This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, by Robert Venturi.1 Often identified as the first postmodern manifesto—although Venturi has disavowed this attribution—Complexity and Contradiction had a significant impact on architecture culture as much for what it did not do as for what it did. As a “gentle manifesto,” it eschewed the polemics and vehemence of earlier modernist manifestoes and took a more personal tone. Statements beginning “I like …” or “I find …” shifted Venturi's treatise from a polemic to what he called an “apologia—an explanation, indirectly, of my work” (18). Far from the fervent proclamations of early twentieth-century manifestoes, the mildness of Venturi's tone concealed the radical nature of his program to dismantle “orthodox Modern architecture.”

Venturi decoupled architecture and “other things,” the social, technological, and political issues that had informed modernism:

The shift to a realistic approach...

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