I am having trouble seeing the 4-6 windows combined from the photos of the Bellagio. The close up does not help.
The first mentioned buildings seem brutalist esp. the second one.
It is a form of utilitarian architecture that has great appeal to me.
I think in part because it is rare now.
I find them far more pleasing to the eye than the giant glass clad high rises
that was the fashion for a long time.
I have read that it is now going out of fashion, but I have not yet seen any
Wanting to give my dogs new and exciting places to sniff and pee
I try to walk around in different neighborhoods in the area.
As have been doing this for many years now and the unexplored
neighborhoods are getting farther and farther out.
About two years ago, at random, I found a brutalist single
family dwelling. It is a big house for a single family but
it is the smallest such building I have ever seen, it is beautiful.
I truly stands out from all the other nearby houses.
I have visited that area often to take pictures and just look at it.
I would love a chance to see the inside.
If I had the money and I most certainly do not, id love to live
in a house like that.
It would make giving directions a lot easier as well.
I wonder if there exists brutalist "tiny homes".
That would be something to behold
For an explanation of the term brutalist see:
You can see it better in this high-res photo from Wikimedia Commons . Each of the square windows appears to span four rooms on two floors, while the lower floor rectangular windows appear to span three floors, making it six rooms.
The picture in the OP didn't make it totally clear, which left me wondering too, although I figured that's what they meant so it must be that way -- the fact that we have to look so carefully to verify it, I guess shows the success of the "illusion"!
That’s why it shrinks the apparent visual scale of the hotel, which has twice as many floors and twice as many rooms per floor as it seems from the “window” frames outside.
30 minutes later…
We watched Penn and Teller at the Rio. You look at a map, see its a block over from the strip, no problem. You walk out your hotel room and see the giant Rio sign, totally fine look how close it is!
20 minutes later you stare in horror at the same sign wondering how it hasn't gotten an inch closer to you.
It doesn't help that there's nothing in between the Rio and the rest of the strip. I've gone up and down the strip before and there's at least things to keep you occupied for those distances. But seeing nothing but that stupid sign is hell.
Going down Flamingo, the only intersection between the Bellagio and the Rio is I15. You could say maybe a block and a half, but that's still nowhere close to 30 minutes' walk.
> not anything deceptive about the city.
The entire purpose of the strip is to be deceptive, so it's hilarious that this is even an argument.
Sorry that you're so defensive when minor criticisms are levied against a stretch of road in your city. It's certainly a weird hill to die on, but you do you.
(It's not all that bad. The Venetian really is more or less across from the Mirage and Caesar's Palace is then reasonably close.)
The strip has always reminded me of the old western towns (at least, in movies) where there is a high street of grand facades, but it's chaos behind.
It's about a certain type of spectacle.
The only reason Las Vegas even has water issues is because of water rights, not anything that makes it inherently worse than the rest of the southwest.
I guess there were practical reasons in the beginning to not focus on adding additional finishes?
A good example of one where they did care a lot about the finish and its lasting finish is the Barbican in London - there's a little about it here 
Concrete eventually starts spalling, and high pressure washing actually accelerates the spalling process. The reason these buildings aren't washed more regularly is because of that tradeoff; it's not (generally) because of maintenance budgets. Once you get spalling, maintenance becomes expensive. The Barbican can afford it, but this is one of the reasons a lot of brutalist buildings in Eastern Europe are getting sealed and painted.
This is what I was thinking looking at that first Hong Kong building--it would look a lot nicer if it wasn't so dirty.
I live in a brutalist townhome and it exemplifies the things I love about the style, lack of ornamentation, function over form, yet scaled and appropriate to its location.
The simplicity and usefulness of the house lends it as much elegance as it needs.
It is not a facade, it is not cladding, it is the functional building its-very-self.
Brutalist buildings celebrate their exoskeletons.
It abandoned the far more ornamental Stalinist style for brutalism as part of Khrushchev's push for that.
Note the far more ostentatious buildings under Stalin and Stalin's rejection of Le Corbusiers extremely radical proposals for redevelopment of Moscow in favour of far more traditional designs.
