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About our Guest:

Frida Grahn is a PhD candidate and teaching assistant of Sonja Hildebrand and Pier Vittorio Aureli at the Accademia di architettura Mendrisio (AAM USI). Frida Grahn earned a Master of Science in Architecture in 2010 and a Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) in History and Theory of Architecture in 2018, both from the ETH Zurich.


She has worked for E2A Architekten and Caruso St John Architects and has published in architectural periodicals such as Werk, Bauen + Wohnen and archithese. She has previously taught architectural criticism at the Technical University of Kaiserslautern, Germany. Her dissertation project “The Swiss Reception of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, 1970–2000” explores the history of postmodern architecture and transatlantic exchange. An excerpt will appear in a forthcoming issue of the architectural theory journal Wolkenkuckucksheim / Cloud-Cuckoo-Land.

Image credit:

© Venturi, Scott Brown Collection,
The Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania

Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown dr

About the topic:

1968 is known as a year of upheaval: of student revolt, anti-war protests and civil rights demonstrations. The revolutionary sentiment was reflected in a questioning of Modernist practices, such as functionalist architecture and urbanism, and in new cultural expressions. The epochal shift can be seen in the emergence of pop music, pop art and what was initially coined ‘pop architecture.’ Put succinctly, Modernist purism was replaced by a plurality of expressions. This can be exemplified by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown’s seminal research on Las Vegas, of which preliminary conclusions were published in The Architectural Forum in the spring of 1968. The article was a plea for symbolism in architecture and was the beginning of the international reception of Venturi and Scott Brown. The text was re-published in several languages, including a German translation in the Swiss journal Werk in 1969.

The main focus of the brief presentation by Frida Grahn will be on the use of symbols, references, metaphors and analogies. The article in Werk (and the book Learning from Las Vegas that followed in 1972) would stress the importance of learning from built precedent and from the existing landscape. The use of references has since been an integrated part of architectural practice, especially in Swiss architectural culture, but has been questioned on various occasions. What is the role of historical precedent today? What sources are valid references? Are architects obliged to aim for ‘newness’ and how can this be achieved? Is it possible to disconnect architecture from history? How can architecture improve the existing urban fabric without turning utopian?  

Image credit:

© Venturi, Scott Brown Collection,
The Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania

The %22Flamingo%22 sign seen from a heli

Discussion date: Thursday 18th March, 2021.

©️ 2023 Panta Rhei Collaborative

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