November 9, 2019

Robert Venturi’s Rome

The 10th Anniversary Alvin Holm Lecture/Symposium

The Union League of Philadelphia
140 South Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102
8:30 AM to 2:30 PM
Directions and Parking

Ambassador Level: $250 | ICAA Members: $100 | General Admission: $125 | Students: $90

4.5 AIA LUs

Perhaps no other Philadelphia architect has received more recognition and wielded more influence in the second half of the 20th century than did Robert Venturi (1925-2018). His 1966 “gentle manifesto,” Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, catapulted him into the forefront of American architecture and architects. As one of the most significant theoretical works on architectural theory, this book has been recognized to be heavily influenced by Venturi’s two-year tenure at the American Academy of Rome from 1954 to 1956 and uses many Roman buildings to illustrate his theories. In 2017, two more recent Rome Fellows and architects, Frederick Fisher and Stephen Harby, published their book, Robert Venturi’s Rome, which re-examines the Roman buildings and places that exemplified Venturi’s ideas with the perspective of fifty years of architectural advancements. The book includes exclusive watercolor illustrations inspired by the black and white illustrations by Venturi in Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture.

Join us for the 10th Anniversary Alvin Holm Lecture/Symposium which will feature Frederick Fisher and Stephen Harby, joined by their fellow architectural colleague, Steven Semes, as they discuss Robert Venturi’s Rome. In addition to the lectures, there will be a small exhibit of the original watercolors done by Fisher and Harby to illustrate their book.

Includes seated breakfast and lunch. Please note The Union League’s Dress Code: Business casual attire: defined as a collared shirt and pressed slacks for men and comparable attire for women. No jeans, athletic wear, or sneakers.


  • 8:30am Doors open; Seated breakfast begins
  • 9:30am Welcome
  • 9:40am Stephen Harby

Harby will review Robert Venturi’s time and experience in Rome, and how Complexity and Contradiction influenced students and young architects. He will discuss how the idea for a book emerged and interfaced with Frederick Fisher’s own work during his Rome Prize Fellowship in 2008. The session will conclude with an overview introduction of Robert Venturi’s Rome.

  • 10:30am Q&A; Break
  • 10:55am Frederick Fisher

Fisher will focus on the drawings created both during the initial time in Rome, and subsequently, once Robert Venturi’s Rome had taken shape and was being written. He will conclude with a speculation on the meaning and significance of Rome to himself and Harby, their students, and on the architecture profession as a whole, today and going forward.

  • 11:45am Q&A
  • 12:00pm Seated Lunch
  • 1:00pm Welcome
  • 1:05pm Steven Semes

Robert Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture was, for many of us, the first introduction to two of the greatest traditionalist architects of the twentieth century: Sir Edwin Lutyens in Britain and Armando Brasini in Italy. In the years since Venturi’s book appeared, Lutyens has been recognized as a great international master but Brasini still remains little known outside of Italy. Brasini, like his contemporary Lutyens, was one of many architects who continued to practice in the classical language of architecture well into the twentieth century, producing some of the most innovative and expressive work since the days of Borromini. Much of this work was still fresh when Venturi studied in Rome in the 1950s. Given the importance that Venturi attached to formal expression in architecture, Semes will take a closer look at the work that inspired him in his writing, as well as to better understand why he was so attracted to it. In the process, the ongoing importance of Rome as the primary textbook of architects today will be revealed.

  • 1:55pm Q&A
  • 2:05pm Panel Wrap Up (featuring all three speakers)
  • 2:25pm Closing remarks
  • 2:30pm Event ends

About Stephen Harby

Stephen Harby is an architect, educator and watercolorist. Educated at Yale, he was associated with the late Charles Moore’s architectural practices for eighteen years, where he directed a series of civic and campus projects. He currently maintains his own practice in Santa Monica, CA and was a Visiting Lecturer at the Yale School of Architecture, where he directed the school’s program in Rome from 2002 to 2018. He also conceives and leads cultural and artistic tours for small select groups to exotic destinations all over the world. He is the recipient of numerous awards and distinctions, which include: the Gabriel Prize, a fellowship at the MacDowell Colony and the Rome Prize in Architecture at the American Academy. As a watercolorist, he travels and sketches extensively and has exhibited his work widely. His work and teaching was the subject of a feature article in the publication American Artist in May of 2009 and Watercolor in 2018.

About Frederick Fisher

Driven to create fulfilling environments, Frederick Fisher approaches architecture as a collaborative process. Frederick gained stature in the art and academic worlds by designing exceptional spaces for the practice and exhibition of art. He is a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome, where he combined his passions for art and architecture in the exploration of museum meaning and design. A registered architect since 1978, Fisher received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Oberlin College in Art and Art History and a Master’s of Architecture from UCLA.

About Steven Semes

Steven W. Semes is Associate Professor at the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture and Academic Director of its Rome Studies Program. A practicing architect for over thirty years, he has designed a wide variety of projects for preservation and new construction throughout the United States. He is also the author of The Architecture of the Classical Interior (Norton) and a contributor to The Elements of Classical Architecture (Norton). His essays and reviews have appeared in the National Trust Forum Journal, Traditional Building, Period Homes, and American Arts Quarterly. He is a Fellow Emeritus of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Classical America.

About Alvin Holm

Alvin Holm has over 35 years experience in the architectural field. He is the Principal of Alvin Holm AIA, Architects which is an architectural firm providing architectural design services in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He specializes in traditional and classical design for residential and commercial properties. Previously, Mr. Holm taught at the Bauhaus foundation program at the Philadelphia College of Art, as well as studio courses at Drexel University. He completed Graduate Studies in City Planning and Architecture at Yale University and a Master of Architecture at University of Pennsylvania. Alvin Holm served as President of the Philadelphia Chapter of ICAA from 1980-2008.