On the Liminal Fertility between the Sacred and the Profane in the Sin City of Neon Lights

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Publication Date


Publication Title

2018 ACSA/COAM International Conference

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Madrid, Spain

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On the Liminal Fertility between the Sacred and the Profane in the Sin City of Neon Lights Learning from Las Vegas could easily be regarded as one of the most significant architectural publications in the last half-century. Excavating an unusual depth from Las Vegas’ (much criticized) superficiality, it brought attention to a new set of architectural ideologies. However, rather than spurring further investigations into the city, Las Vegas has largely languished in discourse isolation. Other than the brave Denise Scott Brown et al, few have returned for serious play at the city of gaming. And at first glance—however provocative an exploration of signage and casinos was—what else is there to a city built on monetizing hedonism, excess and pure id delight? What can be gleaned from yet another sprawling “failed” suburbia in the middle of a desert? How are a sea of parking lots and a dearth of sidewalks helpful insight for the 21st century, human-centric, walkable city? In fact, perhaps it should come as no surprise Las Vegas elicits such caustic contempt as a site for investigation—let alone speculative and projective exercises from its unique composition. Therefore, as any reader might ask themselves, how is Las Vegas relevant? While this is the central question we seek to explore, our departure point begins with the identification of a unique characteristic inherent to Las Vegas: the sin city of neon lights is an often impossible agglomeration of strong and contradictory binary landscapes—and it is these liminal conditions in between that both reveal an epistemic fertility that clamors for further study and reflects back the whole of civilization on itself.


Architectural History and Criticism