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Learning from Las Vegas - Revised Edition: The Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form revised edition Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0262720069
ISBN-10: 026272006X
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Editorial Reviews

Review

...a brilliant document of the times...a work which uses history knowledgeably, skillfully, and creatively: a rarity.

(Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians)

...professionally informed, competitively astute, and perversely brilliant...

(The Yale Review)

...these studies are brilliant...the kind of art history and theory that is rarely produced.

(Ada Louis Huxtable The New York Times)

From the Back Cover

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 finding of the first part on symbolism in architecture and the iconography of urban sprawl.
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Product Details

  • Series: MIT Press
  • Paperback: 193 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press; revised edition edition (June 15, 1977)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 026272006X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262720069
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,931 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Robert Venturi's study of the Las Vegas signage phenomena and it's impact on "architecture" is brilliant in it's scope. While written almost twenty five years ago, this book gains more and more pertinence as we as a society progress further into a "reality" of symbols, reproductions and representations. These words and thoughts are basically essential to the understanding of any city anymore, not just Las Vegas. Where this book misses the mark though is in the execution, as shown in Venturi's work, of these ideas. The projects put forth seem to pale in comparison to the implications the text actually has. These notions of architecture are by far some of the most relevant and important in modern theory today, it is unfortunate that their full potential could not be realized in these projects.... but maybe that is for you and I to do.
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Format: Paperback
The title "father of Post Modernism" has been appropriately assigned to Robert Venturi....and it began with this book: Learning from Las Vegas. Written at a time when minimalism in art, and "form follows function" in architecture were the dominant ideas, Venturi et al threw down the gauntlet in challenging the practicing and accademic establishment with such sacriligious slogans as "Less is a bore" (challenging the modernist notion "Less is more")
Venturi should open the eyes of readers who self rightiously condemn today's highway commercial architecture and signage. Venturi challenges us to look at this urbanscape with fresh eyes...to see and understand the order (both functional and visual) in what we have been conditioned to condemn.
The book is well illustrated and gives examples of "the duck" and the "decorated shed" as metaphorical strategies to attract attention to highway commericial buildings.Anyone interested in architecture history and contemporary planning issues should read this book. It may piss you off, but it might also open your eyes to new ways of seeing.
In 1999 it would be interesting to compare Las Vegas to Pleasantville...and to learn in the process about change and the American culture that seems to embrace an ever changing urban landscape. Just as in the mythical Pleasantville in the movie of same name, Venturi upsets the status quo and gets us to see the colors (though sometimes messy and glaring) of the REAL city.
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Format: Paperback
I admire and respect Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown for their great career and contribution to architecture, which has yet to be fully assessed. The depth of their thinking, the vigilant efforts to achieve their aesthetic vision, their desire to overcome modernist dogma, which had mutated into marginalized elite uncivic abstraction, falsely denying vibrant areas of life...how can one argue with the importance and value of such work?

Let me try.

To me, this book represents one of the most interesting turning points of an architectural career, very similar to Rem Koolhaas' essay on Bigness in S,M,L,XL.

Both texts are attempting to give themselves an elite artist's alibi for co-opting the corporate machinery's unself-conscious production. Here, both artists (VRSB and OMA)attempt to escape into pop art, just like their friend Andy Warhol, thumbing his nose at the self important abstract expressionists.

There's just one problem with this; they are architects, not just artists.
And this places them in significantly different political territory. Architects build in the public sphere, and therefore have a powerful civic impact. They enable some political forces, and, by physical default, suppress others. If they were artists, their voice is a singular one, an unsponsored comment, to be entertained or dismissed. Architecture cannot be waved away.

So, being architects, is 'Learning from Las Vegas' and 'Bigness' an elite artist's manifesto, or a cynical architect's effort to solicit clients from the bloated and most lucrative areas of commerce? The ambiguity is disturbing, because ultimately it has proven out not to matter what their intention.
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Format: Paperback
"Learning from Las Vegas" is a powerful argument for challenging root assumptions. In this particular case its assumptions about architecture and how modernism wanted to strip away ornamentation in favor promoting form and space. "Learning from Las Vegas" sees this as just another form of bias.

In part one, the authors looked back to older forms, found in the renaissance and beyond where churches were as much about signs and symbols as space and form. They see the Vegas strip in particular as a great example of the promotion of signs and symbols as integral to the structures. This wasn't merely ornamentation nor was it decorative. The Strip is a commercial zone and successful architecture is that which first stands out with its message and then engages the viewer with it. That isn't a nice byproduct of architecture that is essential to making the architecture successful.

Part two is entitled, "ugly and ordinary architecture or the decorated shed," which is most powerful in comparing two ordinary senior housing complexes which come from very different architectural aesthetics. One, the "Crawford Manor" is a poster child for modern architecture and the other the "Guild House" looks as if it had no architecture. What is interesting about this comparison is that it doesn't attempt to show that one approach is superior than the other only the architecturally driven building, the "Crawford Manor" ends up as boring and flawed as the less designed "Guild House." Unity and consistency in achieving an architectural vision isn't enough to make a successful building. Fun, whimsy and accessibility of style are even more important.
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