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  • Writer's pictureDave LeRue

"Learning From Las Vegas:(2016) Annotation I The Neoliberal Aesthetic

Venturi, Robert, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour. "Part 1." Learning from Las Vegas: The Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1977. 3-72. Print.

Learning from Las Vegas is an analysis of the architecture found along the strip and the highway surrounding Las Vegas. The authors tackle many topics of the built environment, including signage, parking lots, building layouts, lighting, and air conditioning. This article was an interesting example of how economic and social policies can have an aesthetic outcome, making Las Vegas an interesting case study for the neoliberal aesthetic. Nevada was one of the first states to legalize gambling and the only state to legalize prostitution, which in turn led to contemporary Las Vegas.

Las Vegas, a city of sinful pleasure and shimmering lights, is selling an experience in the same way that condominiums are selling experiences. By employing heraldry and luminous signage, Las Vegas attracts and dazzles its patrons with no-strings-attached permissive idealism, touting catchphrases in ad campaigns such as “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” Architectures can indeed be permissive. A church for instance permits a type of worship that is seldom mirrored in a dwelling. An amusement park is filled with more screaming than a grocery store. In the ways they are permissive, architectures instill an ideal, and dare I say, an ideology surrounding their usage.

The condominium attracts its patrons by appealing to young professionals with its luxurious amenities such as pools, hot tubs, gymnasiums and common areas and its proximity to cappuccinos, nightlife, and their presumed office jobs. The condominium poses as both a key lifestyle element and a refuge inside a busy city. Take for instance, this advertisement for condominiums in Lasalle, a burough of Montreal.

The video points out the isolation, the business, and the workload of the contemporary timeless worker. The viewer is not asked to contest the material conditions, change lifestyles, or exit from the problematics of contemporary life. Instead, we are offered to extend beyond our comfort zone. We are offered a choice of presumed enlightenment- purchase a condominium in quartier Lasalle!

We are treated to specific kinds of imagery here—a stock moving image of an old man, the city coming in and out of night, people looking at their phones—which fail to confront emptiness and the problems they outline, but instead offshoots the responsibility to such a solution onto the individual. The condominium here is an extension of that lifestyle, a responsible step to take if you're working all hours and addicted to your phone. The isolation is a feature, not a bug, and the living space can allegedly play as an active remedy to loneliness, making one the most efficient, most productive banker or whatever. It's the neoliberalizing of the mind, of the living space. It's refreshing they don't pretend to care.

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