Postcard from Las Vegas: The Smith Center


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.