, and administered by The University of the Arts, Philadelphia; The Annenberg Foundation; the Robert Montgomery Scott Endowment for Exhibitions; The Women's Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art; Alcoa Foundation; Elise Jaffe and Jeffrey Brown; Frances Lewis; Mr. and Mrs. J. Roffe Wike II; and Marion Stroud Swingle. Initial support was provided by The William Penn Foundation and the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts. Additional funding was provided by COLLAB: The Group for Modern and Contemporary Design at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Video equipment courtesy of Pioneer New Media Technologies and MCSi, Inc.

Kathryn B. Hiesinger, Curator of European Decorative Arts after 1700, in collaboration with Professors David B. Brownlee and David G. DeLong of the University of Pennsylvania, and in association with The Architectural Archives at the University of Pennsylvania

Dorrance Special Exhibition Galleries, first floor

Out of the Ordinary: Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Associates---Architecture, Urbanism, Design offers a retrospective view of the firm and highlights the drawings and design process for the first time. It includes essays by David Brownlee, David De Long, and Kathryn Hiesinger. The book is co-published in cloth by the Museum and Yale University Press and designed by Malcolm Grear Inc. It includes 288 pages and 454 illustrations, 270 of them in color. It is available at the Museum in hardcover and softcover. ISBN: 0-300-08995-3 (cloth, $60); ISBN: 0-87633-148-7 (paper, $36).


  • Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego
    June 2 - September 8, 2002
  • The Heinz Architectural Center, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
    November 7, 2002 - February 3, 2003

Scholarly symposium
Saturday, July 14, 1:00 p.m.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the Museum presents a fresh look at the architecture firm Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates through the eyes of a distinguished and uniquely qualified panel of experts. Vincent J. Scully, Jr., the Sterling Professor Emeritus of History of Art at Yale University, brings his career-long familiarity with the architects and his famous visual acuity to bear on the subject. Thomas Parke Hughes, Professor Emeritus of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania, speaks as a cultural historian and from the special perspective of the owner of one of the firm's most famous buildings, the Vanna Venturi House. Lee C. Bollinger, president of the University of Michigan, which has commissioned the firm to masterplan its campus and to build several new buildings, introduces the client's point of view to the discussion. David Brownlee, one of the catalogue authors, is moderator.

This event is sponsored by COLLAB, the Museum's Group for Modern and Contemporary Design.

$5.00 registration fee after Museum admission. Pre-registration requested. Call (215) 235-SHOW (7469), or purchase tickets at the Ticket and Reservation Center in the West Lobby.

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