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November 25, 2007

Las Vegas Goes Modernist

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

This is the Las Vegas Strip as we know and love it.


But it changes moment by moment. Some of those changes are almost undetectably minor. Others have the potential to alter the character of the place. For instance, this is what I saw last week while we were on our annual visit:


Hmm. No monster pyramids. Not a single half-size Eiffel Tower. Nor a 30-story Italian villa. I saw not a sign of fake pirate ships and toy volcanoes. No. It's, it's ... The Horror!!! ... Modernist Architecture!

Modernist architecture in the form of the CityCenter project, a multi-billion dollar effort by our friends at MGM Grand that replaces a nondescript jumble of seedy stores and aging time-share condos.

Here's what it might look like when completed:


Here is the flashy official site -- but it might be handier to link here to its Wikipedia entry which contains under-construction photos and a set of views of projected final appearance.

I have no idea what was on the minds of the geniuses behind CityCenter. Instead of letting Vegas be Vegas, a lesson that Robert Venturi famously urged architects to study, they opted to grace the strip with the artistic fruits of starchitects. The rogues gallery of architectural offices doing CityCenter buildings includes Cesar Pelli, Rafael Vinoli, Lord Norman Foster, Helmut Jahn and Daniel Libeskind.

And I'm all but certain the results will be perfectly swell. If you love the sort of sterile, geometry-based glass 'n' steel structures that warms our hearts when we conjure images of New York City's Sixth Avenue -- with the switcheroo that some CityCenter buildings are curved! My head reels in admiration for such imaginative solutions.

Will CityCenter wreck the Strip? Big though it is, it's still fairly small given the huge size of the place. So long as no similar projects are built, it won't fit in well, but might be tolerable. Tolerability might be enhanced if the owners pry loose starchitect hands at street level; lots of flash and pizazz for pedestrians would distract from the monster blandness of the tall, background structures.

We Shall See.



posted by Donald at November 25, 2007


Las Vegas: The worst foster care system in the country...1 million more residents (many low paying hotel jobs) by 2024...major water theft capital of the U.S...oh yeah, prostitution and gambling too...great place...

Posted by: SJ on November 25, 2007 10:17 PM

Foster, Jahn, Libeskind, etc ... Wow, MGM really went *far* out of their way to come up with that list, didn't they? Sigh. The development looks like a cross between 6th Ave. and Brasilia, with a special emphasis on badly-shaped plazas. Perhaps the whole thing is best thought of as a theme park of bad, hypey architecture? Buy a ticket and see just how wrong high-priced architects can go?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on November 26, 2007 12:41 AM

Lesse now - fake pyramids next to fake Venice next to fake Eiffel Tower. Now tell me again how modernist buildings will despoil all that tasteful, organic architecture currently there.

Posted by: Peter L. Winkler on November 26, 2007 1:53 AM

When I first visited Las Vegas in the mid-50s, it was unique. Its downtown casinos were western, its strip casinos were a mix of Southwest desert and Southern California, and it all had an aura of sin, which made it a Mecca for all of us sinners. Its desert milieu was very important and was incorporated in its architecture Now it suffers from the homogenization that afflicts the whole country. Regionalism is vanishing, and with it the reason to visit a place. Glass towers? Why go there?

Posted by: Richard S. Wheeler on November 26, 2007 8:58 AM

CityCenter? What a name! It doesn't exactly bring fun and games to mind. Sounds like the name of a government building.

Posted by: Lester Hunt on November 26, 2007 9:16 AM

Remember the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach? To judge by the photo of the building under construction it's going up again. Which is boring. The crime of the Star Architects is not that they're doing anything cutting edge wacky; just the opposite: they're pooping on the party. It might as well be Moscow central. Like all the rest of our elites: closet Marxists.

Posted by: ricpic on November 26, 2007 9:51 AM

Maybe it is just the full circle, and postmodernism is going ironic about rationalism.

Posted by: claudio on November 26, 2007 11:56 AM

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