Las Vegas Sun

June 12, 2024

At least Vegas architecture isn’t this bad

Discussing a hotel known as the world’s worst building, a critic disses the Vegas Strip



Top: The critically derided Ryugyong Hotel is under construction in Pyongyang, North Korea, again this summer after work stopped in 1992 because of financial difficulties. Inset: The Luxor proves that when it comes to what some call bad architecture, Las Vegas is one of the best — or worst.

There’s this hotel, the Ryugyong, in fabulous North Korea that has sat unfinished for more than a decade and has been variously called “The Hotel of Doom” and “the worst building in the history of mankind.”

So in the process of doing a story on the Ryugyong, a reporter for Reuters wire service contacted one Bruno Gilberti, who told him, “If this is the worst building in the world, the runners-up are in Vegas and Shanghai.”

Gilberti happens to be the associate head of the architecture department at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.

So, we asked him, just what building in town does he think looks North Korea bad?

In an e-mail sent from Turkey, where he’s traveling, Gilberti responded: Just about all of them.

Mostly, he means the Strip, which he says displays “a certain naivete of taste,” and “has no authentic sense of place and is thus more than a little soulless.”

On the upside, he says all those other cities’ gigantic buildings are soulless because their size and style will not admit intimacy and cannot be experienced on a human scale.

So maybe ours are too, but at least we did it on purpose.

“Las Vegas is a special case in the sense that there has been such a focus on creating environments, from Circus Circus to New York-New York, that simulate everything but what the reality of Las Vegas really is as a desert metropolis,” Gilberti writes.

All of which is maybe true, but isn’t it a bit like going to Disneyland and complaining Space Mountain is fake? That’s what we do here.

It turns out, though, that Gilberti thinks there is a real Vegas. He’s neon nostalgic.

“Many people clearly find this lack of authenticity entertaining; I find it depressing, especially when compared with the real and popular style that the old Las Vegas of the Sands and Tropicana, the Mint and the Golden Nugget once had,” Gilberti writes. “The Strip and Fremont Street of the 1950s and ’60s did not pretend to be anywhere but where they were, and they were fascinating at that.”

We’ll merely note that, art aside, these days Las Vegas makes a lot more money.

Oh, and back to the Ryugyong, which is supposedly under construction again. In our opinion, it looks like a Disney castle as designed by Darth Vader, but there’s one description everyone can agree on:

It’s a pyramid-shaped hotel with 3,000 rooms.

The Luxor has 4,408 rooms, glass on its windows and a giant beam of light shooting out the top.

So who are you calling a “runner-up”?

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