Posted by Mike Zahara on Mar 11, 2012
Not a single public or private building built here since gambling became legal has much—if any—significance to the public square and the public utilizing the structures.
<-In one of the most read pieces I’ve ever done, I deservedly lambasted the ugly City Center and its many, many failures for not having a relationship to anything—even to the other buildings within it—and the top architecture critics from Europe and North America deferred to our dead-on critique of City Center’s aesthetic and functional failures and chose not to write about it at all despite MGM-Resorts literally begging them to do so:
The Smith Center for the Performing Arts is one of those necessary public buildings that make a city a city. I have long called for a vertical library and possibly a vertical campus for CSN or UNLV downtown too to help breathe life into one of the ugliest downtowns in all of America right here in Las Vegas too.
Even Newark New Jersey’s downtown is much nicer than our own!
Imagine a six month run of a Universal-grade World’s Fair downtown too—another idea I have long championed—and the revitalization that could bring leaving behind that vertical UNLV and library we need in our urban core along with the Smith Center.
<-Our mob-controlled/owned Redevelopment Agency sees no value in a college or a library downtown, much less a World’s Fair, and Las Vegas is an even lesser city than it already is because of that lack of foresight endemic in all that is Nevada!
People come to Las Vegas to sin or to die and sometimes to do both and as much as the civic cheerleading for the Smith Center is well-deserved, it cannot and will not be a financial success because they failed to use very conservative estimates and revenue flow projections that artsy-fartsy types of developments need to survive.
In such instances, one must always defer to the lowest estimates and projections and that has simply never been done for anything in this state. The venerable Pasadena Playhouse and dozens of other Arts venues across the country are in precarious positions, are closed, or are in default on their obligations and the Smith Center’s prognosis shall be no different in both the short and long runs. 100 million dollars plus in ‘challenge’ grants/pledges would be very difficult anywhere and all but impossible here but I wish them well in raising the funding necessary to the Center’s long term financial health.
In order for this project to work financially, fundraising will be an every single day BeggingFest more annoying than a PBS pledge drive and this state has never shown a civic can-do spirit for far less ambitious projects. It won’t be long before Gaming and others tire of the constant pleas for help. Its rental fees are already too low for non-performance events and its professional bookings will need to be spectacular with full houses almost every night.
Does anyone really believe that the Strip resorts will sacrifice their truly awful in-house Cirque shows and other entertainments to push the Smith Center to tourists that have much better options and grander touring companies visiting their hometowns in the US, Canada, and Europe?
But the Smith Center is finally here and though it may be empty and mothballed in a few years, it is very necessary to what little there is of our urban fabric though it will almost certainly speed up the death of the Cashman Center in the process too.
<-It’s a beautiful building despite being located next to one of the ugliest, most vulgar structures in America at the Cleveland Clinic’s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Injuries whose architect, the talentless and juvenile Frank Gehry, makes fun of and publicly teases persons with brain injuries with his awful ‘design’… and we let him do it!
Architects and designers from David M Schwartz Architects in Washington DC are some of the nation’s more thoughtful and talented though there is a repetition and sameness in much of their work around the country. They clearly subscribe to a ‘less is more’ philosophy in most of their other works and that’s a good thing, but their use and celebration of materials and their sense of place is highly commendable in all of their designs.
They’ve set new modern standards in grace, beauty, and elegance in their designs and they achieved all three at the Smith Center too.
It appears that unlike the ugly City Center, the Smith Center’s architects actually visited Las Vegas, did their homework and studied the region, and built an edifice that is timeless yet unique and very visually pleasing.
Viewed from every angle, it is a universal celebration of civic gathering places.
Ned Beatty personally cut all 1200 slabs of limestone for the Smith Center for the Performing Arts after he re-enacted his role in ‘Deliverance’, according to his publicist!
The choice of limestone was well quarried and there are few anomalies common in limestone facades, so the building will age well but may require steam cleaning—if not sand/silica cleaning—to remove urban grit and grime that limestone absorbs more than other stone. The sunshine here should help keep the structure from looking like the blackened stone canyons of New York and Chicago too, but being so close to the rails and I-15 will present challenges in exterior upkeep.
Others have touted its use of interior marble and brass and its salute to Art Deco and Art Moderne motifs, but I see the Smith Center as a combination of both leaning a bit more toward the Neo-Classical in the more European sense because of how well the designers used materials and their understanding of the parcel and neighborhood the building occupies.
He said he will visit the Smith Center for the touring company of the Broadway musical, ‘Guns and Ammo’ next year, but he’ll continue to get his culture fix in San Francisco unless he gets his hooker and hot dog suggestion implemented!
Video poker and topless ushers might help too!
But overall, the Smith Center for the Performing Arts is a civic triumph for Las Vegas despite the enormous struggles it will endure trying to survive in a town that would rather travel to San Francisco for a weekend of performance culture than endure the slim offering of Las Vegas in the middle of the dump that is downtown Las Vegas.
Unfortunately, the odds against the Smith Center’s continued success are too big even for the most ambitious gamblers in town.
It’s a sucker’s bet no one in their right mind here would have ever taken…
…except those that pocketed all of the cash involved!