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I am for messy vitality over obvious unity. I include the non sequitur and proclaim the duality.
But an architecture of complexity and contradiction has a special obligation toward the whole: its truth must be in its totality or its implications of totality. It must embody the difficult unity of inclusion rather than the easy unity of exclusion. More is not less.
Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966), pp. 22-3.

Cleanth Brooks justifies the expression of complexity and contradiction by their necessity as the very essence of art: "Yet there are better reasons than that of rhetorical vainglory that have induced poet after poet to choose ambiguity and paradox rather than plain discursive simplicity. It is not enough for the poet to analyze his experience as the scientist does, breaking it up into parts, distinguishing part from part, classifying the various parts. His task is finally to unify experience. He must return to us the unity of the experience itself as man knows it in his own experience. . . . If the poet . . . must perforce dramatize the oneness of the experience, even though paying tribute to its diversity, then his use of paradox and ambiguity is seen as necessary. He is not simply trying to spice up, with a superficially exciting or mystifying rhetoric the old stale stockpot. . . . He is rather giving us an insight which preserves the unity of experience and which, at its higher and more serious levels, triumphs over the apparently contradictory and conflicting elements of experience by unifying them into a new pattern."21
21Cleanth Brooks, The Well Wrought Urn, Harcourt, Brace and World, Inc., New York, 1947; pp 212-214.
Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966), pp. 28-9.

...Guarini's Church of the Immaculate Conception in Turin is a duality in plan and yet a unity...
Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966), p. 30.

Vanbrugh's end bays in the central pavilion of the entrance facade of Blenheim Palace are incorrect because they are bisected by a pilaster: this fragmentation produces a duality which decreases their unity. Their very incompleteness, however, reinforces by contrast the center bay and increases the overall unity of this complex composition. The pavilions which flanked the chateau at Marly contained a similar paradox. The compositional duality of their two-bay facades lacks unity, but reinforces the unity of the whole complex. Their own incompleteness implied the dominance of the chateau itself and the completeness of the whole.
Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966), p. 32.

Later I shall analyze some organized contradictions between front and back. But here I shall mention the Karlskirche in Vienna, whose exterior contains elements both of the basilica in its facade and of the central-type church in its body. A convex form in the back was required by the interior program; the urban space required a larger scale and a straight facade in front. The disunity that exists from the point of view of the building itself is contradicted when the building is seen in relation to the scale and the space of the neighborhood.
Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966), p. 37.

But before I talk about the double-functioning element, I want to mention the multifunctioning building. By this term I mean the building which is complex in program and form, yet strong as a whole--the complex unity of Le Corbusier's La Tourette or the Palace of Justice at Chandigarh in contrast to the multiplicities and articulations of his Palace of the Soviets project or the Armee du Salut in Paris.
Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966), p. 38.

An historical example will perhaps help to illustrate this relation of order and exception. The applique of arches and pilasters on the Palazzo Tarugi maintains itself against the sudden impositions of "whimsical" windows and asymmetrical voids. The exaggerated order, and therefore exaggerated unity, along with certain characteristics of scale, are what make the monumentality in the Italian palazzo and some of the work of Le Corbusier.
Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966), p. 47.

Although Wright did in fact "destroy the box" in the Prairie House, the rounded corners and solid walls of the Johnson Wax Administration Building are analogous to the diagonal and rounded corners of Borrornini's interiors and those of his eighteenth century followers-and for the same purpose: to exaggerate a sense of horizontal enclosure and to promote the separateness and unity of the interior space by the continuity of the four walls. But Wright, unlike Borromini, did not puncture his continuous walls with windows. That would have weakened the bold contrast of horizontal enclosure and vertical openness. And it also would have been too traditional and structurally ambiguous for him.
Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966), p. 72.

Another classic building of Modern architecture, again admittedly not typical, illustrates my point. The Villa Savoye with its wall openings which are, significantly, holes rather than interruptions, restricts any flowing space rigidly to the vertical direction. But there is a spatial implication beyond that of enclosure which contrasts it with the Johnson Wax Building. Its severe, almost square exterior surrounds an intricate interior configuration glimpsed through openings and from protrusions above. In this context the tense image of the Villa Savoye from within and without displays a contrapuntal resolution of severe envelope partly broken and intricate interior partly revealed. Its inside order accommodates the multiple functions of a house, domestic scale, and partial mystery inherent in a sense of privacy. Its outside order expresses the unity of the idea of house at an easy scale appropriate to the green field it dominated and possibly to the city it will one day be part of.
Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966), pp. 72-3.

Crowded intricacies can be excluded as well as contained. The colonnades at St. Peter's and at the Piazza del Plebiscito in Naples, respectively exclude the intricacies of the Vatican Palace complex and the city complex, in order to achieve unity for their piazzas.
Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966), p. 73.

