Thursday, October 07, 2010

Nice places to write or read about

Here is Paul Goldberger writing about the CityCenter of Las Vegas. And here is his punchline:

Even though there is more density to CityCenter than there is to anything else in Las Vegas, and more sophistication to its architecture, it doesn’t feel urban. Its planners have crammed more square footage into a tighter space than anyone else has managed in Las Vegas, and that may make this place seem like an antidote to sprawl. But it still isn’t much of a center, or much of a city. Indeed, as you drive around the site, you suddenly wonder if CityCenter only appears to be different from the rest of the Strip. After all, cutting-edge contemporary architecture by the likes of Libeskind and Foster has been migrating steadily into the cultural mainstream for years. Now, perhaps, it has reached the point where it is familiar enough, and likable enough, to be just another style available for imitation, like the Pyramids or Renaissance Venice. CityCenter is the Las Vegas you already know, but in modernist drag.
He could have said Y-A-W-N. Las Vegas fascinates, but it does so for some of us at a distance. There are the cities one likes to live in (but not visit as tourist) vs. the ones one likes to visit (but not live in) and we can also list the places we like to write or read about but not visit. Perhaps Dubai comes next. The most attractive urban places are the ones the offer the possibility of (pleasant) surprise. Designers have a devil of a time coming up with such venues and when they try (Disneyland, some shopping malls, Las Vegas, new towns, etc.) the results may be worth seeing. But for many people, once is enough. The real draws (who doesn't like the classics of old Europe?) are the ones we try to return to as often as possible.