Anyone with architectural training——or even above-average cultural fluency——is no doubt familiar with Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour's seminal text Learning from Las Vegas (1972). The book is still regularly assigned in introductory architectural history surveys as well as in studios, and is one of a handful of texts generally agreed upon as required reading for students of twentieth-century architecture. More to the point, it is often held up as the quintessential postmodern architectural text, just as Le Corbusier's Towards a New Architecture is modernism's must-read.

But, as with Le Corbusier's earlier text, its fame has often overshadowed its content. Like a celebrity, it has become "known for its well-knownness" to use Daniel Boorstein's 1962 formulation. For all those graduate teaching fellows dutifully dissecting the book's graphics and pithy aphorisms with their students, one wonders how many consider...

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