To the extent it was later used as propaganda, that was a follow on effect once stagnation forced doubling down on construction that had initially been intended as relatively short term cheap housing.
Probably because it’s called good design yet it’s almost the cheapest possible design outwards. Convenient. But I think in 30 years we will facepalm at these white boxes we call houses.
Look at McMansions, which is a cohort of styles that are much easier to get wrong, and there are many objectively bad homes. But for minimalism, the worst you can often say is it's boring. Correct, but boring.
Also, more importantly, buildings are judged live by who sees them.
They should be. But in that period of time there was a whole lot of internationalism even as international travel wasn't cheap enough to be routine. So you could imagine a committee commissioning a famous architect like Le Corbusier from another country when most of them had only seen his buildings in photographs - and while colour photographs existed, printing them was expensive, so most widely circulated photos would have been black and white.
Brutalism embraced this constraint as well as the most expedient materials for building skyscrapers. Intellectually and aesthetically I like this choice of honesty in reflecting materials personally.
Where Brutalism failed is similar to other grand modernist projects: it failed to engage properly at the human scale, creating environments that look striking, but that also read to most people as cold and alienating. In practical terms this sort of grand architecture usually fails to anticipate how humans will actually use the spaces, leading to spaces that are opposed to humans organic behaviors.
All that said, when Brutalism is tempered with empathy, and combined with interior design that both features and softens its starkness, I quite like it. The old library in my home town was brutalist.
This is the exterior: https://th.bing.com/th/id/R.8b7a56ab55fbd5227b8d5c04be176e56...
Unfortunately there's no photos online of the old interior, but it did a good job of humanizing the starkness.
On the other hand, the exterior also showed the flaws of brutalism, having wide empty featureless grass plains that I never once saw anyone use for relaxation, a picnic, etc, in two decades of living in that town.
Keep in mind, that at the time these were built, these were generally meant as rapid responses to cheaply house large amounts of people with basic living standards. After the war, most places had most of their housing stock destroyed, and whatever was left was also in high demand due to postwar baby booms, and for rapidly developing "Asian tiger" economies like Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, rapid urbanization.
When you need to house millions and your budget is paltry, aesthetic is one of the first things to get chopped. And for many of the people who would live in them, having a unit with its own running water and electricity, toilet, bath and kitchen was a significant upgrade, especially if their previous residence was a tin shack in a slum or a refugee camp.
It’s like vinyl floors, it was the rage at some point and people really valued them. Or heavily decorated wallpapers. So many of that stuff is just considered fugly now.
it never was popular, it wasn't an organic movement. It was pushed by the Soviets and those sympathetic to them in Western governments and academia who used tax payer money to construct hideous buildings
Tangentially, speaking of non-organic movements, the history of the CIA funding abstract expressionist art in the Cold War to serve as a foil to Soviet realism is fascinating. Arguably there are echoes of those influences in this conversation.
Basically, cities were left levelled , and the postwar population and economic boom created an intense housing and building shortage over a few decades. new construction methods centered around concrete proved cheaper and faster, and helped bridge that shortage.
Brutalism can also be pretty pleasant when it's well done - which most of the building in that style aren't, due to being build as fast and as cheap as possible to address the situation at hand.
Brutalism like all other styles is a mixture of the requirements of the time and a response to the culture at the time. The building features the original article is railing against is simply poor design. A poorly designed classical inspired building will look exactly as bad.
The push towards stripping back ornamentation gained traction in the west long before the time Khrushchev was able to push for this in Soviet construction.
Albeit, as a Pole myself I think soviets created the best and most livable and efficient neighborhoods I've ever seen in the world.
There was no shortage of green spaces, parks, benches, people spent a lot everything was close on foot, public transport was efficient.
American style suburbs where development is horizontal rather than vertical are miles and miles of nothing where everything is far and requires a car.
Post 1990 economic gains killed soviet style neighborhoods as they were not designed for so many cars, people don't have as much space to socialize, kids have to go more far to play because parkings are put in those spaces.
I kinda hate cars for that.
And that's setting aside the question of why that system was so impoverished and what it chose to invest in. But the architects and urban planners deserve some praise.
