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Learning from Las Vegas: The Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form

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Editorial Reviews - Learning from Las Vegas From the Publisher 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. Synopsis 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. About Author: Biography Steven Izenour (1940-2001)

192 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1972

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About the author

Robert Venturi

37 books53 followers
Robert Charles Venturi, Jr. is an American architect, founding principal of the firm Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates, and one of the major architectural figures in the twentieth century. Together with his wife and partner, Denise Scott Brown, he helped to shape the way that architects, planners and students experience and think about architecture and the American built environment. Their buildings, planning, theoretical writings and teaching have contributed to the expansion of discourse about architecture. Venturi was awarded the Pritzker Prize in Architecture in 1991; the prize was awarded to him alone despite a request to include his equal partner Denise Scott Brown. As of 2013 a group of women architects is attempting to get her name added retroactively to the prize.[1][2] He is also known for coining the maxim "Less is a bore" a postmodern antidote to Mies van der Rohe's famous modernist dictum "Less is more". Venturi lives in Philadelphia with Denise Scott Brown.

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Displaying 1 - 29 of 78 reviews
Profile Image for Jimmy Cline.
150 reviews189 followers
August 4, 2009
Venturi has undoubtedly become the black sheep of late twentieth-century architecture. This book is part of the reason why. It's a rather bold, almost crass statement about the askew focus of Modern architecture. He compares Rome to Las Vegas, not to mention the fact that he introduced postmodern irony into architectural perspectives, which the classicists and the moderns probably weren't too thrilled about. His symbolical relativism more or less diminishes every formal masterpiece ever constructed, and he praises Las Vegas for being the ideal architectural environment for efficiently accommodating urban automobile culture. Social concern, in the context of city planning is completely absent from this text. In a way, Venturi's text is written by that of a complete postmodern provocateur, single-handedly justifying ugliness in architecture "after modernism".

Signs are important in Venturi and Brown's (his wife Denise Scott Brown) study of Las Vegas architecture. Billboards, or those big flashy neon signs that sin city is so well known for function as symbolic representations of what a particular building or structure is trying to say. Ugliness is efficient here because it represents the point of the value of the building; what it does, what is sold within, what people go to this building for. Venturi calls for the ordinary over the beautiful in approaches to a new architecture because he feels that the time period calls for it. He expresses it somewhat well in the following passage.

"Why do we uphold the symbolism of the ordinary via the decorated shed over the symbolism of the heroic via the sculptural duck? Because this is not the time and ours is not the environment for heroic communication through pure architecture. Each medium has its day, and the rhetorical environmental statements of our time-civic, commercial,or residential-will come from media more purely symbolic, perhaps less static and more adaptable to the scale of our environment. The iconography and mixed media of roadside commercial architecture will point the way, if we will look."

And indeed we have. I suppose that eyesores are eyesores for a reason. Venturi's text is certainly influential, even if it is dated. Frederic Jameson, a thinker bound to confuse readers about what Venturi was actually trying to say more than anyone else, was enormously influenced by him. We can also see in this sort of reasoning that attempt to bridge the gap between high and low art that has become so typical of the postmodern sensibility. The specter of Adorno certainly lingers. But maybe Venturi was onto something a little more useful than his postmodern contemporaries, something a little more important than a bunch of neo-marxist theorizing and empty talk about cultural hegemony. It seems to me that he was merely attempting to show people how to reevaluate ugliness with a sympathetic eye. This book is full of suggestions, and to me the most important when in an architectural sense was to see the metaphorical or symbolical value of these structures and their usefulness. The book's ideas are unquestionably dated, but its relevance and revolutionary value should not be taken for granted.
Profile Image for Em "Reacher".
27 reviews7 followers
July 6, 2016
Goodreads.com lists the sole author of Learning from Las Vegas as Robert Venturi but, in fact, it was co-authored with Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour. Don't be surprised if Jack Reacher suddenly shows up at the goodreads.com headquarters and sees that justice is served in the name of the overlooked authors. Consider this a firm premonition.
103 reviews10 followers
March 2, 2019
Learning from Las Vegas worked for me in much the same way that Towards a New Architecture didn’t. The authors effectively pick apart numerous shortcomings in Modernism – the pretense of architecture based on functionality being objectively and immutably correct, the pointless rejection of the usefulness of ornamentation, the arrogance of heroic architecture that was supposed to actualize the architect’s progressive ideals but, of course, didn’t. My favorite critique may have been this one (which, frankly, I ought to remember):

