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Learning from Las Vegas (1972)

by Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, Steven Izenour

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603328,225 (3.7)6
Learning from Las Vegas created a healthy controversy on its appearance in 1972, calling for architects to be more receptive to the tastes and values of "common" people and less immodest in their erections of "heroic," self-aggrandizing monuments. This revision includes the full texts of Part I of the original, on the Las Vegas strip, and Part II, "Ugly and Ordinary Architecture, or the Decorated Shed," a generalization from the findings of the first part on symbolism in architecture and the iconography of urban sprawl. (The final part of the first edition, on the architectural work of the firm Venturi and Rauch, is not included in the revision.) The new paperback edition has a smaller format, fewer pictures, and a considerably lower price than the original. There are an added preface by Scott Brown and a bibliography of writings by the members of Venturi and Rauch and about the firm's work.… (more)

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(These are comments from my blog, A Daily Dose of Architecture, on both the 1972 and 1977 editions of LLV. I'm more partial to the first edition rather than the revised edition, though that might not be apparent below.)

"Learning from Las Vegas" is one of the five most important books of architecture in the 20th century, up there with Le Corbusier's "Towards a New Architecture," Rem Koolhaas's "Delirious New York," Aldo Rossi's "The Architecture of the City," and Venturi's own "Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture." Born from a 1968 Yale architecture studio, the book analyzed the way casinos, hotels and other buildings along the Las Vegas Strip used signage to attract attention and apprise drivers of the contents of the buildings set back behind parking lots. Through this, they argued for the Decorated Shed over the Duck, the former using signage to communicate the contents of a simple building and the latter using form to convey its function. Put simply, the Duck represented Modernism while the Decorated Shed represented something else, what would become Postmodernism in ensuing years. Like Venturi's earlier "Complexity and Contradiction," which argued that "Main Street is almost all right," "Learning from Las Vegas" looked at an extreme example of one (the Strip) rather than at capital-A architecture to determine what architecture should be and what architects should learn from.

Like most architects, I first encountered "Learning from Las Vegas" in architecture school. Given that this was the early 1990s, I read the revised edition from 1977 in a seminar class on architectural theory, not the original 1972 edition. (My copy is from 1993, the book's twelfth printing.) Not many books can boast of such different editions: the first edition is a hardcover book whose size and expense (it was expensive originally, over the years as a hard-to-find artifact, and in MIT Press's facsimile edition) signal something special, while the revised edition is a much smaller paperback designed to be affordable to students like myself. The revised edition cut a third of the original book by eliminating part 3, a presentation of Venturi and Rauch's buildings and projects, and many of the images that would not work on a smaller page size. Regardless of these cuts and a substantially different page design, the arguments of the text have held up, while the lower price has guaranteed a wider circulation and lasting influence. ( )
  archidose | Sep 24, 2018 |
(These are comments from my blog, A Daily Dose of Architecture, on both the 1972 and 1977 editions of LLV. I'm more partial to the first edition rather than the revised edition, though that might not be apparent below.)

"Learning from Las Vegas" is one of the five most important books of architecture in the 20th century, up there with Le Corbusier's "Towards a New Architecture," Rem Koolhaas's "Delirious New York," Aldo Rossi's "The Architecture of the City," and Venturi's own "Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture." Born from a 1968 Yale architecture studio, the book analyzed the way casinos, hotels and other buildings along the Las Vegas Strip used signage to attract attention and apprise drivers of the contents of the buildings set back behind parking lots. Through this, they argued for the Decorated Shed over the Duck, the former using signage to communicate the contents of a simple building and the latter using form to convey its function. Put simply, the Duck represented Modernism while the Decorated Shed represented something else, what would become Postmodernism in ensuing years. Like Venturi's earlier "Complexity and Contradiction," which argued that "Main Street is almost all right," "Learning from Las Vegas" looked at an extreme example of one (the Strip) rather than at capital-A architecture to determine what architecture should be and what architects should learn from.

Like most architects, I first encountered "Learning from Las Vegas" in architecture school. Given that this was the early 1990s, I read the revised edition from 1977 in a seminar class on architectural theory, not the original 1972 edition. (My copy is from 1993, the book's twelfth printing.) Not many books can boast of such different editions: the first edition is a hardcover book whose size and expense (it was expensive originally, over the years as a hard-to-find artifact, and in MIT Press's facsimile edition) signal something special, while the revised edition is a much smaller paperback designed to be affordable to students like myself. The revised edition cut a third of the original book by eliminating part 3, a presentation of Venturi and Rauch's buildings and projects, and many of the images that would not work on a smaller page size. Regardless of these cuts and a substantially different page design, the arguments of the text have held up, while the lower price has guaranteed a wider circulation and lasting influence. ( )
  archidose | Sep 24, 2018 |
Drop everything you think you know about architecture and snootiness and re-evaluate. This brilliant-bonkers study mines the genius in the inanity that is Las Vegas. Pre-computer-aided-layout, the book makes gorgeous use of cramped Helvetica and information presentation (this is all way pre-Tufte, kids). Dated, sure, and sort of hard to map onto today's Las Vegas--the surreal landscape there changing so fast--but an academic gem cogent to architecture, art history, sociology and urban studies students. Such a strange city. ( )
  lyzadanger | Jun 14, 2009 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robert Venturiprimary authorall editionscalculated
Brown, Denise Scottmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Izenour, Stevenmain authorall editionsconfirmed

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Naked children have never played in *our* fountains, and I.M. Pei will never be happy on Route 66.
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Learning from Las Vegas created a healthy controversy on its appearance in 1972, calling for architects to be more receptive to the tastes and values of "common" people and less immodest in their erections of "heroic," self-aggrandizing monuments. This revision includes the full texts of Part I of the original, on the Las Vegas strip, and Part II, "Ugly and Ordinary Architecture, or the Decorated Shed," a generalization from the findings of the first part on symbolism in architecture and the iconography of urban sprawl. (The final part of the first edition, on the architectural work of the firm Venturi and Rauch, is not included in the revision.) The new paperback edition has a smaller format, fewer pictures, and a considerably lower price than the original. There are an added preface by Scott Brown and a bibliography of writings by the members of Venturi and Rauch and about the firm's work.

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