Design Moment: Vanna Venturi house, 1964

Vanna Venturi House by Robert Venturi in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photograph: Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images

Vanna Venturi House by Robert Venturi in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photograph: Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images

 

American architect Robert Venturi, who is often called the father of postmodernism, died earlier this month, aged 93 and the house he designed for his mother in Philadelphia is regarded as the first postmodernist home.

Vanna Venturi commissioned the build from her 34 year-old architect son with a loose brief and he famously took five years to come up with a design his easy-going mother was happy with.

In a bold move he incorporated modernist horizontal lines, including the ribbon windows, but conspicuously broke from that then dominant architectural style by mining the past for other elements including the arch-framed entrance, pared back to its most simple shape, gable roof and chimney which is over-sized and almost cartoonish.

The mismatched windows in the determinedly flat façade hint that the real interest is inside, in rooms with such strong personalities they demand different shapes and sizes. Writing about his much-studied house in Architectural Record in 1982, Venturi commented “Some have said my mother’s house looks like a child’s drawing of a house, representing the fundamental aspects of shelter - gable roof, chimney, door and windows. I like to think this is so.”