Less is a Bore! -Robert Venturi
Learning From Las Vegas (LFVLV) by Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour is important for two reasons. It was a book that came, in 1972, at the end of late modernism. It proposed a radical break with the immediate past and also a reassessment and incorporation of more traditional forms of architecture back into current thinking.
It was also the book that launched the authors on that path and helped bring that thinking into the forefront of the Architectural debate for over twenty years. It helped launch the style Postmodernism and at first gave it a loose theoretical framework. So on these fronts it was amazingly successful. But that style has since fallen out of favour and ‘modernism’ has made a return.
Even today some fifty years later the book is still controversial. It can often be used as evidence on both sides of the style debate in any ongoing style war. It can at times feel more like a collection of writings rather than one single book.
There is an attitude to urban and architectural studies that covers the full gamut from high art to kitch and so it’s almost necessarily divisive. It contains iconic arguments; all buildings are either ducks or decorated sheds, and it exhaustively analyses a high-tide moment of Americana in the Las Vegas of the late 60s which doesn’t exist anymore at all. It supports the iconic but also the boring, the everyday.
If the Las Vegas strip is no longer at all the same as that in the book it dosen’t matter, we can see the muscle flex of rebellion in the book that is fascinating in itself. We can with some profit see again the arguments now they have played out in the world a little.