History of Vegas Architecture Impress anyone by knowing the early beginnings of Sin City and its structures

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It’s no secret that the Las Vegas Valley dominates as Nevada’s commercial and cultural hub. Giving Hollywood and New York City a run for its money, Vegas has also been named one of the “Entertainment Capitals of the World” due to its nightlife, mega hotels, resorts, casinos, performances, parties, and non-stop activities. One of the most visited places on Earth (surpassing Times Square, the Eiffel Tower, and Mecca), anyone who drops in to see this desert oasis is sure to be blown away by the beautiful buildings emerging from the Mojave. But how did it all begin?

Get ready to impress your clients, friends, and colleagues with exciting tidbits on the history of Vegas architecture.

Start Your Engines

Las Vegas was founded in 1905 after the opening of a railroad linking Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. The city was the perfect pit stop for water—first for wagons, then for railroads, and finally for cars. 

By the late 1960s and early 1970s, cars were becoming more popular and common, taking its place as a cultural centerpiece in America. Famed architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown traveled to Sin City to experience and analyze its architecture, noting that Las Vegas buildings often faced the highway, catering to this new automotive culture. 

Party in the Front, Business in the Back

The goal of Vegas architecture was to turn the exterior into a spectacle. To draw interest from passersby, Vegas buildings displayed bold visual statements on their towering structures and designs. Anything that set a building apart made it more intriguing—whether it was windows, signage, neon and other artificial lighting, arches, or columns. If the building was less visible, its design was more subdued.

A Whole New World

Intentional themes and sense of “place” were erected within each building. Interiors offered a remix of different styles, ranging from what architects called "Miami Moroccan" to "Yamasaki Bernini cum Roman Orgiastic” to “Bauhaus Hawaiian”. The architecture that filled Vegas was a literal and metaphorical doorway into a new world—a fantasy—where the average person could escape into a marvelous, brilliant, fantastical universe completely different from the one they knew—or have ever seen before. Venturi and Scott Brown weren’t wrong when they called Las Vegas one of "the world's 'pleasure zones'".

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and that is exactly what hotels and buildings in Las Vegas started to do. Excitement, glitz, and glamour were achieved by replicating some of the world’s most famous and recognizable structures. Visitors could spend an afternoon at the Grand Canal, the Eiffel Tower, the Trevi Fountain, the Red Pyramid—all in miniature, of course. Paris, New York, Egypt, and Italy were suddenly accessible without crossing any oceans or trekking across the country. 

What Now?

Vegas is known for reinventing itself to keep up with new trends, new architecture, and new demands. Neon signs have been replaced with screens. Visuals and navigation are now geared more towards actual pedestrians rather than people in their cars. Classic has lost to modern. It's hard to find truly historic buildings in Las Vegas, but there a few left on the National Register of Historic Places that are fun to see and visit. Vegas is the king of staying power, and it knows just how to revitalize itself when and where it sees the chance.

Interested in Las Vegas Architecture?

If all this architecture talk has you thinking about Las Vegas homes for sale, feel free to contact us today. We would love to assist you in finding the perfect Las Vegas luxury home or real estate for sale.