a research practice working at the intersection of architecture, technology, art and ecological pedagogy

2003 Public Private Pedestrianship – towards a critical experientialism of the inhabitable image (in Las Vegas)

Public Private Pedestrianship – towards a critical experientialism of the inhabitable image (in Las Vegas), in Karin Jaschke and Silke Oetsch (eds.), Stripping Las Vegas, A Contextual Review of Casino Resort Architecture (Weimar: Bauhaus University Weimar Press, 2003)

The paper can be found here: StrippingLasVegas-PPP


“Billions of dollars from the worlds financial markets have been fashioned into … a combination of space and form … in light and dark …[that] is one of the largest private investments in public art anywhere”

Hal Rothman, Neon Metropolis

“These new ‘knights of purity’ advance onto the scene … brandishing as banners the fragments of a utopia that they themselves cannot confront head-on.”

Manfredo Tafuri, L’architecture dans la boudoir

Since the 1972 publication of Learning from Las Vegas, by Venturi, Scott Brown and Izenour, for whom “Las Vegas represents the rejection of modernism” the city has been thought of, and discussed as, a phenomenon of postmodernism. It is however, more useful now, to reconsider Las Vegas as one of the great cities of modernity. In this city, modernist standards such as the assemblage, the readymade, the collage and the Gesamtkunstwerk have been, and continue to be, reworked through the logic of an architecture of consumption. By pursuing an understanding of Las Vegas within a broad modernist history it becomes possible to discuss this city in terms of the other spatial leisure and communications projects of modernity.

This paper is particularly interested in the new forms of public space and civic infrastructure emerging along the Strip. Simultaneously, 19th, 20th and 21st century urban demands around public transport, the civic environment, and the communications infrastructure are being articulated and realised in this city. They are developing in non-typical ways: public transport is emerging in the form of trams between casinos whilst a highly developed audio-visual communications infrastructure is being prototyped along the Strip in the form of casino advertising and effects, servicing a leisure industry rather different to that of most cities. This paper primarily explores the contemporary development of pedestrian space on the Strip and the effects produced by the deployment of the modernist device of the ready-made.

… Examples of this tendency to use ready-made urban form as commodified public space can now be found all along the Strip. In order to understand exactly why this formal device has been so successful in developing an experiential sidewalk infrastructure it is necessary to take into account the relationships between the resort developers and the three public bodies that operate in Las Vegas: the State of Nevada, the Clark County Commission, and Las Vegas City Council.

As a historically non-industrial, frontier state, Nevada has always operated a low tax policy, designed to attract new business. Indeed Nevada has a constitutional amendment forbidding it to raise a state income tax. This effectively means that Nevada State is financially unable to support infrastructure development. Within the Las Vegas area the responsibility for infrastructure then falls to the two other public bodies previously mentioned: the city council and the county commission. Both of these also operate low tax policies, and are similarly restricted with regard to civic development. Instead there is a policy of encouraging property investors to build public infrastructure in return for political support for development.

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