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Las Vegas: Where architects run free

In a place where it seems absolutely anything goes, it would be weird if Las Vegas didn’t have a lot of eye-catching and unusual buildings. With its well-established fantasy image, Sin City is the one place in America where architecture’s boldest and bravest practitioners can live out their wildest design dreams. For the visitor, this means an ever-changing skyline that definitely adds to the awe.

Here we take a look at a few of the best and barmiest buildings the city has to offer…


Best of The Strip’s Classics

Ever evolving, with some of the world’s most expensive hotels and casinos continually jostling for attention, The Strip is home to more than its fair share of arresting architecture.

The last 25 years have found casino-hotels really wearing their themes on their sleeves. As we all know, it’s now possible to see the Statue of Liberty (New York-NewYork) and the Eiffel Tower (Paris Las Vegas) within a block of each other.

When it comes to post-modern pomp however, Veldon Simpson is the name to know. The architect already had the crazy Camelot-themed Excalibur and the relatively austere MGM Grand to his name when he set to work on the Luxor. At 350-foot (110 m) this monster stands at three quarters of the height of the Great Pyramid of Giza from which it takes its inspiration. Though its influence is ancient, the Luxor with its gleaming bronze glass exterior, is about as modern as it gets. Even with the recent addition of adverts, you might still want to slide down its shiny sides. A safer and more realistic option is to take a ride inside in the lifts, which travel at 39 degrees – ‘inclinators’ not elevators.

Newer Kids on the Block

When it opened in December 2009, the CityCenter complex truly took things to the next level. Comprised of six separate pieces, it has about as many curves, colours and odd shapes as you could conceivably fit in one block. It’s like a mini city within a city and was touted as a vision of Vegas to come.

Amazingly, while its audacious appearance screams Vegas, only one of CityCenter’s buildings, the Aria, actually has a casino. In fact, the most fascinating thing here – if we had to choose – is the residential Veer Towers. Designed by Murphy/Jahn Architects, these twin towers actually lean in opposite directions, evoking the wooziness you’re fairly likely to experience at some point during your Vegas stay. In keeping with the ‘New Vegas’, Veer Towers’ innovation also claims green credentials, having been awarded Gold certification by LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design).

Perhaps every bit as wonderful in its wonkiness is The Crystals shopping and entertainment centre, which sits beneath the towers. Aptly named, its shops’ facades jut out at weird angles all over the place as if vying for their place in the Nevada sun.


A Living City

It might not be immediately obvious, but Las Vegas isn’t just a tourist attraction. And believe it or not, some of the city’s most interesting architecture can be found in non-commercial developments, like the strikingly modern Salvation Army Hope Chapel. Best of all though, is The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. It’s a bit of a mouthful but even more of an eyeful. The spectacular structure by the iconoclastic Frank Gehry folds all over itself as if its metallic sides had been cast while red-hot then bent out of shape. Visiting a centre for serious scientific research is probably the last thing you’d think of doing in Vegas, but it’s well worth a trip off the tourist track to see this building’s astonishing form up close.

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