Las Vegas vs The Landscape: Photographer Michael Light Exposes the Terraforming of the American Dream
“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.
Vincent Laforet is at it again, this time photographing Nevada’s Sin City from an elevation of 10,800 feet (8,799 feet above the city). Part two of Laforet’s dizzying series of city aerials, the Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer was drawn to desert city of Las Vegas because of its “island” effect.
“Just like the island of Manhattan that started this series, Vegas is an “Island of Light” in the middle of nothingness… A sea of black with an amazing source of light emanating from Vegas and its infamous strip… You can almost see the electricity running through it.”
A collection of “Sin City” images, after the break.
The idea of mixed-use residential buildings is rapidly gaining popularity in urban America. The concept of being able to work within walking distance of where you live is both convenient and economical. Matthew Rosenberg, design director of M-Rad Studio, recognizes this, and has proposed a dramatic live/work design for the Downtown Project of Las Vegas, Nevada. Titled Inter-Act Residence, the building (or, potentially, series of buildings) would incorporate modular offices and apartments, strategically arranged for interaction between residents.
A court approved ruling has sealed the fate of Foster + Partners’ half-built Harmon Hotel in Las Vegas. Unfinished due to structural defects, the 27-story glass tower was once envisioned to be the staple of the $8.5 billion CityCenter entertainment complex. However, since problems arose in 2008, the stunted hotel and casino has instead served as a glorified billboard.
Though it has yet to be determined who will be blamed for the faulty construction, owner MGM Resorts International has been granted permission to dismantle the blue glass building floor-by-floor at a cost of $11.5 million.
From the architect. Placing second overall, just a few points behind the winning 2013 Solar Decathlon team, students from the University of Nevada Las Vegas (Team Las Vegas) have won the “Market Appeal” contest at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) sixth solar-home competition. Known as “DesertSol”, the project was lauded for its “livability, marketability and constructability” as well as its “appeal within the housing market of the target client chosen by team.” It is designed to be a self-reliant, energy-efficient second home for upper-middle income Americans who pursue active lifestyles in the sparsely populated Mojave Desert. Read on for the team’s project description.
NASA, in cooperation with TIME and Google, has unveiled startling timelapse images of Earth from orbit collected by NASA’s Landsat program since 1984. This program, created not for spycraft but for monitoring the way in which humans are rapidly altering the surface of the planet, consists of eight satellites that have collected millions of pictures in the course of two generations. When sifted through, cleaned up and stitched together, these pictures come together to create a high-definition slideshow that reveals some of the drastic changes our planet is undergoing – most notably through widespread urbanization.
Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh has recently invested $350 million dollars of his own money into downtown Las Vegas, where the new Zappos’ headquarters will soon call its home. Working in the vein of companies like Google and Apple, Hsieh and the head developer of the new campus, Zach Ware, have worked together on making a workspace environment in which creativity – and, consequently, inconvenience – is built into the design itself:
“‘Our goal is not to create an office space that you take photos of and you say ‘Wow, that’s beautiful,” says Ware. ‘We’re incredibly function-oriented.’ Zappos’ core focus is on company culture and the relationships between employees. To enhance that, as odd as it sounds, parts of the office are deliberately inconvenient.”
Read Max Nisen’s article on Zappos’ “inconvenient,” new headquarters after the break…
In an age where almost every conceivable subject has spawned its own reality series – be it Dancing On Ice or Hillbilly-Hand-Fishing - PBS’s new show, Cool Spaces!, aims to stimulate the public’s curiosity by engaging us in the story behind some of North America’s most interesting public buildings. The AIA sponsored show, which is hosted by Boston-based architect Stephen Chung, departs from usual architecture-related television shows, which tend to focus on makeovers of private homes. Not only will this show look at public buildings, but it will also examine the people whose lives it has affected, the places that have shaped it, and the mind of the architect who brought all of these things together to design it.