A similar phenomenon occurs when architects place a modern building in a scene of beautiful classical architecture, sometimes even connecting the new building to the old. The "beauty" of this type of modern architecture is parasitic on pre-existing beauty and cannot stand on its own.
UMass Amherst's campus is famously too-brutalist  for the university's 21st century tastes. From my years there, the embarrassment was for good reason. The buildings make you feel all of the things I mentioned above.
Brutalism works when it either contrasts contrasts with its surroundings. Implant concrete-laden sharp-shapes into nature and the contrasting outcome is beautiful. Even America's most famous house : Fallingwater , uses huge concrete slabs exclusively while looking absolutely stunning. Another form of contrast is the Velasca Tower  which standout out like a sore thumb when set against its very Italian surroundings.
Brutalism wears on you the second it is used as a template for huge repeating projects. It has good shock value. But, do it enough times, and it is exhausting.
The PVC curtains seem particularly icky to me, reminding me of naff shower curtains and hospitals.
I remember eating at the Top of the Dunes restaurant as a kid - we would sometimes go there for Sunday brunch. Right before they demolished the Dunes to build the Bellagio they had a property-wide auction and the entire property was open during the process. I went through it with a couple of friends and we went up to the top of the Dunes - and I was shocked at how small it was vs. what I remembered from being a kid. I think the dining room was maybe 4 tables wide and 10 or so long - the space was TINY. But I guess being a kid and surrounded by windows on three sides made it feel much larger back in the day.
I agree with this and believe we should make beautiful structures. I’m not sure much architecture since the 1950s in the west really does this. Modernism was the last consistently great style imo. Post Modern styles just seem so temporary and self indulgent which I suppose reflects our time.
If anything, I think the 50s architecture opened the door to new ideas, helped us see what works and what doesn’t. Villa Savoye is a bit from before the 50s, but it basically feels like it could be built today it wouldn’t be out of place in any bit.
TBH I’m glad the 50s architects opened the future instead of clinging to the past.
Even your extremely arrogant musing on “clinging to the past” sums up the problem with post modernist ideas. You think we suddenly know better than thousands of years of experience. That much of what was done in architecture (and everything else) wasn’t just old ideas that were stubbornly held onto but rather the result of thousands of years of refinement about what works and has meaning.
> Glass houses are stupid for numerous reasons.
I don't know how much glass you see in "Glass houses", so I'd agree there can be extremes (same as for any style). Now, normal houses I've seen built in modern style are very pleasant to live in, highly practical and I wouldn't want to get back to a 19th century house short of getting paid millions to do so.
> You think we suddenly know better than thousands of years of experience.
Those thousands of years of experience brought us new techniques, new insights on what works and what doesn't. Builders have constantly moved forward for these thousands of years. People in the 12th century didn't stop innovating telling themselves "why would we know better than the 3 thousands of years of experience that led us here".
We stand on the shoulder of giants, to me it's our duty to push the envelope and not stand there ordering buildings to be exact replicas of what came before.
When I look at the Gare du Nord in Paris, I'm not lamenting that they didn't keep the dark and gloomy roof panels that used to be there for decades. I'm super glad it became a warm, luminous and welcoming place instead.
It feels like we optimize for the wrong things because the tech allows us to. We build bigger at the expense of quality. Seeing 3000 sq foot homes with a small number of vinyl windows, vinyl siding, laminate flooring, etc is weird. But engineered wood and trusses let us build big, ugly spaces for cheap.
Before I cone off as too much a crank there is a lot of great post modern stuff. Especially more recently.
The South Bank Centre is on the Thames and is decorated with trees, and the Barbican has a central water feature and garden.
They're also fairly opulent on the inside.
Trellick and Balfron Towers have some trees now, but didn't have much greenery when they originally opened.
The order/variety observation is absolutely right, and a core feature of practical aesthetics across all domains. Successful aesthetics are a fine balance between surprise and predictability. Even something as basic as proportion is based on comprehensible non-random relationships.
The Wundt Curve describes how too much order and too much chaos are both unsettling/boring.
Coincidentally the fountains were fixed yesterday after years of being turned off.
And like shipping containers stacked haphazardly in pictures taken in the winter: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/e3/Ha...
Reminds me of https://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/2014-11-16.
