Here are a few more images of City Center, the city within a city recently erected in the middle of the Las Vegas Strip. It is, as I've noted, a vision of the future as it might have been imagined in the Sixties — cold modernism inflected with the charm of a future locked in the past, and thus unthreatening. If this seems confusing, conceptually, it merely reflects the conceptual confusion you encounter when actually visiting the place.
It is an architectural folly, on a grand scale.
The automobile entrance to the Aria Hotel is a vast roundabout with a fountain in the center, on which colored lights play. One large section of the curved wall next to the port-cochère is a waterfall with continually shifting patterns.
The designers of the complex have done a good job of simulating the quirky progression of spaces you find in a city that has evolved organically over time. Still, you feel the planning that has gone into it all — it's like an urban environment in which zoning laws, not the life of urban dwellers over generations, have determined the mix of the thing. There is much here that is surprising, but nothing really startling — nothing on the order of a brownstone basement turned into a funky little leather bar by some eccentric entrepreneur with a dream, much less a friendly neighborhood porn shop.
Of course, you find less and less of that sort of thing in the modern Manhattan of the duppies, too. Ordinary people create true cities, not planners, however imaginative and humane, and there always has to be room for what percolates up from the bottom, where most innovation begins. There is no way up from the bottom at City Center, as there is virtually none in Manhattan these days — money and new notions of social hygiene have driven those forces of innovation elsewhere, or merely stifled them.
Still, it's interesting to wander through this preposterous and misguided dream of a city, simply because it is a dream. If it lacks the grit and vitality of a real city, especially these days, when it has so few visitors, one is nevertheless touched by the effort to celebrate urbanism, to imagine and recreate its delights. The sheer surrealism of it is engaging.
The waterspout in a tube Harry is sitting on above looks like some sort of public space toilet.
The valet pick-up station at the Aria has a black and white video wall on which random words scroll across. It's neither beautiful nor inspiring, but it's bold.
Back home, in the comforting mess and clutter of my apartment, created according to no conscious plan, I search for le mot juste to describe City Center — and find it to be “an inspired void”. An inspired void in the center of the inspired void that is Las Vegas — the true capital of the modern world.