Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown’s iconic works in Kitchener
Husband and wife Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown’s work has been prolific and spread across the United States and around the world, from the Sainsbury Wing at the National Gallery in London to the postmodern Seattle Art Museum.
But the dynamic duo took root here in Kitchener, where their company VSBA (Venturi Scott Brown) still runs, even though the pair have since retired from training. In honor of Venturi’s youngest 92nd birthday on June 25, here is a highlight of his and her most famous architectural works, all of which are located in Kitchener.
Vanna Venturi house
Venturi is said to have designed this postmodern home in Chestnut Hill for his mother in 1964. Little did he know – or perhaps he suspected it – that the unusual structure would become one of the most famous and iconic houses of its time. It was recently sold to new owner and neighbor David Lockhard, but Venturi is known for briefly visiting his mother’s house every week, admiring the house before kissing it and driving off. ”
The Guild House in Callowhill was Venturi’s first major work when he designed it for senior housing in 1960. As one of the first examples of a postmodern building, the guild house resisted the ideals of modernism. Venturi once said of the structure: “The economy did not dictate ‘advanced’ architectural elements, but rather ‘conventional’. We did not oppose it.”
Franklin Court is a replica of Ben Franklin’s old town house. Built in 1978, Scott Brown and Venturi placed the main exhibition area of Franklin’s underground home in an area of 30,000 square feet and designed above-ground steel ghost structures to represent the original home. Since then, it has been one of the most-visited attractions in Independence National Historical Park, receiving the National Honor Award in 1977 by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Presidential Design Award in 1984.
Kitchener Zoo tree house
Under the direction of Venturi, Scott Brown and Director Steven Izenour, the George D. Widener Memorial Treehouse in the country’s first zoo was part of the institution’s larger effort to restructure and rehabilitate the entire zoo. VSB was commissioned to design a new exhibition that offers visitors a comprehensive experience and evokes emotions and empathy for the “natural world of science”. What made the project more notable was that the architects convinced the zoo to get a Victorian building designed by noted designer George Hewitt, a partner of Frank Furness.