From "Learning from Las Vegas" to design research

During my Christmas vacations, I finally had some time to read "Learning from Las Vegas" by Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour. Working on a course about field research, I was particularly interested by the way the authors framed the importance of observation in design. Two quotes struck me as important: The first one is:

"Learning from the existing landscape is a way of being revolutionary for an architect. Not the obvious way, which is to tear down Paris and to begin again, as Le Corbusier suggested in the 1920s, but another, more tolerant way; that is to question how we look at things.

There is a perversity in the learning process: We look backward at history and tradition to go forward; we can look downward to go upward. And withholding judgment may be used as a tool to make later judgments more sensitive. There is a way of learning from everything." p.3

I quite enjoyed this one, especially when considering the whole debate about the so-called inability of user research to lead to "disruptive innovations".

The second one is:

"Analysis of one of the architectural variables in isolation from the others is a respectable scientific and humanistic activity, so long as all are resynthesized in design. Analysis of existing American urbanism is a socially desirable activity to the extent that it teaches us architects to be more understanding and less authoritarian in the plans we make for both inner-city renewal and new development." p.6

The implications are important here as well, the idea that design is about synthesis is interesting.

Why do I blog this? Being involved in a week-long workshop about field research for design, I try to find some relevant angles for the students. These two quotes (which of course badly summarizes the whole book by Venturi and Brown) are intriguing and useful for my work. It's also interesting to see what can be translated from architecture to other design domains.