Modernist Pilgrimage to Las Vegas

I recently visited Las Vegas for the first time and was unsurprised to find that it wasn’t exactly overflowing with modernist architecture. That isn’t to say there was a complete absence of interesting sights. Every so often, you would see an occasional bit of fifties/sixties architecture that had somehow escaped being bulldozed in favour of yet another tacky themed hotel.


The Neon Museum featured signs from old casinos and other businesses from Las Vegas’ past in a slightly surreal outdoor “boneyard” setting and had a spectacular restored lobby shell from the former 1950s La Concha Motel as its visitor centre (what a motel that must have been!). The boneyard stays open well into the night so you can see all of the vintage signs lit up in all of their neon glory.


The El Cortez, one of the oldest casino-hotel properties in Las Vegas and one of the very few to have never changed its exterior facade since it was last modernised in 1952, had a slightly dodgy Spanish colonial theme going on. Whilst it wasn’t exactly typical mid century modern fare, the unmodernised facade and interiors made for an interestingly musty 1950s time capsule.


We also came across a smattering of other interesting fifties/sixties buildings and a surprisingly good selection of retro shops, nestled in between tawdry looking chapels (including a drive-thru option apparently popular with celebrities).


In short, if you venture away from the strip, it is possible to catch glimpses of the Las Vegas of yesteryear, which in my opinion appeared to be a more interesting and glamorous place than it is today.


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