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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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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