Lessons from Las Vegas

Roman Mars:
This is 99% invisible. I’m Roman Mars.

Roman Mars:
On the University of Pennsylvania campus, there’s this gorgeous old library, which is the School of Design’s Library of Fine Arts and Architecture. It was designed by architect Frank Furness.

Avery Trufelman:
It looks like a red brick and terracotta palace.

Roman Mars:
Producer, Avery Trufleman.

Avery Trufelman:
It’s got these leaded glass windows and this very elaborate roof articulated with lots of pointy ornaments and a two-story rotunda reading room. According to its website it is a seminal library design that expresses function while merging the imagery of a cathedral and railroad station.

Roman Mars:
It could be the set for any number of scenes in Harry Potter.

Avery Trufelman:
It’s a national historic landmark. It was completed in 1890.

Denise Scott Brown:
Now you may know the Furness Library at Penn. It’s a wonderful 19th century building.

Avery Trufelman:
This is Denise Scott Brown who studied urban planning at Penn and then taught there.

Denise Scott Brown:
And at my first faculty meeting, they were considering whether the architecture school should support the plan to demolish the Furness library.

Avery Trufelman:
This was in 1960, when architects were very into tearing down old buildings.

Denise Scott Brown:
No one would dream of touching it now, but then I was a rebel in saying that. And there was a big debate. And the dean was on the other side. He wanted it demolished. It was what a modernist would do, you see.

Roman Mars:
In 1960 architects thought we should be getting rid of old, frilly architecture and constructing new, modern, efficient buildings of glass and steel and concrete.

Avery Trufelman:
Denise, on the other hand, was kind of over modernism. Not that she didn’t like glass and steel and concrete. She liked the buildings themselves. She was just getting tired of the philosophies behind modernism. She was tired of architects imposing their sleek, utopian visions on people without first asking people what they wanted.

Denise Scott Brown:
It was a stupid innocence to say, “We don’t have to listen to people. They don’t know what they want. We can tell them what they ought to want and we will be so good for them.”

Avery Trufelman:
And so in her first ever faculty meeting, Denise took a stand. Imagine her, in her late-twenties with red hair, and an accent shaped by a childhood in South Africa and an education in London. She battled the dean to convince the rest of the faculty that this old library should be saved. That there’s something to observing and appreciating the architecture that’s already around us. And she won them over.

Denise Scott Brown:
The whole faculty finally agreed with me but not before a lot of argument. And after all of that, this young man came up to me and he said, “I agreed with everything you said. And my name’s Robert Venturi.” And I said, “Well, why didn’t you say something then?”

Avery Trufelman:
Robert Venturi, another young faculty member, didn’t want to admit it at the meeting. It wasn’t cool to be into extravagant old buildings then. And Venturi was already kind of an outsider.

Denise Scott Brown:
He was struggling. People there would say, “Well, he shouldn’t be there. He’s not like us. He likes history. He didn’t go to Harvard.”

Avery Trufelman:
Well, he went to Princeton. But he wasn’t from a fancy family and yes, he was really into historical architecture. And in Denise Scott Brown he found a kindred spirit. They began to share ideas and research.

Roman Mars:
They were both very into mannerism, which is a late renaissance style of architecture that has a lot of complex decoration and exaggerated visual tricks, not unlike the Furness Library. It’s elaborate and fun.

Avery Trufelman:
Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi were clearly on the same page. They taught courses in conjunction with each other.

Denise Scott Brown:
From 1960 to 65, I ran one theories course and he ran the other. And we planned them together.

Avery Trufelman:
A colleague at Penn was so bold as to suggest:

Denise Scott Brown:
“Denise, you should marry Robert Venturi.”

Avery Trufelman:
But it wasn’t like that. Denise was actually a young widow at the time. She had lost her husband in a car crash pretty recently. She wasn’t interested in Venturi that way, at least not yet.

Denise Scott Brown:
We were good friends. Don’t forget I had lost a husband. I was a very sad person.

Avery Trufelman:
Denise did, however, want to take her friend Robert Venturi to a very special place. A place she considered the anti-modernism. A place that most of her colleagues in architecture and urban planning looked at with disdain.

Denise Scott Brown:
Las Vegas.

Roman Mars:
Fabulous Las Vegas.

Advertising Mix:
Five dollar blackjacks on the Las Vegas Strip. Pull up a seat. Leading on. The Coliseum.

