Just a couple weeks ago we wrote with local pride about the Vanna Venturi House in Chestnut Hill, designed by architect Robert Venturi for his mother. It is featured in a PBS docuseries called The 10 Buildings That Changed America along with enormous architectural knockouts like Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building in New York, Frank Gehry’s Disney Concert Hall in LA and Eero Saarinen’s Dulles International Airport.
Venturi’s more modest contribution, often called Mother House, was built between 1962 and 1964. The Hughes family–a Penn professor, an artist and their daughter–has owned the house since 1973. But according to Architectural Record, they have to sell the home as soon as they find an organization that will accept a preservation easement that was developed in concert with Venturi’s firm. The reasons are financial.
It sounds a little bit like the case of Louis Kahn’s Fisher House. The Fisher family wasn’t eager to get rid of the home, but practical constraints forced them to put the home on the market–only after, that is, they ensured the home’s architectural history would be maintained and preserved.
From Architectural Record:
[Daughter Agatha] Hughes has spent three years getting the house ready for new owners…she is taking the opportunity to make the house more durable. For instance, she is using mahogany, a wood Venturi couldn’t afford 50 years ago, for window frames. She describes the job as a labor of love. Among the fun parts was working with Venturi to choose a grayish-green paint for the exterior walls. She says, “The house is now the best color it’s ever been.”
It’s nice to think that Venturi can collaborate with Hughes on the process. Kahn was not so lucky.