Shifting Paradigms: Renovating the Decorated Shed

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Signage, Shelter and Context in Architecture

Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, arguably among the most influential architects of the late 20th century, have explored and emphasized the importance of learning from the vernacular landscape to better understand the social, cultural and technological context of the present. In their 1972 book Learning from Las Vegas , Venturi and Scott Brown acknowledged the duality of architecture -- its role as both ‘shelter’ in its interiority and ‘signage’ in its communicative, decorative, informative, and symbolic aspects. Based on their studies of the automobile-oriented Las Vegas strip, they coined this combination the ‘Decorated Shed’. Their celebratory ‘learning-from’ the vernacular, especially the 1960s Pop culture, has led to a general perception of them as ‘post-modern’. This paper re-evaluates Venturi and Scott Brown’s theories and investigates their significance and potential in a contemporary context through a reading of a recent expression of their ideas in their latest collaborative book Architecture as Signs and Systems: for a Mannerist Time.

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