Avery Trufelman:
And what happens in Vegas never really stays there. Together Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi would find lessons in Las Vegas that would spur a new chapter in architecture.

Roman Mars:
To this day, architects tend to turn their nose up at Las Vegas.

Stefan Al:
Las Vegas is still a very controversial topic among architects who typically dismiss the city.

Avery Trufelman:
This is Stefan Al, a practicing architect and author of the book, “The Strip: Las Vegas and The Architecture of The American Dream”.

Stefan Al:
Every time I tell my colleagues I study Las Vegas I get a few frowns. From architecture perspective, it’s a city that’s known for neon. A city known for kind of decoration. A city known for kitsch. And it’s exactly the opposite of what conventionally-trained architects would like.

Avery Trufelman:
But people love Vegas.

Stefan Al:
Last year there was about 45 million people that visited Las Vegas and that was 10 million more than the city of Paris.

Roman Mars:
To be clear here, we’re not talking about downtown Las Vegas. We’re talking about the Las Vegas Strip. A long stretch of road flanked by casinos.

Stefan Al:
Yeah. So a lot of people don’t know that The Strip is actually not built in the city of Las Vegas. It’s actually just outside of city limits, and as a result, developers are not as much restricted by city zoning laws or the city council and they have more leeway, so to say.

Avery Trufelman:
Which is why the Vegas Strip is never one static thing. It goes through radical changes. Almost every decade. Since the whole stretch of the strip is geared entirely to what will bring in the most tourists.

Roman Mars:
It’s designed for what’s popular at a given time. What will make as much money as possible.

Stefan Al:
As soon as one of their buildings is no longer profitable or as soon as they realize that they can actually build a more profitable building, than it’s worth for them to implode the previous building and build something new.

Roman Mars:
And this is how Vegas has always been. Constantly remaking itself depending on what tourists want. It’s designed and redesigned over and over again for its visitors.

Avery Trufelman:
The very first casino hotel complex on The Strip was called El Rancho Vegas and it had a western theme.

Stefan Al:
Literally, part of the advertising was bringing your wife, your western boots, and your western outfits, and you could wear your hats.

Avery Trufelman:
In the 1940s western movies were popular and the Western theme made gambling seem a little more patriotic and rugged. Because, you know, that’s what cowboys did. So you got to have gambling in a wild west town. A real authentic, wild west town.

Stefan Al:
There were never, ever any cowboys in Las Vegas. And so from the very beginning Las Vegas architecture was what you could call fake.

Roman Mars:
And then in the 1950s as the fake western fad got tired out, they traded it in for fake mid-century suburban glamor.

Stefan Al:
It really turned gambling into a suburban vacation.

Avery Trufelman:
There were all these glamorous bungalows with kidney shaped pools. But they all looked more or less the same. So then came the signs. Starting with the Stardust Hotel and Casino.

Stefan Al:
The Stardust was the first big horizontal sign.

Roman Mars:
Really big. Over 200 feet long.

Stefan Al:
It looked like a giant explosion. And bear in mind, this was also a period in which we see the space race start to begin.

Avery Trufelman:
The Stardust upped the ante on the competition between the hotels on The Strip. More and more massive hotels popped up with bigger and bigger signs.

Stefan Al:
There were all the signs that were animated and it was a really kind of sophisticated technology that went into these structures. It was only because the competition was so intense and there was so much at stake.

Avery Trufelman:
By the 1960s the Las Vegas Strip was like a cacophony of competing neon. All these huge jarring signs almost calling out over each other. And that’s what the strip looked like when Denise Scott Brown first encountered it.

Denise Scott Brown:
I had a cold shiver up my spine and I said, “Is this love or is this hate?” I said, “I don’t know.” I said, “Photograph it anyway, before it goes.”

Avery Trufelman:
She first visited Vegas in 1965 after she had left Penn to take a job at Berkeley. Unlike the modernists who would ignore a messy place like Las Vegas, Denise found herself curious about it. Given her background in urbanism and planning, she was interested in observing the habits and patterns of people.

Denise Scott Brown:
Las Vegas was a place people voted for with their feet. They went there in droves. They really showed they liked it. They even spent money to be in it.

Roman Mars:
The 1960s Strip was the exact opposite of what modern architects thought the world should look like. It was loud, garish, and dazzling. It was full blown populism and this is what Denise loved about the Strip. She knew she had to show Robert Venturi.

Denise Scott Brown:
Bob was the only person I invited to Las Vegas because he was the only one interested. And then he had just adored it.

