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Research, theory and design


Learning by doing; how to run studios (Part 2)
Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown Architect
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[DSB] I taught courses which had projects.  In my planning course I gave as a term paper, that a client… a potential client had approached the student and wanted to design a new city on the outskirts of Arizona, which was very funny because later that happened to us. And I said, ‘Write a letter to this client and tell them all the things you would have to do, before you could reach a point where you would know what you would be doing as a designer, and all the issues that would come up’. And I gave it as a group project, two in a group. And I also said, because this was a highly political time, ‘Put… put your… make your group of a conservative and a liberal and argue through these issues from both those points of view as you’re working’. And so I gave them a project which was to do with making things. Although I didn’t tell them to design the city, I told them to do all the description of what you would have to do first, what your sources of information would be, etc.

Of course we, if we did that in real life, we’d also have to cost the whole thing out and build the team and all of that. I told them to tell us what kinds of consultants they would need, and I’d never ever written a proposal or even knew that that’s what you did in practise, but I feel that was an approach to that kind of a problem. And I also think that courses should have juries, the way studios do. And it means people from different fields should come and debate the issues as shown by the professor in that class, as shared by the students, with those students. So, a transportation expert should be attending the jury on… on urban sociology, saying, ‘It’s all very well for you to say this in this course.  And you’ve told them this and that, but there are these other aspects that must be considered’.  We are experts, we do know more than the public knows about transportation, even if you think that our expertise shouldn’t be, you know, shouldn’t prevail all the time, you can’t… you have to face the fact that it does exist, which never came up.  Or to ask a Herb Gans, ‘Why do you care nothing at all about technology?’  And he should ask the transportation engineer, ‘Why do you say…’ One transportation engineer once said to me, ‘You mean you’ve made up your mind, don’t bother you with the facts?’ I almost turfed him out, ‘You must be rational, do it my way’.


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, 38 seconds

Date story recorded: 22nd to 23rd September 2006

Date story went live: 27 May 2010