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Mannerism (Part 2)


Mannerism (Part 1)
Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown Architect
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[RV] I think another… another quality that connects with this idea of flexibility and the relevance of the loft building rather than the… geometrically complex building where form follows particular function, where evolution is accommodated. Another quality that really is important in our thinking is Mannerism, and the book Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture which I wrote, evidently it was published 40 years ago, someone mentioned this – and they celebrated this at Columbia University a few weeks ago – that essentially it's a book about Mannerism, and that is where you acknowledge in life and in art, inconsistency.  You acknowledge systems, you acknowledge convention, but then you say, ah, it must give in here and there, it must acknowledge and accommodate exceptions, variations.  And it is well known that this is an idea, the idea of Mannerism which was recognised and developed in the mid and late 19th century, by… evidently by German art historians who applied this to late Renaissance architecture, before it evolved into Baroque. Where architects like Michelangelo, Palladio and others acknowledged and very much accepted the very precise qualities, conventions, of Classical Architecture deriving from Roman architecture, but then said, ah, there must be some modifications, some exceptions, some contradictions that are acknowledged. And this was very likeable to me, and when I wrote the book Complexity and Contradiction, I was really reacting, among other things, I was reacting to the kind of purity of Modernism, that had developed by the late… by the late 20th century, where Modernism was a very, kind of, strict and precise way of doing things in architecture.  And therefore I could go back and learn from the historical Mannerist tradition where you were acknowledging the ordinary, you were acknowledging the generic, you’re… but at the same time, you were making changes.  And out of that came wonderful tensions, and I learned a lot… a lot from a lot of sources to acknowledge that. So I think Mannerism is something we might talk about some more, Denise and I, in relation to this.

[DSB] Mannerism was also a… well it, not also… the Mannerists were people who had studied the orders. Architects learnt the orders, and in my terms, the orders are a system, a fascinating system, because they could adapt and evolve from Ancient Rome through the Renaissance and ever since.  Because people still design using the… specifically the… the classical orders. Even now there are people who are Classical architects, classicists who do that. But also, you establish other orders in most other systems of architecture, so that, I’d say we have orders in our modern buildings too, the orders of structure, and mechanical systems, etc.

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: 4 minutes, 11 seconds

Date story recorded: 22nd to 23rd September 2006

Date story went live: 27 May 2010