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An Architect in Vegas

I wasn’t surprised to see slot machines almost immediately after stepping off the plane at the Las Vegas McCarran International Airport. Nor was I ever less than completely satisfied with the dining, nightlife, or our free upgrade to a penthouse suite overlooking the main strip. I was surprised however, at how impressed I was by the city’s architecture. In fact, the entire experience was really incredible and visually fascinating.

I love flying, so for every journey the flight itself is almost as exciting as the stay. For this trip I was fortunate enough to steal the window seats on both the departing and returning flights. During landings and take – off, I’m always intrigued by how the sense of scale changes and how we perceive the world as it steadily recedes within that small glass window. Very quickly Philadelphia began to look more like a site model, and at 38,000 feet, it’s like an extremely large model at an incredibly small scale. I’ve never flown cross country before, so I really enjoyed seeing the landscape transform: vast white clouds, to endless farm fields, to snow-capped mountains, to barren red dessert and rock, and then all the sudden there’s an enormous city in the middle of the desert.

When we landed, most noticeably I could see the Stratosphere Hotel and Casino in the distance. During the cab ride to our hotel, the allure of the famous Las Vegas strip was still a mystery as our route hadn’t intersected it. The entrance to the hotel is enclosed by a semi-circle structure and canopy with continuous and controlled flows of water trickling in various amounts. The ground floors of Casinos/Hotels are always interesting to me. It’s not the endless rows of slots machines and tables that captivate me; it’s the sheer size of the space that holds them, and how incomprehensible that is from the outside. Contrary to most Casino’s I’ve been in, the first floor at the Aria Resort and Casino felt mostly airy and spacious. You experience a series of compression and release as you navigate through different spaces on the ground floor and to the elevators. After rising 25 stories, we walked through a curved corridor (a curvature clearly expressed on the exterior of the building) towards our room. As soon as we opened the door, the TV automatically turned on and displayed the room temperature, followed by the curtains opening automatically and revealing a portion of City Center. The view is an overwhelming but captivating spectacle of intertwined buildings and structures. The circular structure marking the entry is a main focal point. Adjacent is Gehry’s “Crystals” shopping and dining center, which sits at the base of two skewed sister towers screened with yellow-green colored glass. Additionally, a monorail track is seen weaving through. Looking further out, the city gradually dissolves into barren desert and eventually the red rock mountains. The night shot is equally impressive.

Other photos reveal some day-time adventures, including a trip to the top of the Stratosphere Tower, New York New York, and a quick taxi drive – by glimpse of the Eiffel Tower Restaurant. Before I knew it the weekend was over, and 90 degrees and sunshine turned into 60 degrees and rain. As they say, “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”, however the experience has certainly left a lasting impression.