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Las Vegas Is Learning
Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown changed the way we think about Vegas, but the city they loved and wrote about so compellingly has changed almost beyond recognition, and will keep on doing so. Its latest metamorphosis is a startling one: high-rise density oriented toward pedestrians. Is this urbanism in drag, or can CityCenter successfully bring traditional ideas about the civic realm to the most car-oriented place in the country? Sam Lubell checks in.
Courtesy MGM Grand Mirage

Las Vegas has become a barometer for architecture, though it’s usually a little bit behind the times. It was all glamorous modernism in the 1970s, but by the 1990s, local developers here were obsessed with postmodern fancies that brought the world close, and down to size: The Venetian had its own Grand Canal, and the Paris arrived with a scaled-down Eiffel Tower, while New York, New York went so far as to put maintenance staff in uniforms like those worn by Sanitation workers in the five boroughs. At the turn of the century, developers moved toward upscale, lifestyle-oriented resorts and boutique hotels like the Wynn and the Hotel at Mandalay Bay.

Now another shift is underway: The MGM CityCenter, still under construction, is creating iconic buildings in a dense, mixed-use environment. Believe it or not, Vegas is selling urbanism—or at least a local version of it—and taking a page from cities around the world by using big-name contemporary architects to generate interest.

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Sam Lubell

With contributions by Alan G. Brake, David D’Arcy, Julie V. Iovine, Danielle Rago, and Aaron Seward.