|1. Las Vegas welcomes you to a land of illusions.|
Architecture overlaps categories as well. A building sends overt messages by being -- sometimes very literally -- a sign. A steeple communicates church and golden arches say hamburgers. The 1972 book, Learning from Las Vegas, explored this idea. The authors (Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, Steven Izenour) contend that, in Las Vegas, entire buildings are really nothing more than signs. Driving up Interstate 15 at sixty miles an hour, the Excalibur Hotel, among others, acts as a billboard. It is an improbable fantasy of King Arthur's court. Its disproportioned towers and turrets are bright with color and impossible to ignore. The entire structure screams, STOP! We can entertain the kids and the parents! Go no further! One can easily imagine a family with children immediately persuaded to spend the night. Other Las Vegas structures beckon with exotic facades promising a night in Venice or a romantic stay in Paris. Most of these venues took shape long after Learning from Las Vegas was published. However, it is more true today than ever: Las Vegas hotels are not architecture; they are signs. The most honest assessment of this is contained in the name of one of the hotels: Mirage. These buildings are illusory. The over-scaled pinnacles and turrets of Excalibur have no interior resolution. There is no place inside the Excalibur where you are actually in a turret. It is an illusion. A mirage. A big sign. The Venetian hotel has indoor canals (astonishingly, flowing above the casino through a second floor shopping mall). The Paris hotel offers a one-fifth-scale Eiffel Tower. There is a pyramid down the street at Luxor. None of this is architecture. It is a collection of signs. Or, perhaps more charitably, grand theater.
|2. Excalibur promises Camelot with a riot |
of turrets, pinnacles, and battlements.
|2. Gondoliers serenade tourists in a |
fake canal beneath a fake sky at the Venetian.
|3. The giant hot dog in Bailey, Colorado.|
Residential architecture can enhance experience with meaning in varying degrees of subtlety and nuance. Among the possibilities: architecture can create a sense of arrival at the front door. It can convey charm and grace in our living spaces, relaxation where we sleep and communion with nature as it extends outward to terraces and gardens. Kitchens and breakfast areas can be bright and cheery; dining rooms can be romantic or or grand, depending on personal preferences and the weight of the occasion. Perhaps above all, architecture of all types can provide a sense of shelter and protection beyond the practical needs of keeping out bad weather or bad people. Architecture can offer a deep-seated assurance that all is well in our environment.
Interior decorating can augment these environments, but it is a failure of architecture if surface treatments and furniture arrangements are the only means to convey meaning. Architecture is meaningful in a powerful three-dimensional sense. It is accomplished by manipulating interior volume, controlling color and light, and arranging structure to support the intents of the design.
|5. Bernard Maybeck's Palace of Fine Art.|
3. Urban 2004.
4. John Perry.
5. Roger 469.