“In dismissing Levittown, Modern architects, who have characteristically promoted the role of the social sciences in architecture, reject whole sets of dominant social patterns because they do not like the architectural consequences of those patterns.… As Experts with Ideals, who pay lip service to the social sciences, they build for Man rather than for people—this means, to suit themselves, that is, to suit their own particular upper-middle-class values, which they assign to everyone.”

I think I may have liked this book because it jibed so well with my own sensibilities – it’s ironic (even lighthearted), nostalgic, and egalitarian. It wants to be realistic in a world where architects can be fantasists. It recognizes the necessity in building for people as they are, not imagining people as we want them to be. And it asks you to question whether you’re really smarter than everybody else.

There were parts that didn’t sit well with me. It seems like a cop-out to ignore the social and environmental consequences of the architecture they’re promoting, abrogating their own ethical responsibility in the name of populism. Sure, car culture is dominant, but it’s worthwhile to evaluate whether that dominance should be reinforced or opposed in future development. And it seems to overlook the idea of beauty as a noble end worth pursuing; the very element of delight that they claim the Modernists forgot about. Surely there’s a middle ground between the architect as Übermensch and the architect as blank vessel, and between glass-and-steel box and brick box. And, unsurprisingly, sometimes the authors come across as a bit too intellectual for their own good.

But with those caveats, I think there’s a lot of value here, bringing back a bit of what was lost when the Modernists threw out the bathwater, the baby, and the bathtub. I think this one will stick with my for a while.
Profile Image for Andrew.
1,992 reviews699 followers
June 5, 2020
File under: Very important for its time.

Which means both that the best parts of Venturi's argument have been incorporated into the conversation as a whole, and one hopes that the worst parts were left in the '70s and '80s, but maybe I'm not so sure. Many of the arguments about liberation of common taste and contradiction are fair. Many came off as capitalist bullshit that conflates profitability and democracy, and on a more practical plane, left a lot of hideous, impractical architecture – the built-environment equivalent of a Geocities page – in its wake. If anything, Venturi should be remember as the chief theorist of the McMansion. Sure, modernism needed to be problematized, but books like this are further evidence that a lot of what was heralded as “postmodernism” (meaningless term, really) are better thought of as provocations than theoretical bases.
Profile Image for Claudia Sorsby.
459 reviews25 followers
August 6, 2016
I was disappointed. Some of this disappointment is practical; in trying to save money on this edition, they went too far, and shrank the illustrations too much, to the point where I genuinely can't see what's going on in many of them (several pages have multiple, tiny b&w photos on them, with crappy contrast).

And some of my disappointment may come from familiarity with many of the authors' basic arguments--they're not new to me, which isn't really this book's fault (then again, I did not have that reaction when I recently read Jane Jacobs' The Death and Life of Great American Cities, and I'm well acquainted with her ideas).

