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Iconography and Electronics Upon a Generic Architecture: A View from the Drafting Room Paperback – 8 Apr 1998

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Product details

  • Paperback: 390 pages
  • Publisher: MIT Press; New edition edition (8 April 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262720299
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262720298
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 2.3 x 21.6 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,643,811 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"This absorbing new collection of Mr. Venturi's exceptionallyliterate articles, lectures, letters and aphorisms written over thepast two decades offers rewarding insights into a creativeintelligence as wide-ranging and iconoclastic as ever." Martin Filler , The New York Times Book Review

About the Author

Robert Venturi is an award-winning architect and an influential writer, teacher, artist, and designer. His work includes includes the Sainsbury Wing of London's National Galler; renovation of the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; dozens of major academic projects; and the groundbreaking Vanna Venturi House.

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First Sentence
A gentle manifesto that acknowledges the demise of a universal architecture defined as expressive space and industrial structure: Let us acknowledge architecture for now that is not ideologically correct, rhetorically heroic, theoretically pretentious, boringly abstract, technologically obsolete. Read the first page
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Electronic shed 9 Oct. 2000
By Michele Sbacchi - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
No longer a relationship with engineering as in the last two centuries but with electronics: this will be the challenge for architecture in the future. Not surprisingly it is the clever mind of Robert Venturi to state and, more importantly, to clarify this problem in his latest very insightful book, Iconography and Electronics upon a Generic Architecture. Venturi is not new to this kind of pioneering reflections: his seminal Learning from Las Vegas very profoundly analyzed another crucial topic, the role of architecture in a motorized society. This time he again manages to focus on a crucial theme going well beyond the mere assertion of the problem. The book is, in fact, a collection of recent essays, and yet it has the strength - but not the monotony - of a special study. The arguments touched are various but they are all contextualized as against a common background: that of the new digital era in architecture. Doing so, Venturi manages to approach the problem from different positions that can open unthinkable perspectives: invention and convention, the relationship between architecture and publicity, the architectural object as a part of the landscape of popular culture are just some of the many topics faced. The theme treated is a very popular one, as we all know: the way architecture, and particularly those procedures involved with its making - which we call "design" - , are affected by the digital revolution. This revolution, as Venturi notes, is causing not only a mere change in terms of tools used to design (files vs. drawings, computers vs. drawing boards etc.) but it is bringing about, more importantly, a cultural change. What has been misunderstood in the far too many writings on this topic is that the digital revolution not only is changing our tools but also our goals. And, as usually happens in these cases, this very attention on the mere instrumental changes overshadows the more important content changes. Fortunately Venturi make architects reflect on this second aspect. The so-called "virtuality" will be more a more a condition to accept, a concept to face. With its ever-increasing presence in our culture it will eventually change the way we think and, particularly, the way we think architecture. One of the most important outcomes of this fact is a difference brought about in the idea of "object", a circumstance of paramount importance for designers. The broken link with materiality has indeed introduced a conception, quite widespread, in which objects are less defined, changeable and ephemeral in a new way. This change - notoriously foreseen by Lyotard - has eventually generated a different idea of the building. The exterior part of the building is the one more involved: in fact in contemporary architecture facades are no longer thought of as fixed elements. All the elements of definition - frame, corners, moulding - have lost their role. Facades, rather than exterior faces of material objects are considered nowadays as surfaces, and particularly mutant surfaces. So writes Venturi: "Here is architecture as iconographic representation emitting electronic imagery from its surfaces day and night." Recent buildings by architects like Herzog & De Meuron, Toyo Ito, Rem Koolhaas are quite symptomatic to this respect. But we cannot forget the pioneering intuitions on "transparency" by Colin Rowe. Not surprisingly Venturi - always sensible to problems of communication performed by buildings and consequently very interested in the theme of the facade - tries to cope with these new conditions. He does so without falling in one of useless categories of pro or anti-virtuality. Instead he is preoccupied of being late in understanding the problem: "Architecture was too late in stylistically acknowledging the industrial revolution ....: let us acknowledge not too late the technology of now - of video electronics over structural engineering: let us recognize the electronic revolution of the Information Age". Venturi's reflections are always the architect's ones. In every phenomenon he is concerned primarily by problems of form and of visual impact. This special approach is particularly clear in his singling out a fundamental topic: the new kind of iconography brought about by electronics. Again Venturi's interest lays on the cultural mutation rather than on the pragmatic one. As we know electronics has introduced a new condition in all graphics - not only in those architectural: digital drawings are constituted by dots rather than by lines as in traditional "analogic" representation. Venturi make us realize that this is not a mere representational problem because this variation eventually introduces conceptual changes to the way architecture is conceived. Representational means are not neutral. Of course this is related to what Venturi theorize on the dissolution of architectural elements and especially of facades. What in the past was a choice - think of Seurat or of Byzantine mosaic - now has become a must. For Venturi the connection between decoration and its physical support - a basic theme in architecture - has to become totally free: "What S.Apollinare Nuovo does inside we can do inside and/or outside". A careful observer of popular culture, Venturi includes in his observation also elements like Light Electronic Displays, which are not a real product of digital production but are one of the most explicit representations of an iconography regulated by dots. This, of course, is not contradictory to his idea of a facade as projection surface. After all an old idea, - think of the inscriptions in S.Maria Novella by Alberti - consistently studied by Venturi and now rethought under the light of dramatically new circumstances.
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