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Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture [Paperback]

Robert Venturi , Vincent Scully , Arthur Drexler
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 2, 2002 0870702823 978-0870702822 2nd
First published in 1966, and since translated into 16 languages, this remarkable book has become an essential document in architectural literature. As Venturi's ""gentle manifesto for a nonstraightforward architecture,"" Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture expresses in the most compelling and original terms the postmodern rebellion against the purism of modernism. Three hundred and fifty architectural photographs serve as historical comparisons and illuminate the author's ideas on creating and experiencing architecture. Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture was the winner of the Classic Book Award at the AIA's Seventh Annual International Architecture Book Awards.

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Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture + Towards a New Architecture (Dover Architecture) + Learning from Las Vegas - Revised Edition: The Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Robert Venturi is a partner in the firm of Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates, Inc., Philadelphia. He has taught at Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania, and was a Fellow and later Architect in Residence at the American Academy in Rome. His writing, teaching, and architectural work have had a decisive influence on the younger generation of architects throughout the world. Venturi is also the author of Iconography and Electronics Upon a Generic Architecture and, with Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 136 pages
  • Publisher: "The Museum of Modern Art, New York"; 2nd edition (July 2, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0870702823
  • ISBN-13: 978-0870702822
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 10.9 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #36,891 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gateway towards looking at architecture June 23, 2004
By A Customer
I had to read this book for a class specifically regarding Robert Venturi and the postmodernism movement that he became a leading proponent of. However, this book is NOT a manifesto for a postmodern vacabulary- rather, this book looks at all architecture from the Parthenon to the common family home. Let me say that I have read many architectural theory books, but nothing that really inspired me to look at a building and really see what the architect intended like Complexity and Contradiction. This book really focused my attention on the possibilities for great architecture on any level- from museum to treehouse. I feel that anyone with an interest in appreciating architecture should certainly read this book. Because of my studies of Robert Venturi and his contemporaries, I have pursued a degree in architecture and certainly plan to incorperate his ideas and philosophies into my work.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Gentle Manifesto January 25, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is less a manifesto than it is a very interesting look at how architecture has evolved over the last 2000 years. Venturi evocatively shows that there was no straight line approach to architecture, but rather an ever-changing and ambiguous path that Modernists chose to make short cuts through. In this sense, Venturi really does capture the complexity and contradiction in architecture in that there are many lessons to be learned, making this book as valuable today as it was in 1966 when it first appeared.

Being one of the early "gray" architects, Venturi inspired a movement that eventually became characterized as "Post Modern." His early architectural work left a lot to be desired, since it seems less inspired by the many historical examples he favored, like Frank Furness, in this book and more by the banal trends in contemporary architecture at the time, eventually leading to Learning from Las Vegas (1972), where the concept of a building being a "duck," or a decorated shed, emerged.

This book's most appealing aspect is that it is immediately accessible. You don't have to be an architect to understand where Venturi is coming from, much less a grad student working on a dissertation. Venturi avoids all that senseless jargon that characterized architectural theory at the time and later came to engulf Po-Mo talk as well.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Still Relevant... January 30, 2005
By d - b
Now that the bottom of postmodernism has actually fallen out and is being dragged along the street by the chains of American capitalism, it's "alright" for students of architecture to return to that misjudged canonical textbook of post-modernism, C+C by Venturi. While not as engaging as his other main work "Learning from Las Vegas", this book still leads the reader into a meticulous analysis of the physical composition of major pieces of architecture, and the composition of the thoughts that made them. After reading it, I found myself unconciously applying it's main dichtomy of complexity and contradiction to much of the architecture around me, if that is any testament to its power.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars still essential December 17, 2007
"I like complexity and contradiction in architecture." That's how Robert Venturi starts this superb book. No great proclamation. It was an age tired of great proclamations. Instead, Venturi takes us through an impressively learned tour of his favorite things, a grand overview of great architecture, with acute formal analysis of facade and plan composition, sectional variety, and an accumulating realization that complexity is an inevitable force in the tumult of human, urban life.
Postmodernism has come and gone, but modernism looks as it does today because of this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Complexity in a Text July 2, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
We ordered this book after watching an architecture show on PBS because post-modernism was hi-lighted, and this author's book was especially singled out. [Chicago's Harold Washington Public Library is a recent example of post-modernism.] It is not a layman's explanation for a style of architecture, which we were looking for. Nor is it a graphic sofa book on which to gaze, which we would have been okay with but not really hoping for.

We are architecture enthusiasts but this was a bit more than we were expecting. Perhaps too complex. Perhaps more appropriate for college students of architecture.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Venturi's Complexity & Contradiction is THE theoretical work for understanding the tactics & goals of post-modernism as a style of architecture. In contrast to modernism & International Style, Venturi promotes and describes an approach to design that incorporates complexities, ambiguities, contradictory allusions as a sort of wit or humor, and a return to historical allusion as an element of design. His goal is to express the 'difficult whole' which is pluralistic American culture, both pop & high culture.
As background, International Style began with the streamlining aesthetic of the Bauhaus but had become by the 1960s a strict approach to design which demanded structural expressionism, especially in high-rise designs of reinforced concrete, steel frames, and glass curtain walls or other fenestration (geometric arrangement of windows). In fact, it was a style based strictly upon geometry -- symmetries, repetitive rectilinear forms, and neutral colors. A typical example is the Seagram Building in Manhattan.
Venturi wishes for a style of design that is more assymetric, idiosyncratic, and complex in its allusions. An example would be Venturi,Rauch, Scott Brown (VRSB's) early commissions, i.e., The Guildhouse.
As a practical matter, the skyscraper as a structure does not easily nor affordably accommodate Venturi's post-modernism. His ideas have had a more pervasive influence upon mid-rise buildings. Few would deny that the AT&T design as a multi-story 'Chippendale highboy' is more interesting & witty than the Seagram Building. (Both are dull compared to NYC's Art Moderne masterpiece -- the Chrysler Building).
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