But really, much of this just seemed boring and superficial. Indeed, I showed an illustration to my husband, and when he read the paragraph he said, "Well, that's really stating the obvious, isn't it?" And I couldn't argue.
53 reviews2 followers
November 5, 2011
Truly brilliant and epochal theory/criticism from a guy who, in the end, like so many brilliant theoreticians, turned out to be a crap architect himself.
Profile Image for Dan Nix.
38 reviews
July 17, 2022
I forgot to catalog this one but Venturi and his wife Scott Brown's book Learning from Las Vegas is quite possibly the most influential (and infamous) book of architecture. If you were a modernist, you hated it. If you were a critic of modernism and a fan of ornation, you loved it. This is also the thesis of the entire postmodern architecture movement, which sadly lost its value after Philip Johnson joined in (550 Madison Avenue should have never been built). Read this book if you're interested in architecture.
Profile Image for Michelle Llewellyn.
487 reviews10 followers
June 22, 2013
Had to read this for my Theories of Popular Culture class for English. The best thing about this book are the old photos of the now "Old" Las Vegas Strip. I especially enjoyed comparing the aerial photos of the 1979 Strip to modern day Google Map and Wiki images. Venturi's duck and decorated shed were also fun to learn about and our teacher encouraged us to examine our own city for similar architectural theory. I learned a lot.
Profile Image for Erik Carter.
92 reviews15 followers
February 10, 2018
Essential book 4 dezigners. Not sure if I like it more than "Complexity and Contradiction" but it's still pretty great.
Profile Image for Ellie.
10 reviews
January 9, 2023
Very interesting time capsule of a book, will return to it again
Profile Image for  Aggrey Odera.
225 reviews43 followers
October 26, 2021
The building that dominates the vista from my living room on New Haven’s Park Street is Paul Rudolph’s Crawford Manor. I like it a lot. Built in the 1960s as a housing complex for low-income elderly people, and no doubt hearkening to Corbusier’s Ville Radieuse, Crawford manor represents all that I find luminous about modernist architecture: at its best, it is useful while still being beautiful.

Crawford manor is the unwitting villain in Venturi and Scott Brown’s towering work. It lacks symbolism, they say, - except insofar as, by being conventionally “attractive” and “interesting”, it symbolizes how boring modernism is. By attempting at uniqueness within modernism’s rigid metrics, it ends up being merely common. For that, it commits postmodernism’s original sin

For Venturi and Scott Brown, the founding theorists of architectural postmodernism (or, more aptly, like the literary postmodernists a lá Derrida and Lyotard, the anti-theorists of whatever came before them), it is not enough for a building to simply be functionally a building for it to be “interesting”: it necessarily also must express something outside itself. That second layer of meaning is what is interesting. At some point, the stretched analogy goes, a beautiful woman standing on the street corner of a redlight district and suggestively looking at us does not draw us in - we’ve seen tens - possibly hundreds- like her. But put a bored-looking ordinary woman on that same street, with a banner reading “prostitute” hanging from her shoulders, and we are bound to linger for a bit longer.

Thus the contrast to Crawford manor is Venturi’s Guild House, also a home for low-income elderly people. A drab, mixed media building ornamented to provide contradiction, with the words “GUILD HOUSE” emblazoned at the front, this house is “conventional”, “ordinary”, “expedient”, “cheap looking” and “boring” in the ways that Crawford manor is “unique”, “extraordinary”, “heroic”, “expensive looking” and “interesting”.

But for all that, Venturi and Scott Brown insist that the value judgement is flipped: Like the prostitute example above, for all its dramatic balconies, Crawford manor is “boring”; for all its commonness, The Guild House is “interesting” - all because of the symbolism underlying there. Modern architecture, VSB contend, cast out symbolism and moved towards expressionism - that of structure and function. But by limiting itself to such “pure” articulation of space, structure and element, it became dry and expressionless. Richness of meaning is supreme to clarity of meaning.

Modernism having been problematized, we end up at Las Vegas, the “Rome” of our time (Yes, they drew that equivalence). Here, we’ve gotten rid of brow: high and low art mingle sensuously and in contradiction. Casinos display impressive neo-gothic facades while their unadorned backs look like gaping arseholes, in a show of the brilliance of the vernacular architecture of our times. Suburban homes are transformed into wedding chapels. Signs are all the rage - sometimes the sign IS the building, and because they all compete in brightness, sometimes the dimmer ones are more noticeable. This sort of commercial architecture and mixed media, VSB think, offers lessons: that the architecture of our times can be unbounded from the corset of modernism and that, through symbolism, we might perhaps be taken to more interesting places.

