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Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture 2nd Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0870702822
ISBN-10: 0870702823
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Robert Venturi is an award-winning architect and an influential writer, teacher, artist, and designer. His work includes includes the Sainsbury Wing of London's National Galler; renovation of the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; dozens of major academic projects; and the groundbreaking Vanna Venturi House.

Vincent Scully has been widely honored as one of the most gifted historians and critics of architecture. He is Sterling Professor Emeritus of the History of Art at Yale University and Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Miami. Other publications includeThe Shingle Style Today(2003) andFrank Lloyd Wright(1960).
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 136 pages
  • Publisher: The Museum of Modern Art, New York; 2nd edition (1977)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0870702823
  • ISBN-13: 978-0870702822
  • Product Dimensions: 10.9 x 0.4 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #53,182 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
"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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Format: Paperback
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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