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Learning From Las Vegas: The Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form [Paperback]

denise scott brown , Denise Scott Brown , Steven Izenour
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 15 1977 026272006X 978-0262720069 revised edition

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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Learning From Las Vegas: The Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form + The Death and Life of Great American Cities + The Image of the City
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"...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." The New York Times Ada Louis Huxtable

About the Author

Robert Venturi is an award-winning architect and an influential writer, teacher, artist, and designer. His work includes includes the Sainsbury Wing of London's National Galler; renovation of the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; dozens of major academic projects; and the groundbreaking Vanna Venturi House.

Denise Scott Brown is a Founding Principal of Venturi, Scott, Brown, and Associates (VBSA) whose work and ideas have influenced generations of architects and planners.

Steven Izenour (1940-2001) was coauthor of Learning from Las Vegas (MIT Press, 1977) and a principal in the Philadelphia firm Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates, Inc (VSBA). His most noted projects at VSBA include Philadelphia's Basco showroom, the George D. Widener Memorial Treehouse at the Philadelphia Zoo, the Camden Children's Garden, and the house he designed for his parents in Stony Creek, Connecticut.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Learning from the existing landscape is a way of being revolutionary for an architect. Read the first page
Browse Sample Pages
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars An Architectural Nightmare Jan. 17 2004
This is a quite unusual and offbeat treatise on architectural theory, as applied to the world's greatest architectural monstrosity - Las Vegas. This analysis from the early 1970s is obviously outdated because Las Vegas hadn't yet become the monument to megalomania and excess that it is today, but it was already well on its way. The authors analyze Vegas' unique usages of space, lighting, placement, transportation, and building design for the purposes of communication and promotion. Strange chapter titles give a clue to the left-field analysis in store, and the authors have a clear sense of irony, underhandedly implying that Vegas presents the worst in architecture while they appear to be praising its uniqueness. Unfortunately the narrative gets bogged down in dense professor-speak terminology like "Brazilianoid" and "neo-Constructivist megastructures," along with a general overload of obtuse theory. Add to that the poor-quality and under-elaborated illustrations and you have a book that sacrifices insight and readability in favor of pedantic attempts to impress the authors' colleagues. [~doomsdayer520~]
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5.0 out of 5 stars A classic in architecture theory June 28 1999
By A Customer
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant study of signage and architecture Sept. 9 1999
By A Customer
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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3.0 out of 5 stars Illustrations too small Nov. 15 2009
First of all, this book is an architectural classic, and is on of those works which must be read for one's self before passing judgement on the content. I find that the content is today more applicable to the suburban condition which pervades the developed world than specifically Las Vegas. I suspect that developer's have learned more from this book than architects.

My biggest issue with this book is not with the content, but the execution. The illustrations are far too small, and often placed many pages away from the actual text which references the illustrations. While I understand the publisher is trying to produce a paperback which is affordable, I believe they have taken too many shortcuts, resulting in a book which is difficult to read.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Read this book to learn what you shouldn't do as an architect!
This book follows Venturi's "Complexity and Contradiction", where you can learn how cynically to use casement windows in housing for the elderly where the elderly will happily put their plastic flowers in the windows, but *you* secretly know these are not really hormal casement windows, since they are out of scale (like fascist architecture's lack of scale?).
This book will tell you about ducks and decorated sheds, but it will tell you nothing about building spaces which nourish creative human community. Try Louis Kahn (e.g., John Lobell's lovely little book "Between Silence and Light"). My postmodernist teachers at Harvard said Kahn's writings were incomprehensible, which says more about them than about him.
Read Lobell's book and learn why, e.g., a city might deserve to exist. Remember: Only *you* can get beyond postmodernism!
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