I am unconvinced. Like their literary companions, Venturi and Scott Brown do a better job of denoting what might be wrong with modernism without actually providing a concrete vision of what the postmodern project is. And of course one might simply say that that’s the point - postmodernism is all about relativism, thus by definition it has no positive project- but that is what then makes the critique lazy. Yes, one can only see so many Miesian lightboxes and “international style” buildings before it gets weary, but my intuition is that Las Vegas is not the answer to that problem.
Profile Image for Fiona.
47 reviews3 followers
February 22, 2023
"The duck" and "the decorated shed"

A required reading in architecture school. Though I suspect, most students, like me, only read a portion of it for our history class. For those like me, I recommend reading it again, and don't skip the second part. Because nobody told me that it gets funnier and somehow snarkier? And I'm here for it!

In the first part of the book, Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown described their studies of the architecture of Las Vegas's commercial strip. The second part discusses how findings of the studies relates to the discourse about symbolism and iconography in architecture.

The duck points to "the heroic and original" overdesigned architecture of the Modernist movement. The decorated shed points to "the ugly and ordinary" architecture (such that was studied in Las Vegas's strip).

The book makes the case that the tyranny of Modernist architecture with its strict adherence to the systems of space, structure and program may be hypocritical. That for all its glorification of technology and futurism, it has its roots in another kind of tradition: the industrial tradition. The modernist allergy to ornament produces another ornament of itself.

"Less may have been more, but the I-section on Mies van der Rohe's fire resistant collumns for instance is as complexly ornamental as the applied pilaster on the Renaissance pier or the incised shaft in the Gothic pier"

The symbolism of the modernist ornament is farcical as the technology it symbolized is not the current technology, but it is still the source of Modern architectural symbolism today (yes even in the 1970s when this book was published it was considered old-school). Whatever symbolism the Modernist building have is only self-referential, seemingly frozen or exists in a vacuum.

The case for a new kind of architecture unencumbered by the rigidity of Modernist architecture is not only an aesthetic matter, but of a social one. Modernist architects "built for Man rather than for people– this means, to suit themselves, that is, to suit their own particularly upper-middle-class values, which they assign to everyone"

How often do we roll our eyes for another "society changing design competition" which seeks to improve or *gasp* solve problems of the world? Poverty? Have you tried... Architecture? This part resonates today as it probably did 40-50 years ago, as apparently the architects collective ego as a profession never falters.

If social changes were to happen through design, it wouldn't come from the formalistic "heroic and original" approach, it would have to come from the "ordinary and ugly" architecture.

"Meeting the architectural implications and the critical issues of our era will require that we drop the inboluted, architectural expressionism and our mistaken claim to be building outside a formal language and find formal languages suited to our times. These languages will incorporate symbolism and rhetorical applique"

In conclusion, I find the book to be quite prescient. Many times I find myself astounded by how relevant it is to my experiences as an architect today 50 years after the book was published and on the other side of the planet.
Profile Image for Melissa.
39 reviews4 followers
July 2, 2017
I still think about this one all the time, years later.
Profile Image for Gaetano Venezia.
307 reviews29 followers
November 22, 2020
Postmodernism of and for the Masses?
Learning from Las Vegas*—a seminal text of postmodern art and theory—feels less postmodern, artistic, and academic the more you read. It reads instead as a practical guide for how to assess an urban environment using the perspective of its ordinary inhabitants. Venturi, Brown, and Izenour take post-WWII America as their target urban environment, with the Las Vegas Strip being the primary example of the elements they are interested in. The focus on Las Vegas is not so much an analysis of a singular, exotic place, but rather an analysis of “the archetype of the commercial strip, the phenomenon at its purest and most intense.” (ix). The learnings from Las Vegas are to be applied across the cultural landscape of America, even in non-commercial areas.

In the first third of the book, Venturi, Brown, and Izenour use this pragmatic method‡ to describe the commercial function of the Strip’s building and signs, so that Venturi, Brown, and Izenour can apply these findings to architectural theory and their own projects. Indeed, the second part compares this newly compiled set of values and symbols to the reigning theory of Bauhaus Modernism / International Style. Finally, the third part of the book uses their findings to analyze case studies of their own projects—buildings, signs, transportation infrastructure, and city planning.

