Many people envision bustling casinos and wild nightlife when they think of Las Vegas, but also worth noting about “Sin City” is that the architecture there is some of the best you’ll find in the western United States. Every city has a story, and Las Vegas’s is by far one of the most intriguing.
History of Sin City
First, it is important to know a little bit of Las Vegas’s history to understand where the great architecture in the city came from.
Did gangsters build Las Vegas?
Rumor has it that gangsters built Las Vegas, but this isn’t completely true. In 1829, Spanish explorer Rafael Rivera named the city Las Vegas, which translates to “The Meadows” in Spanish, while trekking along the Old Spanish Trail from New Mexico to California. While Native Americans, travelers, and traders would inhabit the region for many decades, the city was not actually formally founded until 1905 when construction of the San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad was completed. The completion of the Hoover Dam (then known as the Boulder Dam), which included electricity, brought even more people, many of whom were thought to belong to the Mafia.
So, where did the mobster story really come in? Even though there were some mob leaders who owned establishments throughout the city, the two most well-known gangsters who helped build Las Vegas were Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel and Meyer Lansky. Borrowing money from mob bosses, Lansky hired Siegel to oversee the construction of The Flamingo, which would be the city’s first casino. Things did not go as planned and the casino was not nearly profitable enough for the mob bosses’ desires. The mob “offed” Siegel in June of 1947 due to the casino’s poor performance and earlier rumors of theft, and it then officially took over The Flamingo and subsequently much of the city.
Aside from mobsters, arguably the most influential figure in the construction of Las Vegas was Howard Hughes. Known as one of the most prominent and quirky businessmen to ever live in the United States, Hughes dabbled in several major industries including entertainment, aviation and aerospace, and engineering. A significant amount of his wealth, however, came from scooping up properties, which included much of Las Vegas throughout the late 1960’s. Throughout the last years of his life, he purchased casinos, media outlets, hotels, and other businesses to transform Las Vegas into the city we know today instead of the so-called Mafia city it was for several years.
What style houses are in Las Vegas?
Since Las Vegas was developed later than many other big cities, it features all different styles of homes taken from different regions throughout different decades. Many other areas stick to a few styles with some noticeable outliers, but Las Vegas is home to every style from quirky to subdued.
It is important to note that the climate in Las Vegas is quite hot and dry, meaning architects have to factor this in when choosing what materials to build homes with.
You can find Desert Modern style homes in Las Vegas that give more of a minimalist feel that intertwines nicely with the surrounding desert. These are made with neutral colors, sleek frames, and more of a natural look. Similarly, Las Vegas is home to many Ranch style houses, which are typically shaped in an “L” with a garage and an open feeling due to minimalist designs inside. Some homes take the Ranch design even farther and feature a split-level design, with the first level having a large kitchen/dining room and a living area and the second level having bedrooms.
Seeing as Las Vegas remains home to many Native Americans, it makes sense that you will find Pueblo-style homes there. Puebloans built their homes with materials they obtained in nature such as adobe, and architects have “upgraded” this to the use of other materials like concrete or stucco but kept the same look, which typically includes a flat or slightly-sloped roof. Newer Pueblo-style homes in Las Vegas often also feature ceiling beams and very large, decorated doors, but these homes typically have one thing in common – a common area to promote a sense of family.
A lot of home buyers who love European-style homes opt for homes in Las Vegas that are made with a blend of Mediterranean and Spanish architectures. Stucco walls under terracotta tiles and low roofs give off a Mediterranean vibe, which couples nicely with more simplistic and less glitzy accents surrounding the structures. Many of these homes also have Spanish-style features like balconies, a pool, and/ or a small breezeway, giving them a more “open” feeling. With that said, there are also homes in Las Vegas that are purely styled based on Mediterranean or Spanish architecture alone.
Another European home style that can be found in Las Vegas is the Tudor style. These can typically be distinguished from other homes thanks to their steeply pitched roofs and several gables that overlap. These homes are usually built using a lot of bricks but also have so-called half timbering to add some flair through stucco or stone while still keeping an elegant look. Most notably, however, is that most Tudor-style homes have a prominent brick chimney that may or may not have some sort of decorative touch to it. The Tuscan-style homes in the Las Vegas area are similar seeing as they use stucco and stone in their construction, but they typically feature more earth tones and a less sophisticated, more simple, and more open look.
