Professor: Las Vegas Strip A Thing Of All-American Beauty

Nevadans love to bash the Las Vegas Strip.

But when others do it, we get defensive.

So get ready to be surprised: a professor who has a new book that's published by MIT Press says Strip architecture is an All-American thing of beauty.

Stefan Al, professor of urban design at the University of Pennsylvania, says Strip architecture not only mirrors the likes and tastes of the country, it is sometimes a leader in design trends like in the 60s and 70s when neon signs and extravagant casinos bucked the national trend of sleek design. 

"I decided to write a book, not so much just on that period in the 70s, more on how the Strip is constantly evolving," Al told KNPR's State of Nevada. "I argue that it's constantly evolving and adapting to the latest trends."

Al pointed to how Las Vegas followed the national trend in the 50s when families were moving to the suburbs and building swimming pools. Las Vegas resorts started creating what he described as "single-family homes on steriods" with even bigger swimming pools. 

And today, the city's buildings remain a draw for tourists, according to Al. 

"One of the main components of its attraction is the architecture," he said, "And if you look at the early commercials of the casinos in the 40s and 50s the architecture of the place was always used as a way to attract people in a way that was logical because for a long time they weren't allowed to advertise gambling. So then casinos started to advertise with other key differentiators and architecture as a massive component."

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He said people walk from casino to casino to see the features that you can't find anywhere else, at least along one five mile road. 

And the city continues to innovate, Al said, because of the money and effort to be ahead of the latest trends, "you can really say that the architecture of the Strip is at the forefront of the building industry because there is simply so much money to innovate,"

While the days of replicated cities, like Venice and New York, are gone the more 'stark-itecture' that Al sees on the Strip now is still more spectacular and exuberant than you would see anywhere else.  

FROM MARKETPLACE: The history of the Las Vegas Strip is the history of how we vacation.

Editor's note: this story originally aired in May 2017.


Professor Stefan Al, University of Pennsylvania, Urban Design

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