Lane Raffaldini Rubin
TOWER & SLAB - Las Vegas, Nevada
Harvard University Graduate School of Design
Architecture Core Studio III / Autumn 2015
Critic / Renata Sentkiewicz
The project has two fundamental units: Towers and Slabs. There are four slender Towers, only as large as is necessary to hold an elevator core, stairs, and one or two hotel rooms per floor. The result is a Vertical Schism that separates each room from all the others within the Tower.
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Placed near the four edges of the site—at the end of a block in Downtown Las Vegas—the Towers leave a large open area between them. Spanning across that area is a vertical succession of thin concrete Slabs that pierce the Towers. These Slabs act as platforms on which large collective programs [theatre, galleries, spa, fitness, pools, and greenhouse] take place.
The vertical disposition of programs seeks inter-floor affinities between Slabs, unlike the hotel room floors of the Towers which deny such association. The sectional disposition of Slabs allows certain slabs to act as shading devices for exterior spaces [and enclosed volumes] that lie below. The Towers read as completely vertical, the Slabs as purely horizontal. So if the Towers lack an interior, then the Slabs lack an exterior.
We understand the building as a system of Towers and Slabs. The project, then, is not strictly a form, but it is doubtless a mineralized active form, an abstract machine for fitting collective activities within a framework of discrete vertical shafts.
Suffice it to say that Downtown Las Vegas lacks dynamic urban qualities like layering, programmatic juxtaposition, framing of near and distant views, density, and social condensation. The Slabs offer a critique of and an alternative to this deprivation but deny the typical manner in which Las Vegas hotels—through thematic environments, “hyperspace” disorientation, Ducks, and Decorated Sheds—offer their own alternatives. By stacking new grounds into the air, the Slabs represent urban surfaces that afford those qualities that Downtown Las Vegas otherwise denies. Albeit passively, the Towers frame the activities that take place on the Slabs and lend them their properly urban character.
If there is no room—as it were, no interior—in which to dwell in the Towers, then one must dwell upon the Slabs. If the Slabs are disposed in order to permit rhizomatic connections, programmatic affinities, and an ambiguity of interior and exterior space, then the form of dwelling that will take place there is one characterized by wandering and collectivity. It is not a domestic dwelling, nor an individual one. And it is a form of dwelling that simultaneously faces inward [toward the interior urban grounds and the space created therein] and outward [toward the city of Las Vegas and toward the World beyond].