Robert Venturi (1)

As has been pointed out, my blog is at risk of becoming a necropolis.

The latest member of my private pantheon to die is Robert Venturi, the shy, scholarly, thoughtful partner of Denise Scott Brown, who were architects of the Sainsbury Wing in this country and of many buildings and masterplans, particularly of museums and universities, on the other side of the Atlantic. 

It was Bob who wrote to congratulate me on my appointment at the National Gallery.  I wrote to ask them to come and see me next time they were in London, which was not long afterwards, and I remember being walked round the building being shown all the idiosyncracies of its details by them both.   It had been a somewhat painful episode for them.   They felt that they had been hired as if they were orthodox neoclassicists, designing in the style of Wilkins, but they were postmodern classicists, playing complicated games with the language of classicism.   They wanted a window out onto the street at the end of the long central vista through the middle of the building.   The Trustees refused.   It became a battle between enclosure and permeability, between orthodoxy of taste and the idea of the relationship between art and public space – the forum.

I had hoped to see them when I was in Philadelphia in the spring, but I now realise that he was already suffering from Alzheimer’s.   It means that the RIBA can now never rectify the historic injustice that they were never awarded its Gold Medal.   But they will live on through their writings, their impact on taste, his advocacy of mannerism and hers of popular taste, at least as much as through their buildings.

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One thought on “Robert Venturi (1)

  1. Sorry to hear of the death of Robert Venturi and this sad next episode in your recent writings on the Sainsbury Wing, which I have enjoyed despite the catalogue of injustices, from Denise Scott Brown’s lifelong lack of recognition to the absence of an award of the Gold Medal for their achievements.

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