Avery Trufelman:
In 1966, Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi spent four days in Las Vegas just marveling at it.

Denise Scott Brown:
When Bob and I went to Las Vegas and we had this wonderful time together and suddenly he became a much more relaxed human being. We took photographs. We drove the Strip. We had music on. We stopped in the desert and we took pictures of each other. You look at the joy on the faces of those pictures and you see what’s happening.

Avery Trufelman:
You can Google pictures of Denise and Robert grinning on The Strip and yeah, you can really see it.

Denise Scott Brown:
We fell in love.

Roman Mars:
After five years of working together, it happened in four days in Vegas.

Denise Scott Brown:
We were in a bar and suddenly we held hands. That’s about all that happened. And then we began to get more and more fond of each other.

Avery Trufelman:
After a little back and forth, Denise Scott Brown eventually moved back to the east coast.

Denise Scott Brown:
And then one day, in a taxi, I just said to him, “Will you marry me?” And he said, “Yes and yes and yes.”

Roman Mars:
Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown got married in 1967 and together they went to teach at Yale.

Avery Trufelman:
But even though she was on the other side of the country, Denise wasn’t done with Las Vegas. Not in the least. In her teaching Denise had taken great pains to include the elements of observation and what better spot to observe than The Strip. It was the epitome of sprawl, of loud advertisements of shopping centers. It was American culture on steroids.

Denise Scott Brown:
The extreme case is usually a purer case. I think if you look at scientific study, it’s often done that way. Let’s get the most extreme version and then from that we can know what the principles were, look for them in other places.

Avery Trufelman:
She and Robert Venturi resolved to bring their students to The Strip so they could see it themselves.

Roman Mars:
Venturi and Scott Brown planned a 12 week long studio study in Las Vegas for 13 students. Ten days of this course would actually be spent on The Strip itself.

Denise Scott Brown:
We were all put up at the Stardust.

Avery Trufelman:
Scott Brown and Venturi got comped rooms for them and all the students, who took full advantage of the freedom they had off campus.

Denise Scott Brown:
We didn’t notice when we went into their rooms, the smell of marijuana because I just didn’t know that smell.

Avery Trufelman:
Out in the field, under Denise and Robert’s eye, the students did a lot of watching and took many, many photographs.

Roman Mars:
Some of which were taken from reclusive millionaire Howard Hughes’s helicopter.

Denise Scott Brown:
He made available an hour’s use of one of his helicopters. That was very useful. We got very good pictures.

Avery Trufelman:
And with Denise’s help, the students finagled their way into the grand opening gala of the Circus Circus Casino.

Denise Scott Brown:
And they had got themselves dressed up. They went to the thrift shop in Las Vegas.

Avery Trufelman:
In the midst of all the fun, the students were still really engaged with the labor of truly looking at a place. The students observed traffic patterns, conducted interviews, and made maps and diagrams. Basically all the things architecture students would normally do to observe Athens or Rome, but like this time they were sitting and drawing sketches of parking lots.

Denise Scott Brown:
We had a set of topics. Many of them were patterns of distribution. Like where are churches in Las Vegas compared with New Haven. Where are wedding chapels. People did distribution maps.

Avery Trufelman:
Denise compared the Strip to a bazaar or marketplace, but built on a scale for cars.

Denise Scott Brown:
The market is a foot market and you see the actual goods in the window of the store and you smell them when you arrive in the market.

Avery Trufelman:
But on The Strip, instead of the sights and smells of the items for sale or the merchants hollering and peddling goods, there are signs that call out and beckoned to you.

Denise Scott Brown:
What’s the anatomy of a big Las Vegas sign. It has it’s high reader. It’s low reader. How does that relate in relation to the small sign where are all of them put on the site. How do they draw you in? Where do you see them from?

Avery Trufelman:
And in observing The Strip and the way cars and people navigate it, they found that Las Vegas worked. The signs served their purpose.

Roman Mars:
The Strip was navigable. It functioned in the midst of its apparent chaos.

Avery Trufelman:
Like there would be an Arabian themed sign for an Arabian themed casino. And venues advertised the evening’s performers in big lights. Everything was spelled out very clearly, in a way that was appealing to people. And so Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown took all the maps, and notes, and observations that they and the students had collected, and together with their teaching assistant and co-author Steven Izenour, they put it all in a book.

Roman Mars:
A book published in 1972 called “Learning From Las Vegas”.

