Resort architecture has its roots in Las Vegas, one of the first cities to combine gaming, entertainment, spas, pools, family activities and dining all into one hotel. Architectural masterminds Martin Stern Jr. and Homer Rissman were famous for the development of Las Vegas's integrated resort and their designs - from concept to construction - are now accessible online in a new UNLV Library digital collection. Photographs in the collection show Las Vegas's transformation from low-rise to high-rise so we asked architecture professor Glenn NP Nowak to reflect on Las Vegas's ever-changing skyline.
Built not to last: The style is all-encompassing. It's really just a global survey of architecture that's been molded or adapted to specific industry requirements we have in Vegas.
The architecture of Las Vegas happens more quickly, is built more quickly and torn down more quickly than in any other city or than in any other part of the world. The Strip and valley are constructed to only last for a limited time. It's silly to build something that would last as long as Doge's Palace in Italy if you can't anticipate what market is going to do. That's not the nature of the game.
On what Las Vegas does well: We can bring buildings to life here with smart screens, LED panels, and integration of water and fire. We're more experimental in a lot of respects and build with non-traditional construction materials. Las Vegas has an ability do that because there's an expectation that things will change here every few years. The Mirage's volcano, CityCenter's ice sculptures in its retail center or the Bellagio fountains are prime examples of this innovation.
The way we were: Looking back on Vegas's past skylines, there are a couple of takeaways. Since then, virtually the same design has been going up with slight modifications, like three-pronged towers or the subtle arced towers of the Wynn and Encore, Aria, and Red Rock. Historically, gaming is at the street level, hotels at the top and restaurants toward the back. I don't see those efficiencies going away but where we have room to improve is the variations on that theme in order to keep up with the competition.
It goes on and on and on: Caesars Palace is one of the most interesting properties to study because it has gone through addition after addition. It's almost like a living performance. It opened in 1966 and it was undergoing its first major renovation and addition by 1969. You could have come on vacation one year and come back another and it was different. It was going through such rapid expansion and has continued with major updates every decade and in some cases every few years.
Be "Green" Vegas: We should be much more cognizant of the carbon footprint of our buildings for a number of reasons. There is a huge market for potential visitors who would choose Las Vegas as a destination if they could come to a space that's environmentally responsible. We have some LEED certified buildings between The Palazzo and City Center projects.
Older properties, like the Tropicana, are constantly updating themselves to attract new clientele or boost occupancy rates. The easy solution is to tear down the old buildings but the more creative one is to let these buildings keep living and changing to meet market demands.
About Hospitality Design
The Hospitality Design program at the UNLV School of Architecture is a graduate concentration offered the last year of graduate study. Created in 2010, the program focuses on creating architectural spaces for the hospitality industry - from stadiums and casinos to restaurants and airports. The program is limited to 12 students, who learn from six leading Las Vegas architects behind today's Las Vegas Strip skyline. Students also take elective courses in the hotel college to gain a better understanding of the hospitality and tourism industries, customer loyalty, and market trends.