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Architecture in Las Vegas

Interest in the Architecture of Las Vegas began in the late 1960s, when in 1967 architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown travelled to the city accompanied by students in order to study its architecture. They wrote, with Steven Izenour, a report in 1972 on the subject entitled Learning From Las Vegas: the Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form. This report, and its thesis that Las Vegas showed the way for architecture in the late 20th century, drew the attention of the architectural world to the city. A quarter of a century later, for a BBC program (a segment of The Late Show entitled "Virtually Las Vegas" broadcast on BBC Two on 1995-01-16) Venturi and Scott Brown revisited the city, and revised their opinions.

In the 1970s, Venturi et al. observed that the city had then been structured around the automotive culture that was dominant at the time, with all of the buildings oriented towards the highway. It was the norm for buildings to have "rhetorical front and conventional behind", in other words a decorated façade visible from the highway but a less decorative aspect where not visible. The casinos and motels also sported ground-level parking at the front, between the building and the highway, a feature that Venturi considered to be distinctive. They also drew a contrast between the artificially lit and air conditioned interiors of the buildings and the heat and glare of the "agoraphobic auto-scaled desert" (Venturi, Scott Brown & Izenour 1977, p. 49) outside. The mixture of styles, ranging from what they termed "Miami Moroccan" to "Yamasaki Bernini cum Roman Orgiastic" (Venturi, Scott Brown & Izenour 1977, p. 80), they did not view as chaotic but rather as a necessary result of Las Vegas as one of what they termed "the world's 'pleasure zones'" alongside the likes of Marienbad, the Alhambra, Disneyland, and Xanadu and its positioning as a place where a visitor with an ordinary life could indulge in escapist notions of being "a centurion at Caesar's Palace, a ranger at The Frontier, or a jetsetter at the Riviera" (Venturi, Scott Brown & Izenour 1977, p. 53) for a few days.



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