Alexandra Lange:
What happens next? Everyone reads that book.

Avery Trufelman:
This is architecture and design critic Alexandra Lange and she says, “Learning From Las Vegas” challenged architects to take the architecture of Vegas, what they called the architecture of the American highway, seriously.

Alexandra Lange:
And that it too has a structure. And it too has lessons that we can learn from. And so let’s stop being snobby and only kind of talking about architecture within architecture and look at what’s actually out there in the world and what we can learn from it. It’s not just saying, “Hey, Vegas is cool.” It’s saying, “Here’s a whole approach to the world that we actually live in.”

Avery Trufelman:
And truly everyone studying architecture read this book.

Alexandra Lange:
Why did it catch on? Because people were searching for a way out of the dead end. The dead end of Modernism. And this book written by kind of the coolest kids in architecture seemed like it might be that way out. By 1980, Learning From Las Vegas becomes a text assigned in every architecture school and that is a huge deal because it means American architects can’t ignore the built environment that’s all around them.

Avery Trufelman:
Although Venturi got most of the credit…

Denise Scott Brown:
I never get the fame. It’s all, it’s Robert Venturi and what’s that wife doing hanging in there?

Roman Mars:
But “Learning From Las Vegas” derives from Denise’s experience on The Strip, which she then invited Venturi along for. Not to mention Denise’s background and observation and planning and her belief that spaces should be designed with people in mind.

Alexandra Lange:
The idea that architecture needed to say something to the maximum number of people, not just to people who were educated in the themes of architecture.

Avery Trufelman:
Venturi and Scott Brown loved the historical elements of architecture that anyone could recognize.

Alexandra Lange:
And so they say, “You know what? People love houses with gables. People like their banks to have columns up front. So let’s do that.”

Roman Mars:
Columns can signify that a building is important since they’re associated with banks and government buildings. A triangular roof means that the building is a house. And if those elements help people to understand the building, architects should just go ahead and add them.

Avery Trufelman:
Denise and Robert put some of these ideas into practice in their own work. One of the more extreme examples is their design for the Children’s Museum of Houston. They put these oversized Greek columns in the front, which signal that it’s a museum, but because it’s a children’s museum, the columns are bright canary yellow.

Roman Mars:
And the columns hold up a massive sign that says MUSEUM in big red letters.

Avery Trufelman:
You don’t have to wonder if you’ve made it to the right spot. It’s pretty clear. And they this for adult museums too.

Denise Scott Brown:
For example, in Seattle Art Museum, there’s a sign on the top of the building. It just says S-A-M. Seattle Art Museum. And it’s very big.

Avery Trufelman:
I mean, not all their buildings had giant overt signs on them, but the point is, Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown were not afraid of signs. They were not afraid of color. And they were not afraid of historical motifs. Their work, and their architecture and writing, was about making sure buildings were accessible and understandable to as many people as possible.

Roman Mars:
And this morphed into one of the most controversial movements in architecture. Postmodernism.

Avery Trufelman:
Postmodernism was a way for buildings to be communicative, deeply meaningful and fun. Although the problem is a lot of designers just focused on the fun part.

Alexandra Lange:
So some postmodern architecture takes the kind of the jazziness of Vegas. Takes the colors, takes the neon, and that becomes one form of postmodernism.

Avery Trufelman:
A lot of architects and designers were just like, “Oh cool. Now we can use neon and bright colors and big signs and slap on historical styles and details without any meaning. Just for the fun of it.”

Roman Mars:
In other words, it became part of the aesthetics of the 80s.

Avery Trufelman:
Bright colors, bold shapes. This is what a lot of people mean by an aesthetic of postmodernism, just kind of goofy without substance.

Alexandra Lange:
It goes in all of these different directions and I think Denise Scott Brown really hates some of those directions because they don’t have the interpretive quality that they brought to their version of postmodernism.

Avery Trufelman:
And as postmodernism became sillier and sillier, it strayed further and further away from what Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi were originally trying to do. It became hard for clients to see how deeply intentional and thoughtful their work was.

Alexandra Lange:
No, it wasn’t like one triumph to another after they wrote that book by any means.

Denise Scott Brown:
We’d probably had more work if we hadn’t done all this.

Avery Trufelman:
Their books, their buildings, championing places like the Las Vegas Strip.

Alexandra Lange:
There were definitely times when they didn’t have that many clients and it was very difficult for them to get work.

