Jaw Dropper of the Year: The Vanna Venturi House Is On The Market

The Vanna Venturi House | Photos: Steve Davis and Steven Goldblatt, via Kurfiss Sotheby's International Realty

The Vanna Venturi House | Photos: Steve Davis and Steven Goldblatt, via Kurfiss Sotheby’s International Realty

It’s not everyday that a genuine piece of architectural history hits the market. In fact, when we first saw the listing, our mouths were left agape at the shear possibility that someone could now own what is widely regarded as the building that started the Postmodern movement.

The Vanna Venturi House on Millman Street in Chestnut Hill was designed by Robert Venturi for his mother between 1959 and 1964 and has been the topic of many essays and even been featured on a postage stamp. More recently, it was listed as one of the “10 Buildings That Changed America” by PBS.

Melanie Stecura, listing agent with Kurfiss Sotheby’s, said that she’s been working on putting the home on the market for five years, and that a home of this historic value couldn’t have found better a steward than owner Dr. Thomas P. Hughes, a former professor at the University of Pennsylvania who passed away last February. Hughes and his wife, Agatha, bought the home in 1973 from Robert Venturi, after his mother, Vanna, passed away.

The daughter of Dr. Hughes, Agatha, currently lives in and lovingly maintains the home, which marked its 50th year in 2013. The estate of Dr. Hughes has listed the property for $1.75 million and Sectura tells us that the family has cherished the home. “It has been maintained in its original condition. [The family] has a real love of the house, and Bob Venturi has been really involved in anything that’s been done inside the home.” That includes the minor details, such as picking out paint colors. “We’re hoping to find somebody that has the same kind of love for the house that his family had,” added Sectura. “It’s an icon, really.”

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List: Most Overlooked Women in Architecture

Photo credit: Venturi, Scott Brown, and Associates via BLOUIN ARTINFO.

Photo credit: Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates via BLOUIN ARTINFO.

ArchDaily recently republished its post written last year in honor of International Women’s Day listing the 10 most overlooked women in architecture history. Among those included on Nicky Rackard’s list is Philadelphia’s own Anne Tyng (the first female to attend the Harvard Graduate School of Design) and Denise Scott Brown (who was a lot more than just Robert Venturi’s wife, though peers often saw her in that light).

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Makeover Nearly Complete for Nonexistent Old City Home

The most famous house not standing in Philadelphia is almost ready to receive visitors again as the reconstruction of Franklin Court in Old City has moved above ground.

Work began on the $21 million restoration of the Independence National Historical Park museum memorializing the only home Ben Franklin ever built in October 2011. We were able to grab some shots of the construction work on a recent stroll down Chestnut Street, where one of the two entrances to Franklin Court is located.

The “ghost houses” – Robert Venturi’s imaginative approach to evoking structures for which no physical evidence save their foundations survive – only need a fresh coat of paint. The real work has largely taken place below ground, where dated 1970s exhibits have been replaced, leaky ceilings have been repaired and the structure brought back to a state of good repair.

Photo: K. Clappa for GPTMC

Photo: K. Clappa for GPTMC

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The Vanna Venturi House Is Going Up for Sale

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.

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Petition: Denise Scott Brown Was More Than Just Robert Venturi’s Wife

The renowned Philadelphia-based architecture firm Venturi Scott Brown Associates has always had something of a gender complex. Founded and guided by the married partnership of Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi, the firm was often covered in the press and within architecture circles with a primary emphasis on Venturi. In part, this was generational, but some contend it leaves Venturi with the more recognizable legacy–despite the fact that Scott Brown continues to work.

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