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.
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.
I bought this book for my diploma study on non-places; I basically come from the design/photo section but was fascinated by Venturi et al.'s findings on the aesthetics of urban/suburban landscape; while the US have already found a way of getting along with this new style, Europe's medium sized cities such as Vienna just have started to deal with this new urban style; i'd like to recommend it (along with marc augés "non-places").