Roman Mars:
Ultimately postmodernism popularity was short lived.

Alexandra Lange:
So what happened with postmodernism is it really did not last very long as an architectural movement. It has basically a 10 year, approximately 10 year heyday, you can say – kind of early eighties to early nineties and then it just goes really out of fashion. The clients sort of revert back to wanting things that look modernist and architecture reverts back to its previous form.

Avery Trufelman:
People go back to wanting faceless buildings in shades of gray and black made of glass and steel.

Roman Mars:
And if people want it, Las Vegas, will deliver it.

Stefan Al:
So that’s the big irony of it all.

Avery Trufelman:
Architect and strip historian, Stefan Al, again.

Stefan Al:
You know, as they publish the book “Learning From Las Vegas” and Las Vegas becomes known as maybe the birthplace of postmodernism and celebrating signage and moving away from boring modernism. This is actually when Las Vegas turns to the opposite.

Roman Mars:
As ever, Vegas was ahead of the curve. The strip had already started to revert to corporate modernism even before “Learning From Las Vegas” was published.

Avery Trufelman:
In 1967 the state of Nevada passes the Corporate Gaming Act, which allows big corporations and hotel chains to own and operate casinos.

Stefan Al:
So for instance, the Hilton became a casino operator on the Las Vegas Strip and they built following their own aesthetic, which was a corporate modernism. And it was precisely this style of architecture that Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi lamented. That’s a big irony.

Roman Mars:
But of course this isn’t the end of the story. The Strip after all is always reinventing itself, responding to what consumers want.

Avery Trufelman:
The big glassy towers continue to rise until, in 1989, Steve Wynn stuck a giant erupting volcano in front of The Mirage hotel. This brings in the Disneyland era when casinos started to build a crazy, expensive attractions.

Roman Mars:
Treasure Island, which had a big sinking pirate ship. The big Cinderella castle, Excalibur…

Avery Trufelman:
And then came the next phase of this strip, let’s call it Vacation Land.

Roman Mars:
Fake Venice with fake canals and gondoliers who sing to you. Fake Paris with the fake Eiffel Tower.

Avery Trufelman:
And then in the new millennium, Vegas welcomed a batch of new casinos designed by big name, prestigious architects. They’re trying to appeal to millennials by making Vegas look like a cutting edge city.

Woman:
These drinks are like $16.

Roman Mars:
And soon, without a doubt, the strip will shape shift again.

Avery Trufelman:
This is all just to say the Vegas Strip is in such a constant state of flux and renewal. It only barely resembles the city that was chronicled in “Learning From Las Vegas”. But it almost doesn’t matter that Vegas has changed. Or that postmodernism as an architectural movement was a short one. As Denise Scott Brown herself has often said, “Learning From Las Vegas is not about Las Vegas.” Here’s critic Alexandra Lange again.

Alexandra Lange:
The point is to use the tools, you know, really the critical tools, like they are writing, as critics of the American landscape to apply to your own landscape, your own situation.

Avery Trufelman:
“Learning From Las Vegas” has helped architects open their minds, reserve judgment, and learn from the everyday built environment around them.

Roman Mars:
And if you do want to observe the changing ever shifting state of the American landscape, there’s still no better place to see it than the Las Vegas Strip.

Stefan Al:
Every time I go to Las Vegas, I see something new. And if you want to stay ahead of the curve as an architect. It’s good, every now and then, to visit Las Vegas.

Avery Trufelman:
Denise Scott Brown went back to Vegas a few more times, witnessed many of these changes, but it’s been awhile now.

Denise Scott Brown:
I haven’t been there recently. And what I learned from the Disneyland, the theme park era, was that they were very talented in doing that. But you know, we have always turned down designing a casino. That was not the point for us. But also no one asked us. Easy to turn it down when your not asked. That’s called sour grapes.

Avery Trufelman:
Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi are still together. And now they live back in Philadelphia. Just a 30 minute drive away from the red brick library designed by Frank Furness.

Denise Scott Brown:
A wonderful 19th Century mannerist building. Bob and I regenerated it and made it into the architecture library. And no one would dream of touching it now.

Roman Mars:
In 1986, Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown worked on the master plan for the restoration of the Furness library. The very building that brought their lives and their ideas together.

Comments (18)

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    1. I came with the same question (by the way, this is a 99PI episode—https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/u-t-b-a-p-h/), if a building’s design becomes iconic in and of itself—Pizza Hut, HoJo’s, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, etc.—does it make the jump from shed to duck?

