Venturi, Scott Brown & Associates

Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown with Queen Anne chair (left), 1979, and Empire chair (right), 1979. Denise Scott Brown wears the Grandmother dress she designed. Photo credit: Robert Adelman (from Life magazine).

Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown worked collaboratively with FWM from 1980 to 1982 to create several new fabric designs. Their longtime associate, Steve Izenour—a principal with Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates from 1969 until his death in 2001—returned in 1993, first to design a floor plan for FWM’s new home at 1315 Cherry Street, and later to create a graphics and signage program to direct visitors to exhibition galleries and other public areas.

The design inspiration for Grandmother (1983) came from an old tablecloth belonging to the grandmother of an associate of Venturi and Scott Brown. They modified the tablecloth’s floral print and added an overlay pattern of dashes. Venturi has described the initial design idea: “We wanted a pattern . . . that was explicitly pretty in its soft, curvy configurations and sweet combinations of colors, and represented as well something with nice associations, those of flowers. By juxtaposing the two patterns, the dashes and the grandmother-tablecloth, we achieved design involving dramatic contrasts of scale, rhythm, color, and association, and one that is usable in many ways” (VSBA Archives, project statement, July 19, 1990).

In 1998, Steve Izenour updated the firm’s 1982 prototype for Flowers fabric, which was originally developed from the façade design for Best Products. Izenour modified the abstracted floral design—changing the colors and scale, and fabricating them from a rigid plastic material called Sintra board—and arranged the resulting large-scale, free-floating flowers on a sea of mint green for the stairway connecting the FWM’s fifth and sixth floors.

Artist Bio

Robert Venturi 

American, 1925-2018.  

Robert Venturi graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1947 and received his Master of Fine Arts degree, also from Princeton, in 1950. He furthered his studies as a Rome Prize Fellow at the American Academy in Rome from 1954 to 1956. In the following three decades, he lectured at numerous institutions including Yale, Princeton, Harvard, the University of California at Los Angeles, Rice University and the American Academy in Rome. He and his wife, fellow accomplished architect and planner Denise Scott Brown, practiced architecture, writing critical architectural theory and teaching together since the mid-1960s. Their award-winning work includes building projects such as the Seattle Art Museum; a new wing for the National Gallery, London; Gordon Wu Hall at Princeton University, as well as Venturi’s early works: Vanna Venturi House in Philadelphia, his mother’s residence, and the facade for Best Products in Oxford Valley, Pennsylvania. Venturi’s theoretical writing has been critical to the development and understanding of postmodern theory in architecture, from Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, to Learning from Las Vegas, written with Denise Scott Brown and their colleague Steven Izenour. Their four decades of architectural and design work was the subject of Out of the Ordinary: Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Associates, a 2001 exhibition organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, and The Heinz Architectural Center at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh. 

Denise Scott Brown 

American, born Zambia 1931, lives in Philadelphia.  

Denise Scott Brown studied architecture at University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa; Architectural Association, London; and earned her M. Arch. and MCP from the University of Pennsylvania in 1965. She has lectured extensively at institutions such as the University of Pennsylvania, University of California, Berkeley, Yale University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Together with her husband and lifelong collaborator, Robert Venturi, Scott Brown published the books The View from the Campidoglio (1984); Architecture and Decorative Arts, Two Naifs in Japan (1991); and Architecture as Signs and Systems for a Mannerist Time (2004). She is the recipient of the Jane Drew Prize for Women in Architecture (2017), National Planning Award for a Planning Pioneer from the American Planning Association with Robert Venturi (2014), and the Harvard Radcliffe Institute Medal (2005), among others. Scott Brown’s many honorary doctorates include degrees from Drexel University, University of Witwatersrand, Parsons School of Design, and Pratt Institute.