Joint statement on the preservation of VRSB-designed Abrams House


Docomomo US Staff


Endangered, Newsletter, Advocacy, docomomo, sah, Pittsburgh
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Updated March 26, 2019

In November 2018, two months after Pritzker Prize-winning architect Robert Venturi passed away and the Docomomo US - SAH joint statement against demolition was issued, Pittsburgh's Historic Review Commission voted 3-2 to recommend the Abrams house for historic designation. The decision then went to the Planning Commission, which also voted in favor of its designation.

Sadly, this past Tuesday March 19, the Pittsburgh City Council voted 7-2 against local historical designation for the Abrams house, denying it any possible protection from demolition through city ordinance. The owners plan to demolish the structure and turn the lot into a landscape for their Richard Meier-designed Giovannitti house located on a neighboring lot. 

Docomomo US and SAH Abrams House Joint Statement

Docomomo US and the Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) filed a joint position statement on the preservation of the Venturi, Rauch, and Scott Brown-designed Abrams House (1979) in Pittsburgh, PA.


The joint statement states:


The Society of Architectural Historians (SAH) and Docomomo US express strong opposition to the demolition of the Venturi, Rauch, and Scott Brown-designed Abrams House, 118A Woodland Road, Pittsburgh, PA. SAH and Docomomo US support the efforts of Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation to nominate the Abrams House to the National Register of Historic Places, and we strongly urge the Historic Review Commission of Pittsburgh and all those involved to find a means by which to preserve this exceptional place for future generations.


The Abrams House, completed in 1979, is a landmark of American architecture. The residence is an important example of the work of the architecture firm of Venturi, Rauch, and Scott Brown, one of the most innovative and distinguished practitioners of late 20th -century architecture. Together, SAH (the principal scholarly organization for architectural historians in North America) and Docomomo US (the nation’s only organization dedicated to preserving modern architecture and design) believe the Abrams House is a significant example of postmodern architecture in the United States. The Abrams House joins the most prominent examples of postmodern architecture such as Phillip Johnson and John Burgee’s AT&T Building, New York City (1978–84), and Michael Graves’ Portland Municipal Services Building, Portland, Oregon (1980–82), stands as an essential component of the story of American architecture, and its preservation is important to the efforts of both organizations.


The Abrams House is perhaps the most exuberant of all the residential designs by Venturi, Rauch and Scott Brown, made unique by its geometric windows that articulate in form and color into a great rising sun or ship’s wheel. The Abrams House’s half-round focal window, intersection of forms, and asymmetry are hallmarks of Venturi, Rauch, and Scott Brown’s design aesthetic. This vibrant building integrates architecture and art through the inclusion of a significant mural by Roy Lichtenstein in the ground floor that reinforces the pop art-influenced sensibilities of the residence. The Abrams House is among the most important and rare examples of the short-lived period of postmodern architecture in the United States, including the Vanna Venturi House in Philadelphia, PA, designed by Venturi and Rauch, the predecessor firm to Venturi, Rauch, and Scott Brown, (completed 1964), the Lang House in Washington, Connecticut, designed by Robert A.M. Stern (completed 1974) and the Norton Beach House in Venice, California, designed by Frank Gehry (completed 1983), and stands as one of the country’s most iconic examples of late 20th -century residential architecture.


The Abrams House is also a component of a significant architectural assemblage that includes the Giovanitti House at 118 Woodland Road, designed by Richard Meier (constructed 1981–83), and the Robert Frank house, also located on Woodland Road, designed by Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer (constructed 1938–39) and one of the first examples of modern residential architecture in Pittsburgh. Alone, the Abrams House is well deserving of preservation; its proximity to the aforementioned residences only reinforce its importance. We oppose any efforts to demolish the Abrams House.

This is the first joint advocacy statement by Docomomo US and SAH. The two organizations have agreed to work together to address future threats of nationally significant sites.


SAH and Docomomo US will continue to follow this issue and support the efforts of Preservation Pittsburgh. 

Read the full Position Satement HERE


Read more|March 25, 2019

Venturi Scott Brown-designed Abrams House faces demolition

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette |
March 19, 2019

Pittsburgh City Council votes down historic designation for Venturi house

Architect's Newspaper
|March 18, 2019

Pittsburgh’s City Council leans against saving historic Venturi Scott Brown–designed home

Pittsburch City Paper
 | January 9, 2019

Should the Abrams House in Squirrel Hill be preserved or demolished?

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette |November 7, 2018

Pittsburgh historic commission recommends famous Venturi house for landmark designation

Architect's Newspaper
|August 1, 2018

Exclusive: Venturi Scott Brown-designed house suffers secret demolition