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Learning from Las Vegas: The Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  1,988 ratings  ·  64 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. ...more
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. ...more
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. ...more
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.
Gaetano Venezia
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
...more
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
Tom
Aug 07, 2020 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Chris Dailey
Feb 11, 2021 rated it liked it
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' architectu ...more
Andrew Galloway
Nov 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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 wor
...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. ...more
Faisal Alhumaidi
Nov 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: architecture
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.
...more
Sandro
Aug 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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. ...more
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 ...more
S.
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: beloved, thesis
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. ...more
Dan
Apr 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: y08, for-real
"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 ...more
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.
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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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