"Giant glass clad high rises" are not a fashion -- they're popular because most people in the U.S. and Europe like the way they look.
In some sense these pretty glass buildings are a symbol of American ideology. Free markets tipped the balance from the art elite, who wanted people to live in brutalist slaughterhouses, toward the common people, who like their optimistic, futurist buildings and are willing to pay for them.
It's how 'fractal' things are. There is at least one 3b1b video about this. I think humans prefer a fractal number of about 1.5 or so, which is about what nature is.
Is it the Golden ratio you refer to maybe (~1.6)?
So it's more like, citation required for any scientific evidence it does have unique aesthetic properties. At the end of the day, it's just a myth that keeps getting repeated, not much different from anything else in:
(Which also mentions the golden ratio in one of its bullet points.)
Neglecting that any three points make a triangle, so this is basically just saying "a frame with three things in it".
Three is also a sort of especially unspecial number. Zero things is sort of special in the sense that there’s no concentration of focus (shot of a landscape that just establishes the environment). If the focus is on one thing, then that’s really drawing a ton of attention to that thing (camera zooms in on the murder weapon and lingers). Two things can often be focused on the contrast between them (the villain towers over the hero). Three is the lowest number that doesn’t have a ton of baggage.
Those windows are massive but the proportions are deceptive. Neat.
In short, the designers of these buildings experienced trauma during the wars that changed their brains, in a way that makes human features upsetting. Most buildings reference human features in some way (mouth, eyes), and this modernism avoids that and calms their brains.
It aligns nicely with the astute observation about the windows, in that they humanize these large buildings.
Here’s an example: In the 80’s, in London and elsewhere in the UK, plenty of brutalist towers were demolished and replaced with more traditional brick two story houses, only for the residents to realise that they had taken a big downgrade to smaller darker houses, and were still living in a community with the same social problems as before that people said would be fixed by changing the style of architecture.
Brutalist architecture is a branch of modernism, like jazz and abstract paintings. Most of it is experimental, some of it is shit design and sticking plastic ionic columns on it wouldn’t fix it. I don’t think you can seriously dismiss the whole genre as the product of mental illness.
New materials could be used for designs with a mix of scales of features.
Just fads. Same way web site designs follow trends.
You can revert a website with some difficulty, good luck reverting a 5-10 building project!
Hope that helps you understanding.
I assume that, once time has made its effect and most of these buildings have been replaced, people will have good opinions about the remaining ones.
Brutalism really only emerged in the 1940/1950 after WWII.
How could anyone make a statement about "human features upsetting" someone like Le Corbusier. This is entirely ignoring 1/2 of his career. And the OP throwing in the Unite Habitat system with the rest of the specimens was a bit galling.
That's actually pretty progressive work for 60s and none of your local area housing projects look remotely like Corbusier's buildings, I assure you. (I did some delivery for a charity in NYC and I've seen the inside of those horrid places.) 2 entirely different mindsets and intellectually sloppy to throw in developer driven copycat crap with the works of architects like Corbusier or Mies.
You'd have to stretch the meaning of "eye" or "mouth" out so thin it becomes "opening"...
Also it would've shown in other forms of art whereas the post war artistic trauma lasted to the early 50s in movies and no longer.
But I also don't buy the theory that it was the war, as I think you see similar brutal design in Nazi and Facist architecture.
That's post Woodstock and so many cultural and artistic changes.
If there was something on the theory, you would have similar styles every after every genocide/war worldwide. Art and architecture history is way more complex then that.
"There is only one right angle; but there is an infinityde of other angles. The right angle, therefore, has superior rights over other angles; it is unique and it is constant"
s/right/white/ and s/angle/race/ and you probably have a direct quote from Hitler.
"things which come into close contact with the body, are of a less pure geometry"
You don't have to go around trying to give fake diagnoses to Le Corbusier to find where things went wrong. You just have to listen!
I'm always driven towards residential areas where the personality and style of the owner comes out in the property. In the US many suburban HOAs, apartment management and condo boards will put arbitrary limits on the appearance of the outside of the home. I can't stand the single family neighborhoods where all the homes were build at the same time, with the same builders, in the same style. In my neighborhood lots are of varying sizes, homes are built in a ~fifteen year span with different styles, and there is no hoa.