Containment and intricacy have been characteristic of the city as well. Fortified walls for military protection and the greenbelt for civic protection are examples of this phenomenon. Contained intricacy might be one of the viable methods for dealing with urban chaos and the endlessness of roadtown; through the creative use of zoning and positive architectural features it is possible to concentrate the intricacies of road towns and junkyards, actual and figurative. And like the sculpture which consists of compressed automobiles by John Chamberlain and the photographs through telescopic lens in Blake's God's Own Junkyard, they achieve an ironically compelling kind of unity.
Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966), pp.75-6.

Redundant enclosure, like crowded intricacies, is rare in our architecture. With some significant exceptions in the work of Le Corbusier and Kahn, Modern architecture has tended to ignore such complex spatial ideas. The "utility core" of Mies or early Johnson is not relevant because it becomes a passive accent in a dominant open space, rather than an active parallel to another perimeter. Contradictory interior space does not admit Modern architecture's requirement of a unity and continuity of all spaces. Nor do layers in depth, especially with contrapuntal juxtapositions, satisfy its requirements of economic and unequivocal relationships of forms and materials. And crowded intricacy within a rigid boundary (which is not a transparent framework) contradicts the modern tenet which says that a building grows from the inside out.
Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966), p.84.

The ingenious double axis hotel in Paris, even in its originally more open setting, accommodated outside spaces differently at the front and back. With similar justification, Hawksrnoor's Easton Neston yields a tense disunity between front and side. The discontinuous elevation on the intimate garden side away from the long axis, accommodates varieties of spaces and levels inside and necessities of scale outside.
Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966), p.88.

An architecture of complexity and accommodation does not forsake the whole. In fact, I have referred to a special obligation toward the whole because the whole is difficult to achieve. And I have emphasized the goal of unity rather than of simplification in an art "whose . . . truth [is] in its totality."45 It is the difficult unity through inclusion rather than the easy unity through exclusion.
45August Heckscher: The Public Happiness, Atheneum Publishers, New York, 1962; p. 287.
Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966), p.89.

Gestalt psychology considers a perceptual whole the result of, and yet more than, the sum of its parts. The whole is dependent on the position, number, and inherent characteristics of the parts. A complex system in Herbert A. Simon's definition includes "a large number of parts that interact in a non-simple way."46 The difficult whole in an architecture of complexity and contradiction includes multiplicity and diversity of elements in relationships that are inconsistent or among the weaker kinds perceptually.
Concerning the positions of the parts, for instance, such an architecture encourages complex and contrapuntal rhythms over simple and single ones. The "difficult whole" can include a diversity of directions as well. Concerning the number of parts in a whole, the two extremes--a single part and a multiplicity of parts--read as wholes most easily: the single part is itself a unity; and extreme multiplicity reads like a unity through a tendency of the parts to change scale, and to be perceived as an overall pattern or texture. The next easiest whole is the trinity: three is the commonest number of compositional parts making a monumental unity in architecture.
46Herbert A. Simon: in Procedings of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 106, no, 6, December 12, 1962; p. 468.
Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966), pp.89-90.

Sullivan's Farmers' and Merchants' Union Bank in Columbus, Wisconsin, is exceptional in our recent architecture. The difficult duality is prominent. The plan reflects the bisected inside space which accommodates the public and the clerks on different sides of the counter running perpendicular to the facade. On the outside the door and the window at grade reflect this duality: they are themselves bisected by the shafts above. But the shafts, in turn, divide the lintel into a unity of three with a dominant central panel. The arch above the lintel tends to reinforce duality because it springs from the center of a panel below, yet by its oneness and its dominant size it also resolves the duality made by the window and the door. The facade is composed of the play of diverse numbers of parts--single elements as well as those divided into two or three are almost equally prominent--but the facade as a whole makes a unity.
Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966), pp.90-1.

The interior of the church of the Madonna del Calcinaio in Cortona is composed of a limited number of elements which are uninflected. Its windows and niches, pilasters and pediments, and the articulated elements of its altar, are independent wholes, simple in themselves and symmetrical in form and position. They add up to a greater whole. The interior of the pilgrimage church at Birnau in Bavaria, however, contains a diversity of inflections directed toward the altar. The complex curves of the vaults and arches, even the distortions of the pilaster capitals, inflect toward this center. The statues and the multi tude of fragmental elements of the side altars are inflected parts, asymmetrical in form yet symmetrical in position, which integrate into a symmetrical whole. This subordination of parts corresponds to Wölfflin's "unified unity" of the Baroque--which he contrasts with the "multiple unity" of the Renaissance.
Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966), pp.91-3.

At the scale of the town, inflection can come from the position of elements which are in themselves uninflected. In the Piazza del Popolo the domes of the twin churches confirm each building as a separate whole, but their single towers, symmetrical themselves, become inflective because of their asymmetrical positions on each church. In the context of the piazza each building is a fragment of a greater whole and a part of a gateway to the Corso. At the smaller scale of Palladio's Villa Zeno the asymmetrical positions of the symmetrical arched openings cause the end pavilions to inflect toward the center, thus enforcing the symmetry of the whole composition. This kind of inflection of asymmetrical ornament within a symmetrical whole is a dominant motif in Rococo architecture. For example, on the side altars at Birnau, and on the characteristic pairs of sconces, or andirons, doors, or other elements, the inflection of the rocaille is part of an asymmetry within a larger symmetry that exaggerates the unity yet creates a tension in the whole.
Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966), p.94.

