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MoMA Announces Publication Revisiting Robert Venturi’s Seminal Architectural Treatise

The Museum of Modern Art

The Museum of Modern Art is proud to announce 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.”

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Robert Venturi. Early draft of the acknowledgments to Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. c. 1965. The Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, by the gift of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown

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

Denise Scott Brown at Rice University, Houston, where she taught with Robert Venturi in January and February 1969. The Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

Robert Venturi. “My Manifesto to Myself.” c. 1961/62. Manuscript. The Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania by the gift of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown

Robert Venturi (left) and Philip J. Finkelpearl (right) discussing a text by Venturi at Alison Lurie’s parents’ house, White Plains, N.Y. 1953

Venturi-Vallhonrat Studio. “A Theatre for Shakespeare,” draft design brief, c. 1961/1962. Typescript.  The Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania by the gift of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown

Letter from Robert Venturi to Philip J. Finkelpearl thanking him for introducing him to the notion of “ambiguity.” September 10, 1998

Robert Venturi. “Context in Architectural Composition.” MFA thesis, Princeton University. February 1950. The Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, by the gift of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown

Robert Venturi. Detail of “Context in Architectural Composition.” MFA thesis, Princeton University. February 1950. The Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, by the gift of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown

Robert Venturi. Detail of “Context in Architectural Composition.” MFA thesis, Princeton University. February 1950. The Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, by the gift of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown

Robert Venturi. Handwritten notes, lecture VII. c. 1965. The Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, by the gift of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown

Robert Venturi. Page 77 of Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. New York: The Museum of Modern Art in association with the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, Chicago, 1966