Are there modernist buildings in Las Vegas
As mentioned, Las Vegas is truly a melting pot of architecture styles, which includes modernism. Perhaps one of the most notable modernist buildings is the home at 861 East Bridger Avenue. Built in 1959 for famed orchestra conductor Antonio Morelli, the home features sharp horizontal lines, large glass panes for the walls, and other modernist features that give it a more midcentury style. This also includes a very open kitchen, living room, and dining room. In addition, another modern-style building located right off the Las Vegas Strip is the Guardian Angel Cathedral, a Catholic cathedral made with huge stained-glass windows supported by one large A-frame and twelve smaller ones that bisect it.
Intriguing Buildings in Las Vegas
There are both old and new buildings that deserve to be mentioned, as they have either influenced Las Vegas over the years or will likely influence it in the decades to come.
What is the funny shaped building in Las Vegas?
That depends which one you’re talking about… There are a couple of extremely unusual buildings in Las Vegas. Let’s investigate…
What is the big round thing being built in Vegas?
When visiting today, many people wonder what the big round thing being built in Vegas is. The building is being named the MSG Sphere at The Venetian and will be an upscale entertainment venue that can accommodate approximately 20,000 people. The venue will feature the highest resolution LED screen on Earth as well as so-called “Sphere Immersive” surround sound technology and 4D multi-sensory technology to enhance visitors’ experiences. The roof was initially constructed with 3,000 tons of steel before 6,000 cubic yards of concrete were placed on top of it. The interior frame was also built with steel and is able to handle the exterior and interior LED screens. Construction is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2023, and if everything goes as planned, it will span across 875,000 square feet, making it the largest spherical building in existence. So, if anyone asks what is the building in Vegas that looks like the Death Star, that’s it!
Another funny shaped building with one-of-a-kind architecture is the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. While many different people contributed to the building’s construction, it was mostly led by Los Angeles-based Frank Gehry after beverage guru Larry Ruvo, whose father passed away from Alzheimer’s, pleaded for him to build a research center in Las Vegas. Like the MSG Sphere, this structure was made with tons of steel, giving the building the ability to support itself. This allowed there to be more space within the building, giving it a more open vibe. Spanning 60,000 square feet, the structure includes uneven, angled windows (199 to be exact) and curves that make it look like a complex geometry problem in Math class. Shaped like an octagon, there are four stories in the building and it is made with many stainless-steel sheets that come with a special finish to eliminate glare from the sun. Opened in May of 2012, the center now operates as an event space, a venue for brain health programs and research, and the headquarters of Ruvo’s nonprofit foundation, Keep Memory Alive.
What is the oldest building in Las Vegas?
While the two aforementioned buildings are newer and exciting, let’s not forget the old ones! The oldest building in Las Vegas is a small part of the Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort, which was constructed by Mormon missionaries in 1855. The construction of the fort was impressive for that time, with builders using adobe to construct two bastions, four very long walls, and several two-story buildings within the outside wall. Usage and ownership of the fort switched hands many times over the next century, with most of the fort being demolished aside from an adobe shed that has been preserved over the years. Ultimately, the fort became a protected state park in 1991 and the remaining part cannot be destroyed.
What is the oldest still standing casino in Las Vegas?
Finally, if you’re looking for the oldest casino in Las Vegas to try out your luck at, the Golden Gate Hotel & Casino is the place to go. The property for the casino was purchased in 1905 and was initially made the Miller Hotel, which was the first property in Las Vegas to be built with plumbing and also the first building to get a telephone in the city. The hotel’s casino featured poker and blackjack tables before gambling was outlawed in Nevada in 1909. The hotel was expanded and the name was changed several times over the years, but the casino ultimately reopened when Nevada legalized gambling again in 1931. Construction on the larger casino area was commissioned in 1955, and the entire property (hotel and casino) was renamed the Golden Gate Hotel & Casino in 1974. The casino was doubled in size in 2017 and you can now visit it literally any time, day or night and stay there for a truly historic experience.