29 July 2001

philadelphia museum of art

My wife and I are proud members of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the third largest art museum in the western hemisphere. This afternoon we really enjoyed a retrospective of the work of Venturi, Scott Brown, and Associates (VSBA), a world-renown Philadelphia-based architectural and design firm that has been important for post-modernism, urbanism, and a return to classical materials and design elements.

Robert Venturi and Denise Scott-Brown have been working together for over 30 years and have produced some amazing buildings in that time. Among my favorites are the beautiful addition of the Sainsbury Wing to the National Gallery in London, UK and the Lewis Thomas Laboratory at Princeton University, NJ (Venturi's alma mater). Both buildings are wonderfully integrated with their surroundings, make interesting and surprising use of traditional architectural elements, employ the finest materials, and define spaces with warmth and light that are evidently designed as much from the inside out as from the outside in.

The retrospective includes photos, models, videos, sketches, and smaller design pieces. It's amazing to see Venturi's very rough initial sketches - scribbles, in fact, black marker on yellow tracing paper - that are then transformed by his associates into full building plans.

The exhibit ends August 5. But it's my hope that VSBA's buildings will stand as monuments to the death of modernism for centuries to come.