Vegas casinos have spent so much money and effort on creating miniature versions of the most urban places on earth -Venice, Rome, New York, Paris -yet have completely failed to build a single thing resembling a piece of real city. The Smith Center is exactly that missing element, a glimpse of genuine urbanity. It is not, however, entirely unthemed – it is executed in impeccable Jazz Age art deco.
David M Schwarz, its architect, argues that deco is the city’s default style, the style of the 1930s buildings beneath the neons and of the Hoover Dam. It’s interesting that in the wake of the phenomenal success of a film such as The Artist , as pure a pastiche as it is possible to get, no critic has chided the director for using a historicist technique. Yet, in architecture, the merest whiff of a revival creates a murmur. Is that confidence in the absolute rightness of contemporaneity – or is it insecurity?
Either way, the Smith Center is an enjoyably complex work.