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Learning from my mother


Designing a chapel and a trip to Ravenna, Italy
Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown Architect
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[RV] Unfortunately, I’ve never done… we’ve never done a church except now we are designing, and I think it’s going to happen. It’s in… it’s in working drawings – a chapel for the Episcopal Academy where I went, where as I say I went to school and my Master’s thesis where you could choose your subject, I chose a chapel for the Episcopal Academy. That design is very different from the one that’s 50 some years later, but that shows you that I, I was very interested in doing a religious church and that you could use, especially iconography a lot. So I’ve done that. In this last trip, we went to Ravenna, which is just beyond Venice, where there’s just this great… great tradition of the…


[RV] Of the mosaics, the iconography and also of the church as a…

[DSB[ Basilica.

[RV] Of a basilica. I adore basilicas. I adore basilicas because again there is a generic form that can then vary – you’re not being original you’re being generic. That’s when I go to Venice, I just adore San Giorgio Maggiore by Palladio and Il Redentore, which again have façades where there’re these contradictions like the dickens. The façades are at once Roman temples, but at the same time they reflect a basilica, which was a Roman law court so that they go, they go… they have to… the façade is more complex and the contradictions and complexities are just amazing by Palladio. Palladio is thought of as very pure, but actually he was one of the great, one of the great Mannerists in my opinion, as was Michelangelo. And so, anyway, I’m just, I’m just thrilled by historical architecture and I’m constantly learning directly from it. But of course, that doesn’t mean we are doing historical revival architecture at all and that does not mean we are Postmodernists.

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, 16 seconds

Date story recorded: 22nd to 23rd September 2006

Date story went live: 27 May 2010