Viva Vuitton in Vegas
Even the most avant-garde architecture can be branded. Proof: one corner of a new shopping mall in Las Vegas, designed by Daniel Libeskind, the architect who traded in his mystical stance as a guru of deconstruction to obtain the Ground Zero commission. Part of the $11 billion City Center development opening next month, the half-million square foot mall—called Crystals in reference to its design—is a collection of metal-clad shards gesturing beyond the Strip to Nevada’s craggy peaks. One of those sharp shapes houses a new Louis Vuitton store. Rather than covering their establishment with the familiar “epi” checkerboard pattern of brown and yellow, Vuitton has instead merely appropriated the metal skin, covering it with a sea of “LV” monograms.
Vuitton has a history of working with the avant-garde. Most recently, it let the Japanese artist Murakami develop their brand into a fairy tale world inhabited by wide-eyed children. The company has also hired good architects—such as Jun Aoki and Peter Marino—to design their Asian flagship stores. And they’ve managed to make whatever these designers come up with feel like a natural extension of their two most famous trademarks: the “epi” and the “LV” monogram. Here in Las Vegas, they’ve been remarkably subtle. All they’ve done is take Libeskind’s metal skin and replace its abstract panels with a sea of “LV” monograms. The skin is the same, the building is the same, it just becomes a bit of advertising in three dimensions.
Then again, the whole City Center development is quite a departure from what was once the Neon Oasis, lending Las Vegas urban sophistication. The LV monogram on the Libeskind sums it all up: commerce is no longer crass, architecture can play the tables, and dreams, whether in the form of handbags, Venetian lagoons in the desert, or jutting architectural peaks, become weirdly real.
Critic, curator and museum director Aaron Betsky curated the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2008, ran Rotterdam’s Netherlands Architecture Institute from 2001-2006 and these days, helms the Cincinnati Art Museum. See his previous blogs HERE and check back next Thursday for his next post.