Complexity, Contradiction and a Decorated Shed
Josef Dabernig
Aleksandra Vajd & Jimena Mendoza
14.7.- 8.10.2017


S: Are you an Antonioni person or a Fellini person? ☞

O: I am not really excited. 

Decorated Shed a term generally attributed to one of the founding fathers of postmodernism in architecture Robert Venturi, actually written together with Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour, coined in the seminal book Learning from Las Vegas from 1972, originally conceived as an article for Architectural Forum in March 1968. The decorated shed is a counterpoint to the term “duck”, which represents the idea of a building shouting out loud its function and purpose by its actual shape. A “duck” in this respect would be a building in the shape of a duck, where you can buy on a high way rest your fresh duck meat, duck eggs and stuff coming from ducks in general. A decorated shed in contrast, describes a generic architecture which only reveals its reason d’être by its signage or corporate identity attributes. You can sell car tires in a duck shaped building, but you will always have to count on its given specificity. A decorated shed on the other hand needs just a slight change on the surface to transform right away into a different entity. 


Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture was written in 1966 by Robert Venturi. ‘More is not less’, concludes the author in his Gentle Manifesto for Nonstraightforward Architecture. By that, he denounces the unviable obsession of orthodox Modern architecture with seemingly puritanic, moral language and calls for architecture to be true to its inherent complexity and contradiction produced by ‘the wants of program, structure, mechanical equipment and expression’.

‘I like elements which are hybrid rather than ‘’pure,” compromising rather than “clean,” distorted rather than “straightforward,” ambiguous rather than “articulated,” perverse as well as impersonal, boring as well as “interesting,” conventional rather than “designed,” accommodating rather than excluding, redundant rather than simple, vestigial as well as innovating, inconsistent and equivocal rather than direct and clear. I am for messy vitality over obvious unity.'☞