Postmodernism Architect Robert Venturi Dies At 93
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
The architect Robert Venturi died Tuesday. He was 93. He and his wife, Denise Scott Brown, were major influences in what is known as postmodern architecture. (Reading) I am for messy vitality over obvious unity, Venturi once wrote about his work. And the works from his half-century collaboration with his wife showed it. Denise Scott Brown joins me now from Philadelphia to talk about her husband and their work. And I want to start by thanking you for taking the time. Thank you so much, especially at this moment of loss. My condolences.
DENISE SCOTT BROWN: Thank you very much.
KELLY: I have spent some time today looking at a bunch of photographs of your and Mr. Venturi's work. And among the things that struck me was how diverse it is, from a children's museum in Houston that looks like this colorful exploding kid's toy box to a fire station in Indiana to the extension of the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square in London. Was there a unifying idea or approach?
SCOTT BROWN: I suppose messy vitality describes that approach well.
KELLY: Your husband's words. Yeah.
SCOTT BROWN: Yes. And also the notion that we're architects, and we're very much involved with design. But we see it as coming out of many things and as a great challenge and enormous fun to grow it that way and not miss out on things - which other architects say, well, look, why do you even think of that? Like the Strip...
KELLY: Like the Strip, like the Strip in Vegas.
SCOTT BROWN: Yes, that's an extreme version. But many of the projects you talk about came from having an outlook which said, if we will face the real challenges of these projects, not put them under the rug, we might get something at first we think is ugly, but later we think of it as very beautiful.
KELLY: Well, stay there for a second. Before I - before we move on from your reference to the Strip, I had read that you and your husband were drawn to Las Vegas, which, with all due respect to the good people of Vegas, is not the first city I would've thought a team of architects would be attracted to. What was it that spoke to there?
SCOTT BROWN: Well, it wasn't the first city we were attracted to. We went to all the places that architects love, too, like Rome and Paris. And then we began to see that where we had come from had certain reasons for its existence, like Philadelphia - for me, Johannesburg. And that out of these, without ignoring the tradition we have, we can draw beautiful things and relevant things. And we can be relevant to our societies and say, why aren't we listening to all these things? You don't have to exclude Rome. You go from Rome to Las Vegas, and so we were just making our world larger.
KELLY: Did your husband talk to you about how he wanted to be remembered?
SCOTT BROWN: Right at the beginning, he - there was this very modest young guy. And he was doing this house for his mother, and everyone was laughing at him. And then when we got together and - we worked together for five years beautifully, but we began to fall in love. He said, it may be that I could be very good.
KELLY: Was he saying, I could be good, I could be better with you?
SCOTT BROWN: There's a piece in his notes that says functionality and beauty, Denise. And he's not meaning that. He means remember to get the thing Denise said about...
KELLY: (Laughter) Yeah.
SCOTT BROWN: ...The way the modernist relation - function and beauty in architecture 'cause he wants to quote it. So he was already using me. And he's helping me, too, with my stuff. But he knew he needed me to be a great architect. It was a conflict for him. But he knew very well, and he tried to be fair to me. He wanted to be here much of the time he was.
KELLY: That's architect Denise Scott Brown. She shared a nearly 60-year collaboration with her husband, Robert Venturi. He died Tuesday at the age of 93. Denise Scott Brown, thank you so much for speaking with us.
SCOTT BROWN: I hope you found it honest and convincing.
KELLY: I did. Thank you.
SCOTT BROWN: Thank you very much.
(SOUNDBITE OF ALEXANDRE DESPLAT'S "KRISTOFFERSON'S THEME")
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