Read more about the series and see a sneak preview after the break…
It began with the relocation of the Zappos Headquarters, now owned by Amazon, from its offices in Henderson, Nevada, to the former city hall in downtown Las Vegas: an idea to transform the struggling part of downtown Las Vegas into a vibrant community with economic opportunities for young professionals along with an incentive for a variety of companies to build their foundations providing jobs and income for the city. Despite America’s association with the Las Vegas strip, the downtown has a metro area dominated by unemployment, foreclosure and bankruptcy. Zappos CEO Tony Hseih saw this area, filled with vacant lots, liquor stores and motels, as an opportunity to develop something new and enriched that could foster an economy, bring young professionals and inspire natural growth of community and industry. Hseih’s Downtown Project aims to develop a community by listening to what people want and need from their physical environment, that is also dense, diverse and inspires economic growth.
Join us after the break for more.
assemblageSTUDIO recently won the AIA Nevada unbuilt Award for their project, Qlab. A communal atmosphere of open collaboration and interaction has replaced the typical open cubicle office to create a new generation, which has energized downtown Las Vegas. The desire to be all consumed and surrounded by likeminded organizations with a rekindled attitude towards downtown. This spirit is captured in the project by combining a café, lounge, residential and open bay modular office spaces. More images and architects’ description after the break.
Chosen for its outstanding construction management techniques and environmental sensitivity, the North Las Vegas City Hall and Civic Plaza was recently named 2012 Project of the Year by the American Public Works Association (APWA). Designed by Fentress Architects, the project was completed $17 million under budget in 2011 and as a result of a downtown revitalization effort, North Las Vegas’ new City Hall successfully consolidates the city’s departments into a one-stop-shop offering convenience, efficiency and ease of navigation for both city staff and residents. More architects’ description after the break.
USA Today has put together a list of city neighborhoods which are satiated with activity, areas which offer a “great slice of urban life.” These districts trend from the urban vicinity to its very core, each in itself exemplifying the revitalization of the American city. The list includes regions which have been influenced by deliberate urban revitalization projects, such as High Line Park in Chelsea; while other neighborhoods have experienced an influx of a younger populace which has contributed to its growth, such as Lawrenceville in Pittsburgh.
See the 10 Up and Coming Urban Neighborhoods after the break.
Architect: Line and Space, LLC
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Completion Date: 2011
Project Area: 52, 700SqFt
Client: US Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management
Contractor: Straub Construction
Structural Engineer: Holben, Martin, and White Consulting Structural Engineers
Civil Engineer: GLHN Architects and Engineers
Exhibit/Interpretive Consultant: Hilferty and Associates
Photography: Robert Reck, Henry Tom
At the peak of the modern era, a meshing of car culture and the Space Age brought about the gaudy and garnished Googie architecture. The signatures Googie style lie in sweeping arches and hard angles, cantilevered roofs and bold colors, and, its most relative homage to the Space Age, the starburst. The first of the Googie style, and its namesake, was a coffee shop designed by architect John Lautner by the name of “Googies”. With its place on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles the new style caught the eye of many passersby who began to associate the style with the glamour of Hollywood. The spread of this movement from Southern California went most notably north and south along the shore to become a symbol of west coast futurism.
Northern S.T.A.R.S. Safety Village, designed by assemblageSTUDIO, is a place where children learn real life strategies for dealing with emergencies while developing a positive attitude towards safety. The Northern S.T.A.R.S. Safety Village will combine traditional classroom education methods with unique interactive experiences in a realistic child-sized townscape. The overall design of the facility will also educate people on how to live in this desert region. With multiple sustainable systems people will learn how to live sustainably in the desert. More images and architects’ description after the break.
Architects: Rockwell Group
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Founder and CEO: David Rockwell
Principals: Edmond Bakos, Tucker Viemeister
Studio Leader: Gregory Stanford
Project Managers: Robert Vertes
Interior Designers: Penelope Fisher-White, Lauren Farquhar and Emily Morley
Staff: Ray Chuang, Harold Gainer Jodel Narcisse, Nancy Thiel and Rahm Erez
Project area: 10,000 sq. ft.
Photographs: James Medcraft