cover image The Strip: Las Vegas and the Architecture of the American Dream

The Strip: Las Vegas and the Architecture of the American Dream

Stefan Al. MIT, $34.95 (264p) ISBN 978-0-262-03574-3

Al, a Dutch architect and professor of urban design at the University of Pennsylvania, provides a tour of the Las Vegas Strip that is erudite, entertaining, and impossible to conduct in person, given the breakneck pace of demolition, refurbishment, and replacement that has been that city’s only constant. These shifts, Al convincingly argues, aren’t an outlier but rather a physical chronology of the American leisure imagination, from the Wild West to the atomic age to corporate glitz to Disney to the age of “starchitecture.” When cultural trends percolate elsewhere, they are poured into foundations in Vegas. The argument is fascinating both in its larger sweep and in its particulars. Al is a droll observer of culture and design evolution. The city is a story of fripperies constantly being added and altered: Circus Circus, a circus-themed hotel and event venue, made a splash until its owners realized that aerialists were distracting gamblers. Casinos rapidly abandoned the ’90s theme park trend when they learned that families spent far less per capita than visitors without children. Al’s Las Vegas is a story of the American national identity, and once you’ve bought in, this compulsive read won’t lose you a dime. Color photos. [em](Apr.) [/em]