I won’t pretend to have any grasp of the history of architecture. Nor will I assert that I know much of anything about principles of, contemporary trends in, or prominent figures of architecture. But, as is often asserted by the ignorant, I know what I like. And now I will admit that I was surprised to find that I enjoyed strolling the strip and experiencing some of the excessive, overblown buildings that bring so many people to this desert city year after year.
I’m not so much talking of hotels like Treasure Island, with its campy pirate ships, or the Mirage and its volcano. Nor do I mean the Disney-like settings of New York or Paris. Rather, I’m thinking of the tributes to classical achievements like Caesar’s Palace, or the interiors of the Venetian. There are some great scenes to experience. While over-the-top in their own way, they yet manage to recall something of architecture’s ability to inspire awe while bearing testament to the human spirit. Great buildings are a necessary expression in any culture’s attempt to establish some degree of permanence and project itself into the future.
The irony here is that the continual tearing down and rebuilding in the competition to be the latest and most outrageous, luxurious, or spectacular, undermines the sense of human triumph over mere mortality that grand architecture was traditionally able to inspire. The vanity and greed of these buildings’ origin and the decadence in and around them obscures this aspect in the narrative about Vegas and hides it from us.
Nonetheless, the fact that they still impress is testament to the fact that grand works feed the human spirit. That makes me just a little hopeful.