August 28, 2016

The Architecture of Entertainment




The Flamingo Hotel in its 1953 Architecture.  UNLV Digital Library.

Bugsy Siegel didn’t open the first casino on the highway outside Las Vegas, Cashman and Hull did with their western styled El Rancho Hotel.  It opened with the largest dining room in Las Vegas, horseback riding, and pools, but with only a few tables.  A first, it was open 24 hours a day. 

Bugsy soon followed with his now world famous Flamingo Hotel.  Eventually the mob didn’t like their lack of income, and after Bugsy was killed the Flamingo has spent much of its life changing hands and being restyled.  That’s the boom and bust story that continues everywhere in all of Las Vegas today.

The first California Spanish style buildings were soon replaced by the wood and wagon wheel atmosphere of the Western Style.  Just after WWII, Bugsy was the first to used mid-century modern on his new hotel and Casino.  Each time it changed hands, it was remodeled with the first change in the facade in 1953.  The last of the original Flamingo Hotel structures were torn down in 1993. 

I confess, I tour Vegas today looking up with my mouth open.  I gape at the changes.

Mid-century Modern architecture vanished into the starkness of the International style followed by the weighty adaptations of Brutalism.  Just as I get a handle on Brutalism, there seems to be an older Architectural style popping up throughout the Strip.  Beaux Artes.  It was a rich, overly ornamental, classical style of architecture taught in Paris in the 19th Century. 

Seeing this sort of décor intermixed with marble and miles of glass towers seems natural for Las Vegas.  The fanciful pink feather décor of the modern Flamingo Hotel fronts the pink glass international style towers to the rear.  Mandalay bay has two bare glass towers that almost inspire laughter with their Beaux Artes interiors. 

In 2008, with the market bust, Las Vegas began a dramatic downward slide.  Bankruptcies became the norm.  The strip is decorated now with the giant rusting ghosts and faded dreams of failed financing.  Rings of homes that surround Vegas and its strip have lost 58% of their value pricing them somewhere within reach of most of us. 

No matter what happens, I will continue flitting my way through this architectural jumble every decade or so, laughing open mouthed at the changes.  And there will be changes.


The Riveria Hotel Tower imploded August 2016.



Links:



In Old Las Vegas: With wonderful pictures of the strip.




15 comments:

  1. I enjoyed this post very much! I never gave much thought to the architecture of Vegas before. You opened my eyes!

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  2. I have visited Vegas a number of times. I hate gambling, so do not get involved with that and while the food is cheap and good, it is only the high end restaurants (overpriced) and the shows that call to me. I actually find Vegas a very depressing place. And if you drive out through the suburbs you wonder how many illegal and legal small time criminals live in those ghostly neighborhoods. Give me the open desert anyday.

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  3. I forgot to add that now I want to take a course called Architecture for Dummies.

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    1. I will see what I can do about that. LOL

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  4. I stayed at the El Rancho (near the end, and it was a dump with the thinnest walls I'd ever experienced. Not only could you hear everything in the next room, you could smell their cigarette smoke through the walls.) We love our annual fall mecca trip to Vegas. :)

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  5. But for damming the Colorado River with the Hoover Dam, which destroyed countless lives downstream deprived of water, there would be no Las Vegas. Bugsy Seagal and Hoover too deserve a spot in hell, where the mob sent at least one of them. And the sooner Las Vegas disappears the better.

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  6. PS These days Adleman (sp) the right-wing donor owns LV so anything you spend there goes to his interests, like Newt Gingrich and Trump.

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  7. One thing about Vegas....don't get too attached.

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  8. Interesting that you have watched it change over time. WE are not gamblers, so not drawn to Vegas. A company sent us there once for a convention, and we enjoyed wandering the strip and even enjoyed a show with Celine Dion. Fabulous.

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    1. I don't gamble either, but George made back the cost of the trip at the 5 buck black jack tables. We do for the shows. They are wonderful.

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  9. Talk about your jaw-dropping awe... to think that homes in Las Vegas, of all places, would lose 50% of their value is shocking. I thought EVERYONE wanted to have a home in Vegas. Thanks for the architectural lesson. It's something that fascinates me but about which I know so little. We don't gamble so Vegas isn't an attraction for us -- in fact, the last time we were there, the overhead light tunnel/show was due to open and we toured the back country instead, checking out the Red Rock Canyon.

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    1. I don't gamble either, but George made back the cost of the trip at the 5 buck black jack tables. We do for the shows. They are wonderful.

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  10. Three years ago we went back to Vegas for the first time in 40 years. We were shocked at the changes. We shouldn't have been, I suppose, but it was really incredible!

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