Theories of Urban Design

Theories of Urban Design: Reading Robert Venturi

The architectural historian Vincent Scully called the book ‘probably the most important writing on the making of architecture since Le Corbusier's 'Vers Une Architecture'. Although that may be overstated, it can be said that Robert Venturi’s ‘Complexity and Contradiction’ from 1966 is one of the most-read publications on theory of design. The equally successful ‘Learning from Las Vegas’, published in 1972, is a groundbreaking and sometimes even funny study on the visual representation of urban space, seen through the windshield of a car.

Venturi is well known for catchy phrases like ‘less is a bore’ or ‘decorated shed’ – but there is much more: He had a keen interest in the ordinary city and the reality of everyday places. The seemingly ugly, the distasteful, bland and trivial raised his interest and stimulated his curiosity.

In the seminar we will read and discuss Venturi’s writings, try to understand his way of thinking and find out if we can learn from his non-dogmatic perspective on the city.

The seminar’s second subject is reading itself. You will learn about different reading techniques and how to extract meaning from text and theory. The seminar is supposed to promote a knowledge-based, critical understanding and encourage taking up a personal position to become an autonomous reader.