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Las Vegas vs The Landscape: Photographer Michael Light Exposes the Terraforming of the American Dream

“Barcelona” Homes and the Edge of Lake Mead Recreation Area, Lake Las Vegas, Henderson, NV; 2011. Image © Michael Light, Lake Las Vegas/Black Mountain
“Barcelona” Homes and the Edge of Lake Mead Recreation Area, Lake Las Vegas, Henderson, NV; 2011. Image © Michael Light, Lake Las Vegas/Black Mountain

“Nestled into the desert landscape that defines Nevada’s visage,
Ascaya feels as if it were shaped by the elements.
[...]
Where stone rises up to meet the sky, there is a place called Ascaya.”
 - The Ascaya promotional website

Not quite, according to Michael Light’s soon-to-be released book, Lake Las Vegas/Black Mountain. Covering the advance of suburban Nevada into the desert, this two-part book looks at Lake Las Vegas, a then-abandoned victim of the 2008 real estate crash which has since emerged from the other side of bankruptcy, and nearby Ascaya, a high end housing estate that is still in the process of being carved into Black Mountain. Light’s photography doesn’t so much question the developers’ summary as it does, say, blast it, scar it, terrace it and then build a large housing development on the remains. Featuring beautifully composed aerial shots of the construction sites and golf courses covering the desert, the book is a clear condemnation of the destructive and unsustainable development in Nevada. Much more than that, though, Light is highlighting a wider philosophy behind developments like Ascaya and Lake Las Vegas that fundamentally fail to connect American society with the American landscape in a non-destructive way.

Sun City” Hiking Trail Looking Southeast, Unbuilt “Ascaya” Lots and Black Mountain Beyond, Henderson, NV; 2010. Image © Michael Light, Lake Las Vegas/Black Mountain Unbuilt “Ascaya” Lots and Cul De Sac Looking West, Henderson, NV; 2011. Image © Michael Light, Lake Las Vegas/Black Mountain Gated “Monaco” Lake Las Vegas Homes, Bankrupt Ponte Vecchio Beyond, Henderson, NV; 2010. Image © Michael Light, Lake Las Vegas/Black Mountain “Roma Hills” Homes And Foreclosed “Obsidian Mountain” Development, “Ascaya” Lots Beyond, Looking South, Henderson, NV; 2012. Image © Michael Light, Lake Las Vegas/Black Mountain

LA’s Iconic Case Study Houses (Finally!) Make National Register

Ten of Los Angeles’ Case Study Homes have been deemed historically significant an worthy of being included on US’s National Register of Historic Places. Despite the Los Angeles Conservancy’s belief that all of them deserve “equal preservation protections,” the 11th home was not included due to “owner objection.”

The Case Study Houses spawned from a post-WWII residential experiment, presented by the Arts & Architecture magazine in 1945, which introduced modern movement ideas for affordable and efficient housing. The homes - designed by the likes of Richard Neutra, Charles and Ray Eames, Pierre Koenig, Eero Saarinen and others - redefined the modern home. And, with the help of Julius Shulman, placed Los Angeles as an epicenter for mid-century modernism. 

The 11 homes included on the register are:

Julius Shulman (1910-2009)

Case Study House #22, (playboy), 1960 Los Angeles, CA / Pierre Koenig, architect   © Julius Shulman
Case Study House #22, (playboy), 1960 Los Angeles, CA / Pierre Koenig, architect © Julius Shulman

Case Study Houses was a residential experiment sponsored by the Arts & Architecture magazine, introducing the modern movement ideas for affordable and efficient housing during the post-war years in the US. The result? Amazing houses by Richard Neutra, Raphael Soriano, Craig Ellwood, Charles and Ray Eames, Pierre Koenig and Eero Saarinen, built between 1945-1966 mostly in LA. Most of you already know about this… mostly due to the incredible photos that registered this houses, reflecting more than just pure architecture, a lifestyle. And the man (genius) behind the lens was Julius Shulman, who passed away yesterday July 16th, 2009. A selection of his photos after the break.