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Learning from Philadelphia

Robert Venturi, whose seminal Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture of 1966 is credited with returning historical concerns to the forefront of architectural theory and practice after the willful amnesia of modernism, is, it would seem, overcome with anxiety about his own place in history. Weeks before the Philadelphia Museum of Art opened “Out of the Ordinary: The Architecture and Design of Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Associates” this summer, Venturi issued his latest broadside. “I am not now and never have been a postmodernist” ran the quote accompanying a frowning Venturi on the cover of Architecture’s May issue. “I unequivocally disavow fatherhood of this architectural movement,” he insisted in a theme issue devoted to postmodernism, a topic as taboo in academic circles as it is ubiquitous in the commercial landscape Venturi long ago emphatically declared to be “almost

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