Postmodern Classic: The Vanna Venturi House Hits the Market in Philadelphia

You never know what might happen when a son attempts to please his mother. For example, take this house, built by renowned architect Robert Venturi for his mother, Vanna, in Philadelphia.

The 1,986-square-foot home is much more than simply a son's gift to his mother -- it's also a touchstone of the postmodern architectural movement.

Now listed for sale at $1.75 million, the Vanna Venturi House is on the market for the first time in 43 years and Melanie Stecura is the listing agent.

Completed in 1964, it's one of the most influential buildings of the latter half of the 20th century and was named as one of the 10 Buildings That Changed America. It's widely considered to be the first postmodern building in the United States and was even featured on a U.S. postage stamp in 2005. (It was also one of our most popular listings last week.)

Architect Venturi, then in the early stages of his career, took traditional design elements and used them in nontraditional ways throughout the house.

"My first impression when I stepped inside was how the light filtered through the main windows, some of which you can't appreciate until you are inside," says Valerie Patterson, director of marketing for Kurfiss Sotheby's International Realty, which listed the property. "My second impression, after I had toured the house, was the economy and practicality that was designed into the residence. No corner is wasted."

And while the imposing home's triangular facade might lead potential buyers to think the inside is ultramodern, Patterson notes that "the traditional design elements such as a chair rail and big fireplace balance against the angles and curves, and this very modern space ends up accommodating antiques quite well."

Venturi built the home for his mother, a social activist, after his father died in 1959. She requested a home in which she could live comfortably on one floor, so Venturi turned the home's second floor into a living space for himself.

The second floor now contains a bedroom, a bathroom, and a "stairway to nowhere," one of Venturi's unique design elements.

A master bedroom, a full bathroom with original tile, a second bedroom, the kitchen, and a living and dining area are all on the first floor. The all-white kitchen is separate from the main living space and features a bank of windows designed for viewing the sun-drenched lawn outside. Every room has a door leading outside.

The dining area features a Carrara marble floor, a touch that Venturi's mother initially objected to as ostentatious but eventually accepted.

Much of the home's original landscaping has been maintained, including an arc of crabapple trees, shade gardens, and perennial beds.

Venturi himself described the home as "both complex and simple, open and closed, big and little." This fascinating juxtaposition awaits the new buyer of this classic home.