I must, therefore, give thanks to my brethren in the popular media for giving me one more reason to stay out of CityCenter in Las Vegas. This accretion of starchitect one-offs seems to have been conceived of as a Modernist tableau for Laura's animal collection in "The Glass Menagerie," supersized during a cocaine binge and sold to a crew of hapless investors by a maniacal timeshare hawker in a plaid suit who promised tickets to "Frank Marino's Divas Las Vegas" and a free vacation if they came to "just one meeting." It's a wonder (I wonder how it ever got built) but the kind of place you only have to visit once.
But now there is this: Several news reports have surfaced indicating that that solar radiation is being concentrated by the curved shape of the Vdara Hotel and overheating the unsuspecting users of its swimming pool deck. Here's a short video on the subject that ran on the TODAY Show.
The Vdara HotelThe Rafael Vinoly-designed building faces south and the pool area is south of that. Here is a shot of that elevation from Record's August story on CityCenter.
It seems to me that such a thing is well within the realm of possibility, for when I was a child (a very eccentric child I might add) I constructed a solar-powered parabolic hot dog cooker using only Styrofoam and aluminum printing plate, which I polished to a semispecular finish with 000 steel wool and jeweler's rouge I found lying around the garage. It didn't really work and I realised that to cook hot dogs what you really need is something like reflective architectural glass that is laid out in a precise curve, and you need a lot of it, a few tens of thousands of square feet would do it. Oh, and it wouldn't hurt to be in some location where there is a LOT of solar radiation. Like southeast Nevada. I abandoned this idea since what I really wanted was to take my cooker camping, and hotel-sized solar reflectors are not really backpackable, (although if you can carry a hotel with with you it will nearly always be preferable to a tent).
Nasty torts in civil courts seem to be the inevitable outcome of ignoring such a predictable design flaw, but I must say I hope this crisis doesn't go that far, because it's so easily solved. As we say so often here when we are desperate, "let's look at this as an opportunity." I would be very surprised if there aren't at this very minute some very sexy shading structures already on somebody's board somewhere that can be thrown up to effectively drop the burner on that hotel hotplate from medium high to medium low, if there are not hundreds of them. By morning I predict the Vdara's email box will be jammed with pdfs submitted by the hopeful throngs, for which they may thank me. (Planet Earth to architect: get your money up front; according to Tony Ilia's report in Record, last March the developers of CityCenter reported a $255M operating loss to the SEC.)
The Disney Concert Hall, dulled down to settle its own solar cooker lawsuit.
But, just to be on the safe side, Vinoly's office might want to add making a call to Marc Shiler & Associates to their things-to-do-today list (that's the Marc Shiler who is on the architecture faculty at USC--Hi Marc). According to this story we published a few years ago ( "Glare Report to Prompt Changes at Disney Concert Hall") his firm did the solar cooking studies on that building. He's quite a smart guy, and very nice too.
And to those who are not been happy to find they have lain in the cross-hairs of the sun's deadly locus while paying $15 for mimosas, I hope it will not come off as too paternal for me to say that people who subject themselves to massive amounts of solar radiation should not be surprised if they turn up smoked like racks of ribs. Isn't that the point? According to said news reports the Vdara staff call this phenomenon "the death ray," which sounds like it will soon be marketed as another overpriced Las Vegas attraction. If you ask me, and you get what you pay for here (unless you are buying mimosas). I'm sure I will be joined by other slavish slatherers of 70 SPF in saying "we told you so" when your dermatologist goes after you with a tank of liquid nitrogen in a few years.
Now would someone please hand me my floppy hat? It's almost time for my nap.
Photos: Vdara © Brad Feinknopf; Disney Concert Hall Wikipedia Commons