Condo buildings can generate the same level of sameness if several of them are built in the same neighborhood around the same time, with similar style, and enforce strict limitations on outside visual appearance. We see this a lot in the US when an area is "upzonned" and developers flock to build "luxury" apartments and condos. I prefer buildings where residents put furniture on balconies, hang decorations from their window, grow plants outside, and have blinds open displaying rooms styled differently than their neighbors. I prefer living in urban neighborhoods where the buildings are of varying ages and show different architectural styles.
Hotels can do enforce a very high level of uniformity. Additionally the amenities, furnishing, styling, and art are very much at the whim of current styles. This increases the "order" and decreases the "chaos". The order comes from function, and I wouldn't want to live in a hotel like environment.
Yeah I'm surprised nobody else mentioned this. The residential buildings have window AC units and people hanging laundry on their balconies to dry, two things you'll never see at modern hotels (the ones pictured don't even have balconies).
There's no apples to apples comparison happening here.
Though, that's not to say that the original point about the "window trick" isn't valid, just that it's not fair to compare buildings of different functions. Hotels can get away with it whereas residential buildings, not-so-much. Edit: office buildings can probably get away with it too.
People wanted individualisation, but the housing was needed. So they put color in their balconies, which made them look like color patches. And there existed big murals on the ends of some houses.
After reunification, a lot of these buildings were modernised and made look the same again. Only the color scheme between houses was different. Existing murals were often painted over. People then realised, it does look nicer to have coloured walls and they start to let artists paint the ends again.
Here is an example by the East German artist Mad C
Here is a video of Team Mad Flava, painting a large mural in Greifswald.
I really don't understand how people can enjoy the "us homeowner association" uniformity. It's boring. Let everyone personalize their home.
Step 1. Buy 640 acres of land (square mile) outside a growing and sprawling US metropolitan area.
Step 2. Wait 10-30 years, until the metro has grown to the edge of your land.
Step 3. Make friends with the nearest city council. Make friends with a developer. Talk about tax revenue. Talk about investing in local infrastructure and communities.
Step 4. Get annexed. Take out a large loan. Partner with local utilities to extend services, build roads, donate some land to the city for a park or elementary school. Establish a strong HOA with all the current trends to avoid eyesores dragging down your big investment until you move all the units. Accept deposits for new homes. Local population growth fuels demand.
Step 5. In five to ten years sell >8000 homes at an average cost of $0.5M, bringing in over $4,000M in business. You've made enough friends and connections to roll your cut into the best local opportunities.
Personally I think there's a beautiful chaotic honesty in the monster building. The Vegas hotels look phony, even more so now that I know their trick.
I disagree. For example:
> unless you like them, I'm not questioning anyone's personal taste
This type of soft-pedaling is too pervasive in people’s writing nowadays. It diminishes the author’s point when they are too afraid to commit to their own opinions because they might offend someone that disagrees. This constant affirmation of “you might disagree, and that’s OK,” is irritating.
Being tolerant is a virtue, but practice this by action, in life.
When writing a polemic, say what you mean! If anything, amp it up a little. Hyperbole and saturation is great when discussing matters of taste.
If you're going to critique architecture, you have the best examples. Just channel some Loos who ridiculed those in favor of ornamentation for being childish uncivilized country idiots. Had great effect, we're still living in its detritus. So just do the opposite here!
Being compassionate and understanding in your writing is a good thing.
I'm glad the author expressed that clearly.
So to be clear: I disagree, you are wrong... and to follow the mindset underlying your complaint, "fuck you".
When I was buying a house some years ago, and one of the places we were looking at was a subdivision outside town with all the houses being nearly the same. It was nice, and the seller talked about how they had chili cookoffs every year, and my partner really wanted to buy the place. My brain however was really put off, and wanted to get away, right now.
We ultimately bought a place in town, within easy walking distance of the main intersection and all of the businesses there, and right by the park so we could walk our dog. The house is much older, and looks like it's been added to over the years, which might not be to the author's taste but I really like the authenticity.