Inflection accommodates the difficult whole of a duality as well as the easier complex whole. It is a way of resolving a duality. The inflecting towers on the twin churches on the Piazza del Popolo resolve the duality by implying that the center of the whole composition is located in the space of the bisecting Corso. In Wren's Royal Hospital at Greenwich the inflection of the domes by their asymmetrical position similarly resolves the duality of the enormous masses flanking the Queen's House. Their inflection further enhances the centrality and importance of this diminutive building. The unresolved dualities of the end pavilions facing the river, on the other hand, reinforce the unifying quality of the central axis by their own contrasting disunity.
Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966), pp.94-5.

Soane's Gate at Langley Park (238) is made up of three architectural elements totally uninflected and independent; besides the dominance of the middle element, it is the sculptural elements which are inflected and which give unity to the three parts.
Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966), p.97.

James Ackerman has referred to Michelangelo's predilection for "symmetrical juxtaposition of diagonal accents in plan and elevation" in his design for St. Peter's, which was essentially a renovation of earlier construction. "By using diagonal wall-masses to fuse together the arms of the cross, Michelangelo was able to give St. Peter's a unity that earlier designs lacked."48
48James S. Ackerman: The Architecture of Michelangelo, A. Zwemmer, Ltd., London. 1961; p. 139.
Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966), p.99.

The window above Sullivan's portal in the Merchants' National Bank in Grinnell, Iowa, is almost identical to the Porta Pia in its juxtaposition of an equal number of round, square and diamond-shaped frames of equal size. The diverse combinations of number analyzed in his Columbia Bank facade (groups of elements involving one, two, and three parts) have almost equal value in the composition. However, there the unity is based upon the relation of horizontal layers rather than on superimposition.
Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966), p.100.

Inherent in an architecture of opposites is the inclusive whole. The unity of the interior of the Imatra church or the complex at Wolfsburg is achieved not through suppression or exclusion but through the dramatic inclusion of contradictory or circumstantial parts. Aalto's architecture acknowledges the difficult and subtle conditions of program, while "serene" architecture, on the other hand, works simplifications.
Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966), p.101.

However, the obligation toward the whole in an architecture of complexity and contradiction does not preclude the building which is unresolved. Poets and playwrights acknowledge dilemmas without solutions. The validity of the questions and vividness of the meaning are what make their works art more than philosophy. A goal of poetry can be unity of expression over resolution of content.
Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966), p.101.

The very complex building, which in its open form is incomplete, in itself relates to Maki's "group form;" it is the antithesis of the "perfect single building"49 or the closed pavilion. As a fragment of a greater whole in a greater context this kind of building relates again to the scope of city planning as a means of increasing the unity of the complex whole. An architecture that can simultaneously recognize contradictory levels should be able to admit the paradox of the whole fragment: the building which is a whole at one level and a fragment of a greater whole at another level.
49Fumihiko Maki: Investigations in Collective Form, Special Publication No. 2, Washington University, St. Louis, 1964; p. 5.
Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966), p.102.

In God's Own Junkyard Peter Blake has compared the chaos of commercial Main Street with the orderliness of the University of Virginia. Besides the irrelevancy of the comparison, is not Main Street almost all right? Indeed, is not the commercial strip of a Route 66 almost all right? As I have said, our question is: what slight twist of context will make them all right? Perhaps more signs more contained. Illustrations in God's Own Junkyard of Times Square and roadtown are compared with illustrations of New England villages and arcadian countrysides. But the pictures in this book that are supposed to be bad are often good. The seemingly chaotic juxtapositions of honky-tonk elements express an intriguing kind of vitality and validity, and they produce an unexpected approach to unity as well.
It is true that an ironic interpretation such as this results partly from the change in scale of the subject matter in photographic form and the change in context within the frames of the photographs. But in some of these compositions there is an inherent sense of unity not far from the surface. It is not the obvious or easy unity derived from the dominant binder or the motival order of simpler, less contradictory compositions, but that derived from a complex and illusive order of the difficult whole. It is the taut composition which contains contrapuntal relationships, equal combinations, inflected fragments, and acknowledged dualities. It is the unity which "maintains, but only just maintains, a control over the clashing elements which compose it. Chaos is very near; its nearness, but its avoidance, gives . . . force."50 In the validly complex building or cityscape, the eye does not want to be too easily or too quickly satisfied in its search for unity within a whole.
50August Heckscher: The Public Happiness, Atheneum Publishers, New York, 1962; p. 287.
Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966), pp.102-3.



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