Is It Even Postmodern?
Learning from Las Vegas surprisingly avoids two of the pitfalls of mainstream postmodernism: cynicism and over-theorizing. Perhaps the chief distinction between most postmodern theory and Learning from Las Vegas is the first word of the title. Venturi, Brown, and Izenour set out to learn from the ways in which consumerist, post-Modern/Romantic society has adapted buildings and symbolism for the technology of the day—especially cars and mass market goods. While they recognize America's fragmented, seemingly contradictory mix of styles, they don’t get caught up in pessimistic critique. They want to learn and then help ordinary folk.

In contrast, most postmodernists retreat from humanistic or practical progress in favor of caustic criticism and armchair lamentations about the impossibility of action. Such postmodernists would decry the “poor” tastes of Las Vegas tourists, low-class aspirational DIY decorators, or lovers of suburban neoclassical eclecticism. Venturi, Brown, and Izenour don’t. They take an explicitly pragmatic approach to architecture and design. It is a bottom-up disposition that never rejects the revealed preferences of ordinary people. Indeed, Venturi has remarked more generally that the main lesson of their research and projects is to “acknowledg[e] the plurality of American life and cultures and accommodat[e] to them” ("American Architecture Now” (Youtube)).

Granted, theory remains an important part of Venturi, Brown, and Izenour’s process, but only so long as theory is in service of what the community context calls for. Reflecting on Learning from Las Vegas, Venturi has said that the aim is to strike a balance between theory and practice, description and prescription, between love and hate for their subjects, tolerance and criticism ("American Architecture Now” (Youtube)).

What Even Is Postmodernism?
Given Learning from Las Vegas’s contradictions with postmodernism, what should we make of the fact that it is widely regarded as a key postmodern text? Perhaps the answer concerns how one defines postmodernism. Postmodernism is notoriously difficult to define, but consider two popular approaches to defining it: One is to argue for a singular movement with various elements; another is to argue for a collection of movements that have no necessary relation to one another. Considering Learning from Las Vegas in light of these approaches, it either represents an actual point of departure from a singular postmodernism or simply adds to the complexity of postmodernism as a collection.

Indeed, there’s some indication that Venturi, Brown, and Izenour might have explicitly rejected a unifying notion of postmodernism and the conspicuously consistent postmodern style that many architect’s adopted. Venturi in particular criticized much of postmodern architecture for following some of the same ideological, dogmatic paths as the Modernist movement they were supposedly rebelling against ("American Architecture Now” (Youtube)). Or in the vernacular of Learning from Las Vegas, much of postmodern architecture tries to be "heroic and original" when the whole point of the book is to argue that the "ordinary and ugly" is more appropriate for most contexts.

Another surprise is that Venturi, Brown, and Izenour’s own architecture (seen in part three of the book) doesn’t actually look all that “postmodern" (example apt. building). Most postmodern architecture looks obnoxious, sculptural, blatantly ironic—directly mimicking Disneyland and the Strip. But Venturi, Brown, and Izenour’s architecture looks very ordinary with no-nonsense nods towards Eclecticism, anachronism, or sculptural form only when the context and community requests or values such symbols and functions.

While Learning from Las Vegas is obviously within the western tradition of Modernism and postmodernism, the actual content and propositions of the book often exceed the historical influence of Modernism and postmodernism. Indeed, they might have anticipated the non-idealistic, non-ironic, more practical contemporary concern with the “context” and “complexity” of urban space. Venturi, Brown, and Izenour’s emphasis on accommodating the cultural context reminds me of the architecture reviews that I’ve read over the last decade (granted, I’m just a lay person interested in architecture). Much like Modernism's "function and form" or postmodernism's "irony and meta-commentary" have been enmeshed in architectural discourse of the last century, context has been integral to contemporary reviews (even if most reviews are of buildings for the ultra-wealthy). Likewise, urban studies is all about the everyday human impact of urban development projects. So Learning from Las Vegas serves not only as a touchstone in the history of Modernism and postmodernism, but also as a precursor for trends that have continued on past these movements/time periods.

I don’t want to completely dismiss the anti-postmodern narrative, though. Learning from Las Vegas does have distinctive postmodern themes like acceptance of plurality, criticism of pure architecture and the Modern attempt to unify architectural design, welcoming a mixing of “high” and “low” culture, and an acceptance and deliberate use of irony.