  1. Sam Jo Mo

    I loved this episode. I was born and raised in Las Vegas and have lived here all my life. It is an ever changing town, always evolving and trying to find its new identity. However, the down side to always changing is that Las Vegas does not have a good sense of it’s history. Older buildings are not saved and valued like in other cities. Las Vegas is a very transient town where new comers can find it hard to find a sense of community and don’t know the history. Natives like me were very rare in the generation before me, but there are more in my generation (I’m 39). People are always moving further towards the outskirts of the city to nicer and newer areas, leaving older, historic, areas to decay (or completey torn down and rebuilt). I know this happens in a lot of cities, but it is much faster because Las Vegas is such a new city with a history of just over 110 years and tremendous population growth. When I say newer areas, I mean areas where everything has been built in the last 3-5 years – the houses, roads, stores, infrastructures, everything. It’s an interesting town to grow up in and live in. Locals stay away from the strip and the crowds, and you can find good neighbors and communities when you look. One of my favorite spots in Las Vegas is the Neon Museum. It’s a small, outdoor neon sign boneyard. The organization’s mission is to keep and repair neon signs to preserve a little bit of Las Vegas history. Thanks for the great listen!

  2. Lisa P

    They are SO FANTASTIC. And the Neon Museum mentioned above sounds awesome!

    Recognition FYIs: In 2013 the Pitzker Prize committee refused to retroactively award the honor to include Scott Brown. But in 2016 the AIA awarded the both of them the Gold Medal.

  3. I’m kind of blown away. But this this brings to mind another question. If we are no longer in a post-modernist era in art/design/thinking, and in some ways, it seems like we still are, then where (or what) are we as a society? People enjoy modernism, but we clearly aren’t a modernist society. So what ARE we? And is there disagreement about this? Roman, please, help clear this up! :-)

  4. Alexis

    I really thought that the origin of the ‘duck’ terminology would be the saying “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck”, ie that the building has all the traits of what it does!

  5. Josh

    Thank you all for the great episode! I’m going to be looking for ducks now. It occurs to me that churches may be ducks. It doesn’t matter if they are converted into houses or stores, their architecture still screams “Church!” I’m looking forward to seeing if I can find others the next time I’m in Portland.

  6. Brandon

    Sadly they learned from a place which is mainly used for vacations. they didn’t try to learn from the places where people are the happiest on a daily basis.
    Very sad that she went all for the automobile oriented planning. Modernism was a dead end but “Learning from Las Vegas” made things worse. its directly opposed to the other major planning trend that came about a few decades latter, ‘New Urbaniasm’ which reaffirmed planning for people.

  7. Frances Steere

    Hi there,

    Please could you append that she was educated in South Africa as well. She did her undergraduate degree at the University of the Witwatersrand during a very important time in South Africa’s political history. When you say that she “spent her childhood in South Africa, and was educated in the UK [and then in the US]” you erase this intellectual history in South Africa and perpetuate a perception that important intellectual figures are only from and of the West.

  8. Joshua Jordan

    For anyone interested in the Long Island Duck in Flanders,

    As of last summer, its use is as a Museum OF the Duck Building. Inside you’ll find a kind of roadside kitsch shop of historic photos of the Duck, written histories of the duck farming business in Flanders, and Duck souvenirs. Cared for by a perfectly wonderful old man who will talk your ear off about his Trump support.

    In other words, a little slice of tourist Vegas, and It’s so Duck at this point it’s gone METADUCK.

  9. michael

    i think gehry’s buildings are ducks. why? because not matter where you see them, in NY, CA, bilbao or weil am rhein (vitra campus), when you see a building by gehry, it says “GEHRY”.
    loved the podcast! (i first read Learning from Las Vegas in 1973 or ’74 – i now understand it much better. thank you!)

  10. christopher d mendez

    what is the name of the song that plays right before the commercial break at 24.52? It is so pleasing and sentimental. A perfect transition.

  11. ssilver

    Another Duck; The Big Apple Ontario. If you have ever driven on the 401 in Ontario Canada between Toronto to Kingston/Ottawa/Montreal, you would have driven by The Big Apple, that is shaped like a bright red apple and sells apple pies (along with a billion other touristy stuff.) You can even climb the stairs to the top of the apple which is a handful of stories high to a view of the Highway – LOL.

    http://www.thebigapple.ca/

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