Sessa, Rosa (2017) By Means of Rome. Robert Venturi: prima del Post-Modern (1944-1966). [Tesi di dottorato]


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Item Type: Tesi di dottorato
Resource language: Italiano
Title: By Means of Rome. Robert Venturi: prima del Post-Modern (1944-1966)
Date: 2017
Number of Pages: 326
Institution: Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II
Department: Architettura
Scuola di dottorato: Architettura
Dottorato: Architettura
Ciclo di dottorato: 29
Coordinatore del Corso di dottorato:
Date: 2017
Number of Pages: 326
Keywords: Robert Venturi - relazioni Italia/America - architetti viaggiatori - secondo dopoguerra - Roma - storia dell'architettura - riferimenti storici - architettura postmoderna - architettura americana - American Academy in Rome
Settori scientifico-disciplinari del MIUR: Area 08 - Ingegneria civile e Architettura > ICAR/18 - Storia dell'architettura
Date Deposited: 18 Apr 2017 14:46
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2018 13:19

Collection description

Post-Modern architecture is “populist”, a “scenographically simulating” “eclectic parody”. It is difficult to overcome these kinds of comments, especially when they are written by Kenneth Frampton. This harsh critique has biased our view of the work of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, considered as precursors and protagonists of Post-Modernism. Even today Venturi’s architecture suffers from the negative impact of that disapproval. Surprisingly enough, during his career Venturi tried his best to dissociate his architecture from the work of most of his self-proclaimed followers. He declared on many occasions: “I am not a Post-Modernist”, blaming a misconception about his work, often simplistically dismissed as a historic revival. Official historiography about Venturi begins with his Mother’s House, completed in 1964, and Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, published in 1966. My PhD thesis argues that in order to gain a wider perspective on Venturi’s work, we should shift our focus from the 1960s to the mid-40s. Therefore, my work investigates his research and projects from his early years, beginning in 1944, the date when Venturi enrolls at the Princeton University. From this specific viewpoint, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture turns into the final outcome of his first 20 years of research on historic architecture and urban context. His particular awareness of history was defined during his two-year stay at the American Academy in Rome between 1954 and 1956. That would have been an interesting moment to be in Italy: from the Gianicolo Hill, Venturi could not only carry on his research on the architectural principles of the Baroque and Mannerism, but he would have also had the chance to absorb the lively Italian cultural debate of the postwar period, animated by the ideas about historicism, neorealism and museography. Thanks to his friendship with Ernesto Nathan Rogers, Venturi is exposed to history of architecture not only through the physical proximity to the buildings of Rome, but also through the passionate debate about the role of contemporary architecture in the preexistent contexts. This is not the first time Venturi is in Rome: in fact, he applied at the American Academy in order to verify his intuitions about the historic city developed during his previous Italian tour. The first time Venturi travels to Europe is during the summer of 1948, when he is a 23-year-old architecture student. In nine weeks he visits England, France and Italy, and he deliberately dedicates half of that time to the discovery of Italy alone. Challenging academic as well as personal expectations, Rome in particular acts as a place for an epiphany of new reflections on topics considered as outmoded at that time, such as decoration in architecture, the dynamism of the Baroque urban spaces, and the spatial character of the Italian piazza. Upon his return to Princeton, Venturi writes a report that is a “manifesto” of his new fields of inquiry inspired by his experience of the Italian cities. From this moment he would change his study plan in order to better investigate his Italian lessons. What is striking in this story is the absolute consistency of Venturi’s interests on those topics and the way he addresses them. Referring to his manuscripts from the 40’s and the 50’s, we can understand that it is not really the appearance of the buildings what interests him, but the experience of those architectures, the particular atmosphere of historic places, the perception of “context, color, scale and natural monumentality” of the Italian cities. Only in reflecting on Venturi’s early years can we have a broader picture of his work and on the way he uses architectural references, a way that it is not (or not only) aesthetic and formal, but that is mainly a way to interpret architectural principles neglected during the Modern period. Through his experience of Rome, Venturi is able to cultivate his profound observation on the context, a skill he would ultimately use to perceive his own culture with new eyes. Because, as Venturi recalls, “you learn not so much from Rome, as by means of Rome”.


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