Thus, insofar as postmodernism is a collection of movements, Learning from Las Vegas still qualifies for inclusion, but it would make for a peculiar poster child. And at the very least, if Learning from Las Vegas doesn’t live up to its postmodern hype, it has had a lasting impact and deserves recognition as a seminal architecture and urban studies text.

* I highly recommend the "heroic and original" reprint by MIT. This version has added importance for the design world and makes for easier viewing of the many pictures and visuals in the book. Plus, I like the added irony that the "heroic and original" is exactly what this book is against.

‡ Venturi, Brown, and Izenour's pragmatic, humanistic approach calls to mind the American Pragmatist philosopher and social progressive John Dewey, who cared chiefly about what achieved the goals of a community rather than trying to deduce and meet the metaphysics of ideal Man. Dewey also shares with Venturi, Brown, and Izenour a rejection of metanarratives and the Modern, overly-aspirational account of Man, while avoiding the cynical inaction of most postmodernists. Building on Dewey’s ideas, Richard Rorty claimed that the chief ethical, humanistic concern of pragmatists or post-Modernists is reduction of cruelty and suffering in the community under consideration (See Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity). Just as suffering will look different for the poor in inner-city housing projects and rural farmland, so will the challenges and needs of architecture and symbolism.
Profile Image for Anima.
432 reviews55 followers
March 30, 2017
A book that beautifully presents Las Vegas' tangible architectural elements and gives us insightful views of the overall display of rigid shapes ranging from an outward to an inward perspective.

I loved the inclusion of the Eliot's "East Coker" into Las Vegas'architectural design.(a poem about the cycle of life from birth to return-‘In my beginning is my end.’ - a poem touched by insights of the Ecclesiastes)

“perhaps a fitting requiem for the irrelevant works of Art that are today’s descendants of a once meaningful Modern architecture are Eliot’s line in “East Coker”
'That was a way of putting it—not very satisfactory
A periphrastic study in a worn-out poetical fashion,
Leaving one still with the intolerable wrestle
With words and meanings. The poetry does not matter'

"The gambling room is always very dark; the patio, always very bright.
But both are enclosed: The former has no windows, and the latter is
open only to the sky. The combination of darkness and enclosure of
the gambling room and its subspaces makes for privacy, protection,
concentration, and control.

The intricate maze under the low ceiling
never connects with outside light or outside space.

This disorients the
occupant in space and time.

One loses track of where one is and when
it is. Time is limitless, because the light of noon and midnight are exactly the same.

Space is limitless, because the artificial light obscures
rather than defines its boundaries (Fig. 51).

Light is not used to define

Walls and ceilings do not serve as reflective surfaces for light but
~re made absorbent and dark.

Space is enclosed but limitless, because
its edges are dark. Light sources, chandeliers, and the glowing, jukebox~-
like gambling machines themselves are independent of walls and ceilings.

The lighting is antiarchitectural.

