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Two buildings for the State University of New York in Purchase


Guild House; the windows and the white stripe
Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown Architect
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[RV] Another thing in the same neighbourhood I should mention, go back to… Guild House… is that in Guild House the second time, we’ve made… we’ve included windows. Again, you would not have included windows in those days.  It was after mother’s house… that was right after mother’s house and we included openings that were windows of several scales, but they were generally pretty big scale windows.

[DSB] What about the white stripe?

[RV] And then we also applied, you’re right, explicit ornament on the building. I should have mentioned that, explicit ornament on the building which was absolutely unheard of at the time, by having a white stripe and some… a white brick base to it. That using explicit ornament, I literally at the time thought, can I really do this? Am I a pervert? Am I just absolutely immoral to apply ornament on a building? You did not do that in those days, in the early… in the Modernist period, but it made… it was not frivolous ornament, it made sense. It gave the building two scales, it had the five stories indicated by the windows as they went up, but then it also had a top, a middle and a base which was three elements that were not identical as they went up. And that again was, kind of historically what you would have done with a Palazzo or something like that. And so there was a juxtaposition then of two scales, of it being a human residential scale indicated by the windows as you went up, but also hey, it was a quasi civic building in a sense as well. So a lot of- that building looks kind of ordinary now. I remember passing it many years later, where someone who was sitting next to me looked at it and said, ‘Oh my goodness, I don’t know what all the business was about that building, when you pass it, it’s not that…’, and I took that as a compliment. I mean you know, why was all that folderol going on? But anyhow so it was a building… it also was a building that had a fence in front of it, it was… what’s the name of that kind of fence?  Very ordinary…

[DSB] Chicken link?

[RV] Well. there was another name.  Anyhow that ordinary fence that you would not put in front of a building, you would put it in the back of a factory or something like that.

[DSB] That was a little bit of a possibility that Frank Gehry learned from that.

[RV] Yeah, I think that Frank Gehry learned from that because he used that fence in front of his house a little bit later, his own house in Santa Monica.

[DSB] Chicken wire, chicken wire.

[RV] So, we had fun, we had fun in those days.

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, 41 seconds

Date story recorded: 22nd to 23rd September 2006

Date story went live: 27 May 2010