The Difficult Whole

The Difficult Whole

A Reference Book on Robert Venturi, John Rauch and Denise Scott Brown

Robert Venturi’s idea of the “difficult whole” re-evaluated in the context of his work: a significant contribution to a contemporary architectural discourse.


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Title Information

Edited and with contributions by Kersten Geers, Jelena Pančevac, and Andrea Zanderigo. With photographs by Bas Princen

1st edition

, 2016


216 pages, 112 color and 190 b/w illustrations

21 x 30 cm

ISBN 978-3-906027-84-5

In cooperation with FORM Laboratory for Architecture as Form, EPFL / ENAC


In 1966, architect Robert Venturi published Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, a manifesto that became one of the twentieth century’s most important statements about architecture. Drawing on both vernacular and high-style sources, Venturi introduced new lessons from the buildings of architects who were well known, like Michelangelo and Alvar Aalto, and those whose work had then been forgotten, like Frank Furness and Edwin Lutyens. Arguing against the diagrammatic forms that dominated the field at that time, Venturi made a case instead for “the difficult whole.”

Fifty years later, this book offers a fresh analysis and thorough reevaluation of Venturi’s landmark work and its legacy. Through a radical rereading of material from the archives of Venturi, Scott Brown, and Associates, the editors propose a credible alternative to contemporary architectural discourse, one that takes account of Venturi’s arguments and offers a way forward. Featuring essays, as well as close analyses of twenty-eight projects by Venturi, Rauch and Scott Brown, The Difficult Whole is sure to spark discussion—and inspiration—throughout the worlds of architecture and design.

Authors & Editors

Kersten Geers

, born 1975, is a founding partner of architectural firm Office Kersten Geers David Van Severen in Brussels. He is also an Associate Professor at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, where he is head of the Laboratory for Architecture as Form.

Jelena Pančevac

, born 1984, is an architect graduated from the Faculty of Architecture at University of Belgrade. She has been working as a researcher and teaching assistant at EPFL’s Laboratory for Architecture as Form since 2013.

Andrea Zanderigo

, born 1974, is an architect and a founding partner of architectural firm Baukuh based in Milano. He has been teaching at various universities and is currently teaching at EPFL’s Laboratory for Architecture as Form.


„All together, the four parts of the book—the essays, the projects, the photo essays, and the student drawings—are a handsome overview of Venturi's theories and how he put them into built form through three decades of collaborative practice.” Jon Hill