Robert Venturi had an outsized influence on the architecture of the 20th century, and the Guild House, built in Venturi’s hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, served as his starting point. Completed in 1963, it was one of the world’s first Postmodern buildings, an affront to the prevailing wisdom of the time among modern architects that less was more.
Referencing multiple styles, one could argue that it’s downright ugly. This may explain why, despite its historical significance, it has become an overlooked relic, an afterthought in Venturi’s oeuvre; in fact, it’s not even the most important building of his in the city — that title would belong to the house he built for his mother, the eponymous Venturi House.
Today the Guild House continues to function for its original purpose, to house low-income elderly residents. Groups are often welcomed for tours, but, as was explained to me when I arrived, photographers are less so. So I was lucky to capture the interior of such an important landmark. And while doing so it became clear that the beauty of the building was beside the point to Venturi. What made his vision so radical, or so it seemed to me, was that here he was saying that a building didn’t have to be designed and constructed based on a narrowly defined set of rules, as was the case with the Modernists before him. Architecture, the Guild House seems to whisper as you walk through it, is a fundamentally creative pursuit whose only fidelity is to functioning faithfully and as intended.
Words & Photography