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Light Matters: A Flash Back to the Glittering Age of Las Vegas at the Neon Museum

Thanks to the increasing availability of giant LED screens, the Golden Age of Neon has quietly faded in Las Vegas. For decades casinos defined their visual identity with colorful neon signs and competed for the most innovative signage. But with casinos closing, being refurbished and the arrival of new lighting technology a lot of neon signs were replaced, and for many years the Young Electric Sign Company kept the old neon signs in their "boneyard" for storage and recycling. Fortunately historic preservation groups rescued these signs. With support of the arts council The Neon Museum was born to save neon treasures and to educate the public.

Read on to explore Las Vegas' luminous landmarks and The Neon Museum.

Neon Museum featuring more than 150 unrestored signs, Las Vegas. Image © Neon Museum, Front exterior of the Mint Hotel, Las Vegas / Nevada, circa 1957. Image © University of Nevada, Las Vegas University Libraries. Young Electric Sign Company (YESCO) Collection. Colour-changing neon sign on the façade of the Stardust Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, 1969. Image © University of Nevada, Las Vegas University Libraries. Young Electric Sign Company (YESCO) Collection. La Concha Motel lobby building, designed in 1961, was rescued from demolition and moved to its current location in 2007 to serve as the Neon Museum’s visitors’ center. Architect: Paul Williams. Las Vegas. Image © Neon Museum,

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

Vincent Laforet's "Sin City" Shows Vegas from 10,800 Feet

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. 

M-Rad Proposes Live-Work Towers to Revitalize Downtown Las Vegas

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.

Foster + Partners’ Unfinished Vegas Tower Approved for Demolition

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. 

Solar Decathlon 2013: Team Las Vegas Places Second, Wins “Market Appeal”

© Jason Flakes/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon
© Jason Flakes/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon

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. 

Google Timelapse Reveals Effects of Rapid Urbanization

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.

J2 Residence / assemblageSTUDIO

© Bill Timmerman
© Bill Timmerman

© Bill Timmerman © Bill Timmerman © Bill Timmerman © Bill Timmerman

Zappos to Build Intentionally Inconvenient Office in Las Vegas

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... 

New PBS Architecture Series Features 'Cool Spaces!'

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 Chungdeparts 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 who's 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...

10 Up and Coming Urban Neighborhoods

Photo by David Hilowitz
Photo by David Hilowitz

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.

Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center / Line and Space

  • Architects: Line and Space
  • Location: Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center, 1000 Scenic Loop Dr, Las Vegas, Nevada 89161, USA
  • Architect: Line and Space, LLC
  • Structural Engineer: Holben, Martin, and White Consulting Structural Engineers
  • Civil Engineer: GLHN Architects and Engineers
  • Client: US Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management
  • Contractor: Straub Construction
  • Exhibit/Interpretive Consultant: Hilferty and Associates
  • Area: 52700.0 ft2
  • Project Year: 2011
  • Photographs: Robert Reck, Henry Tom

© Henry Tom © Robert Reck © Robert Reck © Robert Reck

Northern S.T.A.R.S. Safety Village / assemblageSTUDIO


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.

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas Interior / Rockwell Group

  • Architects: Rockwell Group
  • Location: Las Vegas, NV, USA
  • Founder And Ceo: David Rockwell
  • Principals: Edmond Bakos, Tucker Viemeister
  • Studio Leader: Gregory Stanford
  • Interior Designers: Penelope Fisher-White, Lauren Farquhar and Emily Morley
  • Project Managers: Robert Vertes
  • Staff: Ray Chuang, Harold Gainer Jodel Narcisse, Nancy Thiel and Rahm Erez
  • Area: 10000.0 sqm
  • Photographs: James Medcraft

© James Medcraft © James Medcraft © James Medcraft © James Medcraft

Copper Haus / assemblageSTUDIO

  • Architects: assemblageSTUDIO
  • Location: Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
  • Landscape architect: Attanasio Landscape Architecture
  • Area: 8000.0 ft2
  • Project Year: 2009
  • Photographs: Drew Gregory

© Drew Gregory © Drew Gregory © Drew Gregory © Drew Gregory

Veer Towers / Murphy Jahn

  • Architects: Murphy/Jahn
  • Location: Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
  • Architects: Murphy Jahn
  • Lead Designers: Helmut Jahn & Francisco Gonzalez Pulido
  • Associate Architect: AAI Architects Inc
  • Structural Engineer: Halcrow Yolles
  • Mep: Flack + Kurtz Inc.
  • Client: MGM Mirage Design Group
  • Area: 841844.0 sqm
  • Project Year: 2010
  • Photographs: Rainer Viertlboeck

© Rainer Viertlboeck © Rainer Viertlboeck © Rainer Viertlboeck © Rainer Viertlboeck

House In Two Parts / assemblageSTUDIO

  • Architects: assemblageSTUDIO
  • Location: Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
  • Architects: assemblageSTUDIO
  • Materials Used: Integra cmu, weathered copper panels, low e windows, wood joists / framing
  • Area: 6000.0 ft2
  • Project Year: 2009
  • Photographs: Courtesy of assemblagestudio

Courtesy of  assemblagestudio Courtesy of  assemblagestudio Courtesy of  assemblagestudio Courtesy of  assemblagestudio