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Chinese scholars gardens and lilong housing


Working in Japan
Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown Architect
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[RV] Working in Japan, was just heavenly in so many different ways.  It was just so stimulating and friendly and efficient.

[DSB] And they have the same sense of fun.

[RV] Yeah.

[DSB] Same sense of humor.

[RV] Yeah.

[DSB] They used to call Bob, Mr Shadow Jointer.

[RV] Because I loved shadow joints so the architects in the firm that we were working with… the detail… I’d always say, now, make sure the shadow joint is right. So, eventually I was known as Mr Shadow Jointer. The other thing was also… the restaurants were fabulous. I mean you know, wonderful Japanese of course. But the best French restaurants I’ve ever eaten in, including Paris, were in Japan. Italian restaurants and it was just fun to be there on so many levels. And it’s the combinations of different kinds of architecture and it wasn’t sort of Disneyland, kind of, combinations to it, it was just vital and nice. Oh God, I just, I want to go back. And then, of course, we also loved what architects normally love, especially Modern architects and that is the architecture of, of… what was the other city besides Tokyo? What’s the name of it?

[DSB] Now, you see I’ve…


[DSB] No.


[DSB] Kyoto, yes.

[RV] Kyoto, Kyoto and there they have these Shinto gardens that are just heavenly. As much as I am a lover of Michelangelo and I’m a lover of Italy, and so forth and so on, maybe my favourite spot in the whole world is one of these gardens, these Japanese Shinto gardens, which are, kind of, miniature stylised, idealised nature. Made smaller and generalised, oh… they just bring tears to my eyes when I… you just… thinking of them and I want to go back and experience that and just… oh, it’s so fantastic. I remember having dinner one night with… I don’t think you were there, we visited our dear friend an architect there and he took me down to southern Japan. I forget the name of the area.

[DSB] Hokkaido.

[RV] Where he was doing some buildings.

[DSB] Not Hokkaido was to the… Hashido?

[RV] That’s right, he taught at a university there and I gave a lecture. And then afterwards we had dinner at a beautiful restaurant at the edge of town, which was surrounded by… or we were facing a beautiful traditional Japanese garden there and it was, sort of, gently lit. And we had this beautiful food. But, beyond the Japanese garden were all these neon signs, the Modernist and the combination of the modern Japan and the old Japan is so beautiful and there it was juxtaposed. I’ll just never forget it. I love it. I wish I had photographs of it.

I wish you did.

[RV] And his name is Nori Yasuyama and his daughter now works in our office. She’s just fabulous – she’s the main architect now for working on the project in Georgetown.

[DSB] Dumbarton Oaks.

[RV] Dumbarton Oaks.

[DSB] And her father worked for us in the 1970s.

Internationally renowned architects Robert Venturi (1925-2018) and Denise Scott Brown (b.1931) have helped transform contemporary design through their innovative architecture and planning. Winners of numerous prestigious awards, their designs have championed multiculturalism, social activism, symbolism, pop culture, history and evolving technologies.

Listeners: Thomas Hughes

Thomas Hughes is Mellon Professor Emeritus of the History of Science at the University of Pennsylvania and Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His most recent books include Human Built World, Rescuing Prometheus and American Genesis. He is a member of the American Philosophical Society, US National Academy of Engineering, Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Duration: 3 minutes, 9 seconds

Date story recorded: 22nd to 23rd September 2006

Date story went live: 27 May 2010