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Guild House; the windows and the white stripe


The Benjamin Franklin Memorial building (Part 2)
Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown Architect
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[DSB] There’s a further brilliant concept in that project. And when the National Park Service gave us the brief and the mandate to do the work, they showed us a museum on the site and where the house had been and they said there’s no use trying to reproduce the house because we have zero records for the house, so here’s a museum we put instead. And we looked at the site and its surroundings and its access patterns, and there had been a road going right through and indeed and there still was a road going right through and we said…

[RV] It built after his time.

[DSB] Well, the road was underneath Benjamin Franklin’s house at the front, because it was built originally with an archway under it, so that people could go through and something happened to it in the middle, we don’t really know what and it came out the other end.

[RV] Well, there was a house there.

[DSB] Yes, there was a house and the road probably went round the house and then it came out the other end because there was an alley at the back. The point being that it had become – or it could be because it was all opened up and there was nothing there – it could be a way through as it had once been when they removed Benjamin Franklin’s house and put other housing there. And I suggested that it still be maintained as a road, because they had already said that the museum didn’t… shouldn’t have windows, at all. So then I said, why shouldn’t you put the museum underground? And to our great joy every time we go there, we see it being used as a shortcut. We see people coming in and sitting in the beautiful Neo-Colonial furniture that Bob has put in there. In fact, he made the furniture bigger than Colonial and it looks a bit Edwardian, but it’s for the scale of a public rather than a private use. This has always influenced us, the notion of what you do for public that needs to be sturdier and in this case more civic than something that’s private. And therefore for that purpose, we put not only benches but parapets and ledges and things people could sit on and indeed, you see people sitting there. School kids sit there as they wait for things to happen. People eat their sandwiches there and in general it’s made an extra little city park, a very small one, in an area which doesn’t have enough open space.

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: 2 minutes, 42 seconds

Date story recorded: 22nd to 23rd September 2006

Date story went live: 27 May 2010