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Learning from Las Vegas: The Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form
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Learning from Las Vegas: The Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  1,835 ratings  ·  57 reviews
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, ...more
Paperback, Revised, 208 pages
Published June 15th 1977 by MIT Press (first published 1972)
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Jimmy
Nov 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: architecture
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 construc ...more
Em "Reacher"
Jul 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: not-jack-reacher
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.
Andrew
Jun 05, 2020 added it
Shelves: arts-nonfiction
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 b
...more
Paul
Feb 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 (whic ...more
Erik Carter
Feb 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Essential book 4 dezigners. Not sure if I like it more than "Complexity and Contradiction" but it's still pretty great.
Claudia
Jun 07, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: design
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 t
...more
Michelle Llewellyn
Jun 22, 2013 rated it liked it
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.
Fred
Nov 05, 2011 rated it liked it
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.
Melissa
Jul 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I still think about this one all the time, years later.
Anima
Mar 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Cheryl
Jun 17, 2020 marked it as xx-dnf-skim-reference
Too academic for me. Read because I so much enjoyed The Strip: Las Vegas and the Architecture of the American Dream and that referenced this often, but it turns out that this isn't for an auto-didact with no formal background.... ...more
Adam Coenraads
Nov 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: history-politics
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.
Josh Fogelson
Feb 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
Outdated by today's standards, too academic and unenlightening to be worth the read. Historically significant I was told
صفية
Jun 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: archi-stuff
Post Modernist approach to symbols... Consumerism seal !
Marisa Wilson
Jun 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Interesting but unnecessarily dense.
Cheah Ee Von
Jul 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
A peculiar site analysis that focuses on everyday non-architecture.
Debbie
Jul 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Read this book last year, Loved it!
Ro Ullrich
Mar 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
While stating the obvious, Venturi captivates the post modern mentality. A world shaped by what we worship is a world that we will inhabit gleefully. Capitalism and comfort born as sign posts and ducks, I willingly will step foot into Las Vegas with a new appreciation for the tackiness of Caesars.
Meg
Sep 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: thesis, beloved
the course i reference in my review of HJ Kunstler's "The Geography of Nowhere" is the same course in which this text was taught. but since the course was a mere 1.0 credit and there wasn't a lot of time to discuss all of the texts, we mostly looked at this book and it's pictures.

which brings me to the great part about this book: there are a lot of pictures and a large assortment of type. there are blueprints, photographs, diagrams, drawings, diagrams imposed on drawings, post-cards on top of st
...more
Bart
Jul 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
An excellent if at times repetitive work. Some highlights:

By limiting itself to strident articulations of the pure architectural elements of space, structure, and program, Modern architecture's expression has become a dry expressionism, empty and boring - and in the end irresponsible. Ironically, the Modern architecture of today, while rejecting explicit symbolism and frivolous appliqué ornament, has distorted the whole building into one big ornament. In substituting "articulation" for decoratio
...more
Laura
Jun 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
An excellent interpretive jumpstart for the scores of urban-vetted visiting LA who say, I just don't get it. We don't have a Brooklyn Bridge or iconic harbor or subway line running through Old Town, but there is a character that identifies itself as a city. A drive of aspiration runs rampant.

Venturi and Scott Brown give voice to the underlying (commercial) forces that defy architectural/urban uniformity but very much infiltrate the landscape, tangibly, pervasively, a way of reevaluating the eme
...more
Amy Heeter
May 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Quality. For an architectural theory book it's top notch. I've never been to Vegas myself, but after reading this, I think my experience would be somewhat colored. It's amazing how few people even realize what Vegas represents. How ignorant and selfish has society become? Even if architectural symbolism isn't your thing, this will open your eyes to how our society has evolved around the automobile.
Dan
Apr 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: for-real, y08
"Architectural theories of the short run tend toward the idealization and generalization of expediency. Architecture for the long run requires creation, rather than adaptation, and response to advanced technology and sophisticated organization ...Although architects have not wished to recognize it, most architectural problems are of the expedient type, and the more architects become involved in social problems, the more this is true." -p.129
Du
Oct 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: planning
It would be a 3.5 if half stars existed. The book is more fun than required reading. I saw it at a conference recently, having heard the authors a few years ago speak about the impact the book has had as well as the struggles the authors had writing it.

Overall the idea is interesting, looking at Vegas as a metaphor for post WWII design and planning. The book has some great illustrations of signage and massing of buildings, which translate well. Overall it was a good afternoon read.
Ian
Nov 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
"When Modern architects righteously abandoned ornament on buildings, they unconsciously designed buildings that were ornament. [...] It is all right to decorate construction but never construct decoration" (163).

Provocative stuff, and intensely relevant to graphic design, but I still couldn't give you a comprehensible definition of a "duck".
Tony
Dec 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: architecture, own, design
Although Learning from Las Vegas is 37+ years old, much of the theory holds relevant. Venturi and folks criticism of modern buildings relates to much of what is still being created today. Bearers of the sustainable design flag could learn something from reading this book and applying ideas about vernacular, ornament, and decorated sheds to all fields of production and industry.
Abraham
Feb 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: architecture
I've wanted to read this since college. Now I have and it it an honest and thorough analysis of the system of signs that is the architecture of Las Vegas. It's importance, of course, is not in what it says about Vegas but in what it says about a way of thinking about architecture and what is valid subject matter for architectural analysis.
Mark
Jun 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: architecture
A brilliant primary text that any student of architecture should immediately read, it will inform you and set you on a path of learning at the highest level. Venturi's practice - Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates - and their approach to design is world-leading and this book demonstrates the clarity of thought and intelligence they apply to this pursuit.
Ginger Price
Apr 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: contemporary
I'm not an architect or an architecture student so I was unfamiliar with much of the vernacular and some of the concepts were over my head. I had to read this book for a theory class and, while I'm not familiar with architecture, it was a well-written book full of interesting theories. It definitely makes me look at buildings and signs differently.
Enrique Cedillo
Mar 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I'm not too fond of post-modernism, but this book is one of the best criticisms I've read about modern architecture. The way Venturi understands popular things is quite interesting. Definetely worth reading.
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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 build ...more

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