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Relearning from Las Vegas

Relearning from Las Vegas

Aron Vinegar
Michael J. Golec
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Relearning from Las Vegas
    Book Description:

    Going beyond analyzing the original text, the essays provide insights into the issues surrounding architecture, culture, and philosophy that have been influenced by Learning from Las Vegas. For the contributors, as for scholars in an array of fields, the pioneering book is as relevant to architectural debates today as it was when it was first published.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6639-3
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Instruction as Provocation
    (pp. 1-18)

    Since its initial publication in 1972, Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour’sLearning from Las Vegashas been recognized as a seminal statement in the history and theory of architecture and, for better or worse, hailed as one of the defining documents of postmodernism. As such it played an important role in early theorizations of the “postmodern condition” by such eminent figures as Fredric Jameson, Jean-François Lyotard, Charles Jencks, and Hal Foster. Its influence was felt both deep within the architectural scene and far beyond its particular institutional and professional boundaries. It was liberating to those in architecture,...

  5. 1 Aesthetic or Anaesthetic: A Nelson Goodman Reading of the Las Vegas Strip
    (pp. 19-30)

    Learning from Las Vegas, first published in 1972, proposed that architecture should reposition itself from its modernist emphasis on space and structure to a postmodern reading of signs and symbols. This shift would allow architects to relearn to see and, as a consequence, make the practice of design socially less coercive and aesthetically more vital. The book introduced suspending judgment as a mechanism to free the imagination and make subsequent judgments more sensitive.¹ This process, it was hoped, would increase the architect’s capacity to make discriminations and learn from the everyday. Such an approach to aesthetic cognition that involves learning...

  6. 2 Format and Layout in Learning from Las Vegas
    (pp. 31-48)

    In 1972, Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour publishedLearning from Las Vegas, a collection of studies designed by Scott Brown and drawn from the architects’ Yale studio seminar on the Las Vegas Strip in the fall of 1968.¹ The book is packed with information graphics: aerial photographs, snapshots, signage, diagrams, all manner of maps, plans, elevations, sections, heraldry, graphs, sketches, charts, and lists. These graphic images—mostly influenced by media studies, sociology, urban studies, and pop art—visually reconstruct Las Vegas as the epitome of the commercial roadside environment. According to the authors, the Las Vegas Strip...

  7. 3 Photorealism, Kitsch, and Venturi
    (pp. 49-78)

    (In all earlier dietary systems, flavor was considered to be an emanation of food, as indissociable from its substance as a sound can be from the violin that emits it. From then on, in the semblance of synthesized sounds, food was broken down into ingredients that could be artificially reconstituted, including flavor [and color], added as surplus, as the last and next to last components, the nonessentials required by your palates, still smitten with nature.

    You had surely noticed they never told you what the flavor and color were made out of. Everything had a name, except those two ingredients:...

  8. 4 Theory as Ornament
    (pp. 79-96)

    Not long ago, I stumbled on the University of Nottingham’s announcement of a program “designed to cater to the growing demand for courses that explore the potential contribution to the design process of an advanced theoretical input. As is evident in the work of several avant-garde architects, theoretical debates may often provide powerful design tools in the studio.”¹ The announcement did not surprise me: for some time now, theory has come to play a significant part in advanced architectural design. And even if interest in theory may be waning just a bit as the winds of architectural fashion continue to...

  9. 5 Mobilizing Visions: Representing the American Landscape
    (pp. 97-128)

    This statement from Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi’s essay forThe Highwayat the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia confirms that in 1970 they were already making connections between art and architecture and suggesting that artistic representations might mediate and even redefine reality—showing us who “we really are”—in ways that could facilitate changes in perception. Visionary goals—finding new ways of looking at and learning from the American landscape—were central toLearning from Las Vegas, which they published just two years later with Steven Izenour. Paradoxically, they stake out their new perspective on old ground,...

  10. 6 On Billboards and Other Signs around (Learning from) Las Vegas
    (pp. 129-146)

    Architecture as a discipline is founded on (or haunted by, depending on your view) the documents and insights of its previous generations, andLearning from Las Vegas¹ is one of those set pieces whose significance is as a defining marker, a touchstone of a moment in the discourse’s development (Figure 6.1). When Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour stated inLearning from Las Vegasthat the new paradigm for architecture was “communication over space,” it was both a literal description of the phenomenon of Las Vegas and its signage (the large marquees communicating over vast parking lots) and...

  11. 7 Signs Taken for Wonders
    (pp. 147-162)

    To look back atLearning from Las Vegasafter thirty years evokes complex reactions. Unlike many other books of similar age, this one has never really left us. Its vigorous defense of architectural ornament, its equation of architecture with communication, and its evocative labels “duck” and “decorated shed” all remain current. At the same time, to reduce the book to these familiar elements is to miss much of its richness and complexity. This brief text contains a first-rate study of urban morphology written in the context of mid-twentieth-century discussions of urban community and “imageability,” an analysis of the role of...

  12. 8 The Melodrama of Expression and Inexpression in the Duck and Decorated Shed
    (pp. 163-194)

    One of the primary critiques of modernism thatLearning from Las Vegaswas engaged in was the dialectic between inside and outside and the assumption that the outside expressed the interior.¹ As Rem Koolhaas put it in his bookDelirious New York, “In Western architecture there has been the humanistic assumption that it is desirable to establish a moral relationship between the two, whereby the exterior makes certain revelations about the interior that the interior corroborates.”² Let’s call this the modernist drive for “expressive transparency.” In contrast, Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour stress the contradiction between the...

  13. 9 Learning from Las Vegas . . . and Los Angeles and Reyner Banham
    (pp. 195-210)

    The influential British architectural historian and theorist Reyner Banham (1922–88) belonged to the same generation as Robert Venturi (b. 1925) and Denise Scott Brown (b. 1931) and shared many of their architectural values. This chapter shows the great similarities of value and outlook inLearning from Las Vegas(1972) and Banham’s almost contemporaneousLos Angeles: the Architecture of Four Ecologies(1971) (Figure 9.1). It then pinpoints areas of disagreement between Venturi, Scott Brown, and Izenour and Banham and moves to a discussion of the different authors’ views on Las Vegas, drawing on other texts written by Banham around this...

  14. Contributors
    (pp. 211-212)
  15. Publication History
    (pp. 213-214)
  16. Index
    (pp. 215-221)