MoMA announces publication revisiting Robert Venturi's seminal Architectural Treatise

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MoMA announces publication revisiting Robert Venturi's seminal Architectural Treatise
Robert Venturi working in the slide room at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. February 1961. George Pohl Collection. The Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

NEW YORK, NY.- The Museum of Modern Art announced the publication of Robert Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction at Fifty. First published in 1966, Robert Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, widely considered a foundational text of postmodernism, has become an essential document in architectural theory and criticism. This two-volume box set reintroduces the original edition in facsimile, highlighting Venturi’s idiosyncratic yet visually driven argument.

Venturi, a young American architect at the time this book was written, presents his “gentle manifesto” as the conscious manipulation and rejection of what he saw as the purist simplification of much of postwar modernist architecture. Instead, drawing from a multitude of historical examples, he argues for an architecture that is truthful to the complexities and contradictions of everyday life and of the pluralist society of his present. 350 illustrations accompany the text to give immediate visual references to his argument; and a separate section is devoted to the architect’s own projects. Vincent Scully, former Professor of the History of Art at Yale University, described this book as “probably the most important writing on the making of architecture since Le Corbusier’s Vers une architecture, of 1923.”

The companion volume’s 10 new essays present fresh scholarship on Venturi’s canonical text. The newly commissioned contributions address diverse issues, such as the book’s relationship to its author’s own built oeuvre and its significance in the contemporary landscape. Additional short commentaries by contemporary practitioners attest to Complexity’s enduring relevance for architectural practice. Together, these two volumes expand the horizons of—and introduce a new generation to—Venturi’s “gentle manifesto.”

Complexity and Contradiction at Fifty was edited by Martino Stierli, the Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and David Brownlee, the Frances Shapiro-Weitzenhoffer Professor of 19th Century European Art at the University of Pennsylvania. It features essays by Jean-Louis Cohen, Lee Ann Custer, Peter Fröhlicher, Diane Harris, Andrew Leach, Mary McLeod, Stanislaus von Moos, Joan Ockman, Emmanuel Petit, and Martino Stierli; commentaries by Sam Jacob, Stephen Kieran and James Timberlake, Michael Meredith, Pier Paolo Tamburelli, and Deborah Berke; and interviews with Rem Koolhaas and Stanley Tigerman.

Robert Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction at Fifty is published by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and is available at MoMA stores and online at Hardcover, $45/£35. 336 pages, 425 illustrations. ISBN: 978-1-63345-062-2. It is distributed to the trade through ARTBOOK|D.A.P. in the United States and Canada and through Thames & Hudson outside the United States and Canada.

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