Illuminated baldacchini, more than in all Rome, hover over tables in the limitless shadowy restaurant at the Sahara Hotel"
Profile Image for UrbanPlanner_Shafaat.
16 reviews1 follower
February 23, 2022
New elements in analysis are being realized:…spatial relationships are made by symbols more than by forms, architecture in this landscape becomes symbol in space rather than form in space…the sign is more important than the architecture (Venturi, Scott Brown, and Izenour 1977, 13). Hence a conventional analysis at this scale will miss the iconological experience: components separated and redefined as land, asphalt, autos, buildings, ceremonial spaces etc. In such design analysis, they classify the strip in Las Vegas in two orders: shared order of the streetlights, and individual order of the signage.
Further, the ability to look at the components of the architecture in the Las Vegas strip helps in decoding the underlying order: a typical casino follows site requirements as a complex which is near enough the highway to be seen from the road across the parked cars yet far enough back to accommodate driveways, turnarounds, and parking which is seldom at back (Venturi, Scott Brown, and Izenour 1977, 34). Likewise, the complex itself has inherent order: the circulation is focused on the gambling rooms; and the gambling room is usually dark to evade the feeling of time and space while the patio is always very bright like an oasis – these parts of the reading made me thinking about Rossi (1968) principles reading from the last week which told us that form follows the principle and therefore casino’s gambling rooms have got this particular form because of the underlying principle. Hence as this reading continues to challenge conventional ways of architecture, it does so for monuments too in asserting how a certain signage in Las Vegas could become a monument which is certainly no piazza.
3 reviews
February 22, 2022
I am rating this book 4 stars because I enjoyed reading it, but I completely denounce its position. I appreciated its intellectual force, rigorous and creative research methodology, and a handful of its arguments, but those strengths are used in service of an apologia of racism, neoliberal capitalism, and even environmental devastation. The final section is particularly revolting, including a praise of the infamously segregated Levittown, even invoking right-wing slogans. While accusing others of an ivory tower paternalism and "authoritarian" tendencies, Scott Brown and Venturi marginalize dissent and go on a race-baiting bender, using the very snooty intellectualism (it's very convenient to focus only on aesthetic questions and dodge issues of social justice) and "involute" prose as cover. While the personal reputations of the authors should not be questioned (Scott Brown remains legendary as one of the few women who gained prominence in architecture), this book is clearly the product of a conservative turn both in architecture and in Reagan-era America. I would still recommend others read this book, especially because of its tremendous influence on architectural history and the continued impact of its ideas today, but only after reading Mary McLeod's article "Architecture and Politics in the Reagan Era" first for a crucial contextualization of the problematic atmosphere surrounding this book's creation and impact, and Gray and DeFilippis's article "Learning from Las Vegas: Unions and post-industrial urbanization" on how the book's insistence on focusing on abstract, aesthetic values marginalizes the role of the actual people using architecture.
25 reviews
February 3, 2022
For one: This site should add the TWO other authors that were very influential in this book; Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour. The three authors combined wrote a fascinating book reflecting on educational methods, and analysis of everyday places, supplementing the entire book with graphics and images very intentional in communicating their messages.

Incredibly influential, both in graphics and writing, as well as the reference material. It's an optimistic look at the fabric of suburban America and the commercialization of architecture and experiences. It is also a great insight into a pedagogical practice, which is rarely seen in scholarship. It reads like a call to action, an educational lecture and a manifesto all in one, with at-the-time provocative statements and references, fitting for its situating in Las Vegas. It's a lesson on place specificity. "The Duck and the Decorated Shed" is a timeless theory on urban form and communication, especially applicable to my hometown but, as it was intended, it is applicable anywhere.

