In der Welt von Denise Scott Brown

From Las Vegas to Vienna: With her critical view of modernity, Denise Scott Brown has had a decisive influence on architecture. A solo exhibition now pays tribute to her multi-layered work.

Anyone looking for examples of classical architecture in “Downtown Denise Scott Brown” will be disappointed. The solo exhibition in the Architekturzentrum Wien portrays the life and work of the now 87-year-old architect, urbanist and theorist in a rather unusual manner: with large-format, two-dimensional collages consisting of photos, labels and text bubbles spread out over the walls like a comic strip. Communicating in the first person, Denise Scott Brown uses the texts to address the visitors. This exhibition is therefore not about critical distance but about empathic immersion in the world and life of the rebel from Philadelphia. The marked route through the exhibition space has been conceived as a stroll through a city. Photos of historical Viennese shop windows frame the billboards and, in the middle of the large room, there is a square with a backdrop. “I am a Monument” is shown in capital letters on a cardboard plinth – the quotation is from “Learning from Las Vegas” (1972). There is also a shop with Scott Brown souvenirs, a café with its own Scott Brown newspaper and a photo booth for the perfect Instagram moment on a big screen. After all, of course, interaction is also required in this exemplary urban space that Jeremy Tenenbaum and Denise Scott Brown designed specifically for the exhibition!

Postmodernist cabinet of curiosities
In this motley, partially ironic pastiche, curators Angelika Fitz and Katharina Ritter take places and people, theories and work methods as themes. In this way, the exhibition becomes a postmodernist cabinet that touches upon many questions: How does architecture communicate? How is the periphery organised? To what extent is the star system in architecture sexist? Due to the abundance of material however, there is not enough space to deal with such themes critically and in detail, or to relate them to current debates. Nevertheless, the first big solo exhibition and homage to Denise Scott Brown represents the start of a new era: In Vienna, of all places, and not in the USA – the land of architects and the MeToo debate – tribute is finally paid to a woman who was unjustly reduced to being an appendage to her husband, Robert Venturi, for far too long.

Text: Sandra Hofmeister

Detail 1/2, 2019


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Dr. Sandra Hofmeister

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