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Vanna Venturi House

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Thomas Hughes House
1960–1963, Robert Venturi. 8330 Millman St.
  • (University of Pennsylvania, Architectural Archives)
  • (University of Pennsylvania, Architectural Archives)
  • (University of Pennsylvania, Architectural Archives)
  • (University of Pennsylvania, Architectural Archives)
  • (University of Pennsylvania, Architectural Archives)

The first commission for the parents of a young architect is an oft-told tale, but few have been told with such loving detail as Robert Venturi's “Mother's House.” Unlike the Esherick House that directly faces Sunset Lane, the Venturi House is sited as far back as possible from the street, with a subtly angled drive bisecting the property that is now screened by mature plantings. Like the Esherick House, the design began with a centered recess containing the entrance and a flat roof, in a palette of local stucco, but it quickly morphed into a chimney with a small house as base before moving in the seemingly conventional direction of a gable-fronted house. In fact, the building is an exceedingly complex reevaluation of the role of traditional forms in a modern age. These elements range from the gabled mask in front of the house to the dado trim of the mid-wall, the arched lines of a seemingly broken pediment above the entrance, and the crossed oversized muntins that transform modern sliding doors into a traditional element, albeit at a vastly different scale. This house marks the beginning of Venturi's commentary on the theoretical foundations of International Style modernism as it had evolved from the first generation of European moderns. Many of its themes were addressed in his book Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966), the distillation of Venturi's teaching at the University of Pennsylvania and his early practice. The house was originally natural stucco for its principal hue, but during its occupation by his mother, the architect responded to a comment by a contemporary architect that there were no green modern buildings and decided to paint it green, which it remains, now restored to its original strident nearly aqua hue.

Writing Credits

George E. Thomas



  • 1960


What's Nearby


George E. Thomas, "Vanna Venturi House", [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of PA vol 2

Buildings of Pennsylvania: Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania, George E. Thomas, with Patricia Likos Ricci, Richard J. Webster, Lawrence M. Newman, Robert Janosov, and Bruce Thomas. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012, 153-154.

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