Their graphics, located throughout the book, are as inspiring as they are provocative. They are also satirical and some even backhanded compliments to historic monuments. The authors take a litany of analytical methods and apply some conventionally while flipping others on their head, inspiring new ways to interrogate the urban environment and the symbols sprinkled throughout cities. While sophisticated, the graphics are also accessible and eye catching, and very inspiring towards someone studying architecture and urban planning.
December 19, 2022
First half is very good. Perfectly analyzes and breaks down the effects the automobile has had on the design of the north american built environment, and how that has led to the emergence of 2d graphics as a dominant element within the 3d environment.
2nd half is not so great. I will agree with Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown that association in architecture is very important to pay attention to and is highly neglected, but other than that, this half just feels like a bunch of post rationalization for Venturi Scott Brown's uninspired and clunkily designed projects. They can make the argument that modern architecture focuses too heavily on the heroic megastructure and too little on the everyday vernacular of modern day north America, which I agree with, but to use this argument as a justification for why most of their projects look like what a 4 year old imagines that type of building to look like just comes off as laziness. They argue against the use of space as the dominant element in design, and instead say it should be symbolism because people have associations with that and they will connect with it better. How is someone going to look at 3 painted lines on an ordinary brick apartment building and go "ah yes, that references the proportions of a Renaissance palazzo!"? Space is how we experience the 3 dimensional world and has the greatest effect on our experience of it, way more than symbols painted on a brick facade do.
Profile Image for Pablo Lopes.
37 reviews1 follower
April 22, 2020
Este livro me lembra junkspace à medida em que repete incessantemente sua mensagem a favor da arquitetura como galpão decorado e contra a arquitetura abstrata expressionista, a arquitetura pato, denominada assim, como se sabe, pela loja em forma de pato, ou seja, em que a forma é encarregada de comunicar. A primeira parte é interessante pelo método de análise, não importando o objeto da análise, que neste caso, é a strip de las vegas, a segunda é uma incessante diatribe sobre a arquitetura moderna. Vale a pena ler porque é um clássico, porque gera algumas questões válidas, e outras bastante incômodas, como a relação entre a arquitetura "erudita" e a arquitetura mais comercial e o sprawl. Entender o mundo como é, não como deveria ser me parece, entretanto, um caminho importante que a arquitetura vêm seguindo desde este livro, especialmente com Koolhaas e seus seguidores.
73 reviews
February 12, 2021
Post-modern manifesto that critiques the Modern movement for being staid and out of touch with the fundamental duty of architects -- to build useful buildings. Focusing on the Ugly and Ordinary over the Heroic and Original, the authors praise marginal advancements and building on the 10,000 year history of human architecture over the revolutionary idealism that dominated the first half of the 20th century. They contend that symbolism and context should be used rather relying on "pure' architecture of form and space...and you should always considering your audience and client. Short but academic, it's worth a read if your interested in the subject and want to dive into source materials.
Profile Image for Andrew Galloway.
34 reviews7 followers
November 23, 2020
I read the MIT Press version, which was—of a bit awkwardly designed—at least gave plenty of space for the illustrations and photographs, especially of the practical examples in the last section, which I enjoyed the most.

I think I like Denise Scott Brown’s work more than Robert’s—his is so theoretical and “in its own head” (ducks and sheds)—where I saw hers as more practical, particularly the urban layout for California City, where I saw the organizing principles for Las Vegas actually put to work in a wise, methodical manner that would actually grow with the town.
170 reviews
June 6, 2022
Disappointed I could not get my hands on the first edition. The changes to reduce printing costs are pretty obvious: fewer photographs of smaller size and lower quality. That said, I a glad I heard of this book and was able to read it. I'd never considered how/why Las Vegas signs, neon, building design came to be. There are newer books considering today's casinos, and I look forward to reading!
Profile Image for Adam Coenraads.
36 reviews1 follower
November 22, 2018
3.5 stars. It's a book that would be very helpful to someone studying architecture/architectural history. The concept of "the duck, and the decorated shed" are fundamental yet quite interesting. The illustrations and tables are very 60s polsci though and gave me plenty of flashbacks. Quite interesting.
November 19, 2020
To image is to Reevaluate modernity and it's imagery, it emphasize the necessity of ornaments and symbolism that modern architecture rejected.

It humbles down the architect's role at the end to compromise their formal expressions and highly technical engineering aspirations for solving current social problems.
Profile Image for Alicja.
98 reviews
October 7, 2018
Książka wyszła w Polsce jakieś 40 lat po pierwszym wydaniu w Stanach. Cóż wiec może w niej być nowego? Nowego może nic, ale sprawia, ze ma się ochotę kupić bilet i polecieć do Vegas żeby patrzeć na szyldy (których już nie ma). W wersji budżetowej można też wybrać się w podróż Siódemką.
Author 1 book3 followers
January 29, 2020
Inteligente, divertido, polémico, original... ¡y de 1977 ! Viva el tinglado y los patos. Para quienes quieran mirar de otra manera e incluso aprender de lo ordinario. Una joya del ensayo en arquitectura.
Nota: NO lo escribió Venturi a secas. También Denise Scott Brown & Steven Izenour.
Profile Image for Sandro.
30 reviews
August 29, 2020
Venturi, Scott Brown, and Izenour's fight for 'the ugly and the ordinary' is just admirable. Their arguments are crystal clear, I personally find it hard not to agree with them, and the debate is still relevant today. An eye-opening book, and I very much enjoyed reading this.
Displaying 1 - 29 of 78 reviews

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