I guess when choosing between something completely designed from the top down to hide what it is and something that doesn't hide it's nature, I'm more drawn to the latter.
Europe has had many uniformly designed high density residence towers, with clean and very worked out exteriors, and it’s a hell to live in.
Balconies are a real QOL improvement, actual windows are as well. I had a friend who snapped after a year of not being able to fully open his windows.
There’s middle grounds, with glass towers that partially hide the balconies and AC units for instance to make it look clean, but you never end with the level of uniformity of the hotels in the article.
Now they can all look at a large park, and still only take up half the space.
Turns out I walked over a mile in the desert sun. Taxis and that rail after that.
On the other hand, I was also surprised how much better public transit seemed in vegas than in most us cities.
There isn't even that much traffic on the strip, the road-to-footpath ratio of land allpocation is absurd.
It's unfriendly because you have to walk so damn far to get around lanes that have little business existing in the first place.
And, yes, parking is generally in back--that's actually being pedestrian friendly! If parking was in front a pedestrian would have to cross a lot more parking lot to reach the casino.
And if you think there isn't much traffic on the strip you've just been there at the wrong time.
The Strip is even bad by Vegas standards: not only is Fremont entirely pedestrianised, Downtown in general is very walkable: pavement width matches foot traffic, amenities are close together, & traffic moves much more slowly than on the Strip / crossing-timing is relatively frequent.
For comparison, I've only really visited SoCal extensively (SD is super walkable, SF is as long as you're fit/not disabled, LA is worst than downtown LV but still nowhere near as bad as the Strip imo). East US I've seen Philly & Chicago which were both even better than CA.
I never said there weren't reasons behind it, just that it is very bad.
> if you take out the Strip the properties on the west side are going to scream because it's now hard for customers to reach them.
I mean if you blindly remove something from any badly designed system without replacing it or providing some alternative then yes, it'll probably get worse. That seems uncontroversial.
> Are you calling it unfriendly because it's set up to make jaywalking hard?
You can give priority to pedestrians, slow down the cars and put in obstacles for cars. You can build large roads to go around and up in places where pedestrians are likely to want to go.
Yet, in the case of Vegas, you can walk indoors in nice air-conditioned galleries and casinos for good sections of the strip. There are bodies of water and some vegetation, more than there should be considering the climate. Maybe could be better in terms of shade but not terrible either. It is also easy to find refreshment and drinks. Of course the intention of all that is for you to spend and gamble as much as possible, but if that's a problem for you, why are you visiting Vegas in the first place? That's what defines Vegas.
While “order” and “variety” are something that humans crave, that is something that can naturally come about because of “generative codes”. That the design process unfolds, with participation by inhabitants. Centers are identified, and design take all of that account. You end up with something that has both, universal invariants, while also uniquely in relation to everything around it and the people living within it.
The Mirage in particular actually has a pretty large skylight towards the front of the gambling floor.
For a las vegas style ginormous casino and hotel, many of them have the casino footprint much larger than the hotel footprint. You could have big diffused skylights over much of the gaming area, if you wanted. Of course, you'd augement that with lots of artificial lighting, so it would save energy, but not change the experience of roughly constant lighting 24/7
I read about this many years ago in "Fools Die" by Mario Puzo, which of course is fiction, but I think there may be some truth in there (One of the characters in the book is mostly based on the author himself).
Edit. Found an original quote from the book:
Gronevelt was dressed to go down to the casino floor. He fiddled with the control panel that would flood the casino pits with pure oxygen. But it was still too early in the evening. He would push the button sometime in the early-morning hours when the players were tiring and thinking of going to bed. Then he would revive them as if they were puppets. It was only in the past year that be had the oxygen controls wired directly to his suite.
High carbon dioxide levels do have a lethargic effect
Fun fact: Puzo had a serious gambling problem. He did most of his research for The Godfather while gambling in a Las Vegas casino (or several?) and interviewing the manager.
I also wonder if they use to do the same - to some extend - in trains and airplanes, I always feel quite relaxed while traveling by them.
I worked in a small casino and we had a huge front window that you could see south eastward. But yes I'm sure some some people lose track of time it's human nature.
There are also some casinos where there are restaurants above the gambling areas.