Las Vegas is known for plenty of fascinating things, including its unique architecture and design. Sure, Vegas has that one street that’s fully loaded with a faux Egyptian pyramid, a half-scale replica of Paris’ Eiffel Tower, and two casino resorts that are vaguely reminiscent of two famous Italian destinations (Lake Como and Venice). But when you take a closer look at Las Vegas’ architecture, you can discover all kinds of hidden gems and special treasures, including striking buildings that can only be found here.
On this note, let’s take a tour around Las Vegas and take note of some of the valley’s most underrated architectural wonders. Not only will we head to the most exclusive casino resorts on the Las Vegas Strip, but we’ll also head off-Strip to show you amazing buildings that you might not have even realized are here.
The Neon Museum
770 Las Vegas Blvd. N., Las Vegas, NV 89101
Located along a noticeably less glamorous stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard north of the US-95/I-515 freeway, The Neon Museum houses much of Vegas’ brightest and flashiest history. While here, make sure to visit the La Concha Visitors’ Center: It’s actually the lobby of the original La Concha motel that once stood on the Strip! Designed by the acclaimed architect Paul Revere Williams and opened in 1961, this mid-century modern building serves up plenty of Googie realness with its curvilinear, Space Age design.
Like many of the vintage neon signs that also live here at The Neon Museum, the La Concha lobby was originally set for demolition in 2003 to make way for the Majestic Las Vegas condotel project (near the present-day Fontainebleau casino resort). Ironically, the Majestic Las Vegas project itself was abandoned before the onset of the late 2000s Great Recession, but local preservationists successfully worked with La Concha owner Ed Doumani and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) to save the old lobby and move it to The Neon Museum, where you can now admire and experience this rare example of living Las Vegas history.
Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health
888 W. Bonneville Ave., Las Vegas, NV 89106
Though the Cleveland Clinic’s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health wasn’t the first contemporary building to reshape Downtown Las Vegas’ skyline, it may still be the one that makes the greatest impression on all who visit and pass by. Designed by the revered architect Frank Gehry and opened in 2010, the Lou Ruvo Center carefully and lightly evokes the shape of the human brain, yet it’s also quite uniquely whimsical with its many curved metal walls that are punctured with grids of windows.
Inside, the complex houses the Cleveland Clinic’s Lou Ruvo Center that’s dedicated to scientific research and medical treatment of multiple conditions and diseases that affect the brain, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and ALS (or Lou Gehrig’s Disease).
Some two decades ago, local beverage entrepreneur and philanthropist Larry Ruvo was on a mission to launch a new world-class brain health center in honor of his late father, Lou. When he first approached Frank Gehry to design this building, Gehry didn’t want to take on a Las Vegas project. But when Ruvo agreed to include Huntington’s disease in the Lou Ruvo Center’s mandate, that convinced Gehry to take on this project and design this now-iconic building.
Clark County Government Center
500 S. Grand Central Pkwy., Las Vegas, NV 89101
In many ways, the Clark County Government Center is the OG of Downtown Las Vegas’ reimagining and revitalization. Designed by Fentress Bradburn (now known as Fentress Architects) and opened in 1995, this 350,000 square-foot complex is full of surprises. Its striking red sandstone exterior pays homage to Southern Nevada’s most famous natural sandstone formations, including Red Rock Canyon and the Valley of Fire. Long beloved by locals, it was voted “Best of Las Vegas – Best Non-Hotel Architecture” by the readers of the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2005.
Not only does the Clark County Government Center house the offices and chambers of the Clark County Commission and other county offices, but it also has a child care facility, a law enforcement complex, a pyramid-shaped cafeteria, a cylindrical six-story reception hall, and even its own in-house performing arts complex. Outside, the Government Center has its own amphitheater and grassy lawn that’s popular for jazz concerts and other community events.
Paseo Verde Library
280 S. Green Valley Pkwy., Henderson, NV 89012
Located just over nine miles off-Strip in the city of Henderson, the Paseo Verde Library stands out amidst the vaguely Spanish-style suburban residential neighborhoods of Green Valley Ranch with its bold postmodern design. Opened in 2002, the Paseo Verde Library building looks a little like an old Southwestern military fort, a little like a newer airport terminal, and a whole lot like a very special place that makes you want to stick around and explore some more.
Not only does the Paseo Verde Library look beautiful outside with its fun and funky blend of red, green, and off-white hues, but it also has plenty of great treasures inside. In addition to housing much of Henderson Libraries’ standard collection of books to borrow, this library has a volunteer-run genealogy room, a bookstore featuring rare and antique books for sale, a 1,000 square-foot reading room (that’s visible from the huge glass wall on the north side of the building), and even a locally-owned and operated coffee shop.
Wynn Las Vegas and Encore
3131 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Las Vegas, NV 89109
We can’t discuss Las Vegas’ finest architecture without featuring one of the Las Vegas Strip’s present-day icons… Or in this case, two.
Built by the legendary local architectural and general contracting firm Marnell Corrao Associates and opened in 2005, Wynn Las Vegas marked a major turning point for the Las Vegas Strip. Just as the opening of his Mirage in 1989 ushered in a new era of themed mega-resorts opening up and down the Strip, (the now-disgraced former casino mogul) Steve Wynn opened a new chapter of the Strip’s evolution by championing an exterior design that eschews kitschy theming in favor of a sleeker contemporary look featuring rich chocolate and golden hues. Wynn then doubled down on this approach when he launched construction of a second casino resort tower, Encore, that opened in 2008.
Inside, Wynn and Encore continue to sport the influence of famed interior designer Roger Thomas (who worked with Steve Wynn on several of his casino projects) with their wealth of bold colors, rich textures, eclectic accents, and an overall aesthetic that manages to come across as fun and playful while still looking and feeling exceptionally luxurious. Meanwhile on other parts of the Strip, Wynn’s and Encore’s contemporary design launched a new generation of Las Vegas casino resorts that dropped theme park style design in favor of postmodern elegance, including Aria, the Cosmopolitan, Resorts World, and Fontainebleau.
Do you have a favorite underrated building in Las Vegas? Let us know!