There’s an intense moment in Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s 1963 epic Cleopatra, when Octavian, played by Roddy McDowall, reacts to the news that his mortal enemy, Marc Antony, has died: “Is that how one says it? As simply as that. ‘Mark Antony is dead. Lord Antony is dead.’ ‘The soup is hot; the soup is cold.’ ‘Antony is living; Antony is dead.’ Shake with terror when such words pass your lips,” Octavian tells the messenger, “for fear they be untrue and Antony’d cut out your tongue for the lie! And if true, for your lifetime boast that you were honored to speak his name even in death. The dying of such a man must be shouted, screamed! It must echo back from the corners of the universe. ‘Antony is dead! Mark Antony of Rome lives no more!’ ”

Architect Robert Venturi was my hero, not my enemy, and it’s difficult to picture him cutting out anybody’s tongue, at least not literally. Still, McDowall’s soliloquy came immediately to mind when word of Venturi’s death on Sept. 18 arrived. While I am generally suspicious of hagiography or cults of personality, Octavian’s lines in this case seem fitting. We have lost a titan. The farewell began some time ago. Venturi was 93 when he died, and had retired from practice and the public eye years before. His equally eminent partner and spouse, Denise Scott Brown, Hon. FAIA, survives him, as does their son, James, along with, it seems fair to say, legions of architects and designophiles.

Venturi has been called the father of Postmodernism (a legacy he rejected, in an essay I commissioned him to write for Architecture magazine back in May 2001, titled “I Am Not Now and Never Have Been a Postmodernist”). Certainly his influence extends far beyond the style, to touch most everything that succeeded the modern movement. His Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (The Museum of Modern Art, 1966) upset the prevailing orthodoxy in architecture; Learning From Las Vegas (MIT Press, 1972), which he wrote with Scott Brown and Steven Izenour, did the same in urbanism. With both his writing and his buildings, Venturi reconciled architecture with its preindustrial past and its capacity to convey meaning (alongside Charles Moore, Stanley Tigerman, FAIA, et al.) and set the stage for sympathetic later figures such as Rem Koolhaas, Hon. FAIA, Bjarke Ingels, and Jacques Herzog, Hon. FAIA, and Pierre de Meuron, Hon. FAIA.

Venturi’s rebellion freed architects to pursue interests that not only diverged from the modernist canon, but from his own semiotic approach as well. The post-Euclidean geometries of Frank Gehry, FAIA, and Zaha Hadid, for instance, exhibit little obvious relation to the studied mannerism of Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates (VSBA), but the debt exists nonetheless. Even those data-driven champions of sustainability, the name partners at KieranTimberlake, once worked for the couple.

The changes Venturi instigated in collaboration with Scott Brown and Izenour were nothing less than epochal. As too often happens, their collective reputation waned in Venturi’s lifetime, only to be revived recently by a cohort of Millennials. I hope they and subsequent generations benefit from his example, not by simply copying the marvelous VSBA aesthetic, but by emulating in their own ways the man’s passion, wit, intellectual rigor, and profound skepticism.