Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture by Robert Venturi

By Robert Venturi

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Le Corbusier juxtaposes the exceptional diagonal. Mies excludes it. Wright hides it or surrenders his whole order to it: the exception becomes the rule. These ideas are applicable to the design and perception of cities, which have more extensive and complex programs, of course, than individual buildings. The consistent spatial order of the Piazza S. Marco, for example (86), is not without its violent contradictions in scale, rhythm, and textures, not to mention the varying heights and styles of the surrounding buildings.

It hides within the order or else it dominates the composition as a motif. In the Vigo Schmidt House project the diagonal becomes part of the overall triangular module. In the David Wright House the whole building becomes a diagonal ramp. In the Guggenheim Museum, where the diagonal spiral is the dominant motival order in a more complex program, the rectangular perpendicular form does express exceptional circumstances. Inside, the vertical order of the structure, and particularly of the shaft containing toilets is expressed in order to provide stable measure for the converging spiral ramp.

An element can seem rhetorical from one point of view, but if it is valid, at another level it 59. Vanbrugh. Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire enriches meaning by underscoring. In the project for a gateway at Bourneville by Ledoux (58), the columns in the arch are structurally rhetorical if not redundant. Expressively, however, they underscore the abstractness of the opening as a semicircle more than an arch, and they further define the opening as a gateway. As I have said, the stairway at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts by Furness is too big in its immediate context, but appropriate as a gesture towards the outside scale and a sense of entry.

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