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Unbuilt Las Vegas: Imagining Failed Dreams

By skennedy on January 30, 2018 10:11 AM | Permalink

An architect’s unbuilt projects are sometimes more interesting than the ones that are built -- perhaps because they survive as the unadulterated image of the architect’s design unblemished by the client, actual construction and renovations, and aging. They can display a whimsy that often only survives in preliminary sketches.

A new exhibit, "Unbuilt Las Vegas: Imagining Failed Dreams," highlights visions of dream Las Vegas architecture that, for one reason or another, were never built. The exhibit, in the Florence “Flo” Mlynarczyk Gallery on the third floor of Lied Library, is curated by Peter Michel from architectural collections housed in Special Collections and Archives

While there are any number of wildly imagined Strip resort ideas and proposals that could fill a good-sized coffee table book or website, the exhibit eschews Bob Stupack’s Titanic, the Star Trek Enterprise, the Beverly Hillbillies Resort, the various London Resorts, or Moon, all which seem to belong more in comic books than as actual buildings. Instead, it looks at a number of proposals created by Las Vegas architects whose drawings were donated to Special Collections and Archives. Many of these architects had designs that were built and which still in some ways define Strip architecture.

"These unbuilt projects are proposals that went beyond an outlandish illustration, (although they may contain outlandish illustrations) to actual and sometimes elaborate design drawings," said Michel. "Sometimes some version may have been built. Because architecture is a visual art, part of what we want to show is simply the art of drawing, sometimes with a pencil on paper, and how drawings were created and used to present ideas that ultimately become the blueprints for construction."

Architects whose designs are featured in this exhibit include Martin Stern, Jr., Homer Rissman, and Gary Guy Wilson.

Then-UNLV architecture students Tyler Stanger and Jimmy Chang discovered many of the designs in the exhibit while processing collections as part of a Dean's Associates-funded Special Collections & Archives project in 2016.

Unbuilt is a companion exhibit to "BUILT: A Photographic Survey of the Built Environment of the Las Vegas Valley," on display on the first floor of Lied Library. BUILT is curated by Aaron Mayes from images taken as part of the Building Las Vegas collecting initiative.