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Inside the archives of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown

Fremont Street, Las Vegas, 1968. All images © Venturi and Scott Brown and Associates, Philadelphia.
Fremont Street, Las Vegas, 1968. All images © Venturi and Scott Brown and Associates, Philadelphia.

Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown - two of the world’s most influential living architects - are notorious for challenging Mies van der Rohe’s ‘Less is More’ mantra with ‘Less is a Bore’, and leading the Post-Modernist movement with Venturi’s manifesto, ‘Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture’. Now a rare insight into the couple’s design philosophy is available at the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts in Chicago, where a series of their research photographs and films from the late 1960s is currently on show.

Taken from their archives, the material is part of the pair’s investigation into the Las Vegas strip, which was to prove a big influence on their later work. Their fresh way of examining the city - the influence of popular culture, advertising, film and the experience of the built environment from a moving car – was as revolutionary as their findings, which were published in the legendary 1972 book, Learning from Las Vegas.

‘Their approach to looking at and thinking about the city was unprecedented,’ says Graham Foundation director and curator Sarah Herda. ‘Their formulation of architectural research remains vital and influential to generations of architects.’

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Still very active in the architecture field, Venturi and Scott Brown are currently working on a building for the Curtis Institute of Music and an extension to the Woodmere Art Museum, both in Philadelphia. The Graham Foundation exhibition – curated by Hilar Stadler and Martino Stierli in collaboration with artist Peter Fischli – provides an interesting look at what has shaped their inimitable careers. §

Gas station, Las Vegas, 1968

Stardust Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, 1968

American suburbia, circa 1968

Parking lot on the Strip, Las Vegas, 1968

Tanya-Billboard on the Strip, Las Vegas, 1968

Studies of billboards at the Office of Young Electric Sign Company, Las Vegas, 1968

Roman Soldier, Caesars Palace Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, 1968

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