The Other City Centre Project

Everything in Vegas is done bigger. Their City Centre complex is tich larger than Ottawa’s. Even our forever-proposed-but-never-built new City Centre project is about 2 million sq ft of space whereas the Vegas one is 16 million square feet. The Vegas one has lots of underground parking: 6900 spaces, in the 9.2 billion dollar project.

It is impressive, but not always in a nice way. The architects belong to the make it bigger, make it odder school of architecture. There are few attempts to make it intimate, personal, pleasant: instead it’s all schlock and awe.

How, exactly, does one feel entering your condo front lobby, which is already about six stories up and accessed by a “bridge” over a chasm, to discover the lobby is very shallow but extends up a half-dozen floors, with walls of raw concrete, that slope inward over your head? Is it WOW, or is it scurry into the elevator time, before it all crushes down on you?

The interior malls are equally very large-scale, very brutal, futuristic, and stunningly cold. Some of this is due to Frank Gehrey’s Crystals mall, which is a typical Gehrey crumpled-up piece of paper built big and clad with titanium shingles.

When discussing our impressions of the complex with our waiter across the Strip (shown above, about 14 lanes) at a nice Chinese resto he got all excited about the “secret” pizzeria at the Cosmo. “Go up the escalators right to the top”, he said breathlessly, “look for the billiard tables (yup, there are public billiard tables in that lobby) and find the little tiny narrow corridor that runs back, there’s no signs, and way back at the end of the dark hallway is a hole in the wall pizza shop that sells marvellous pizza. A real find”.

So, ever open to urban exploring we went searching for the back alley pizzeria in a high-rise. We found it in an instant. The billiard tables were right where they were promised. The hall a bit wider than promised. It was dark only in the sense of the long lineup of black-clad trendies crowding the hidden gem. Ahh, marketing!

The 37-storey yellow-green buildings (bile green?) are called the Veer Towers. Because they tilt at 4.6 degrees off vertical. Doesn’t sound like much, and they look easy to construct since the structural columns just rise vertically and the tilted portions are in the cantilevered bits of walls. They are colourful when seen in passing, but to stop and look at them … naah, not so much. They promote a sense of vertigo.


Towards the back of this huge complex are some more hotels and condo towers. They are connected to adjacent properties by an elevated ropeway tram. It looks nifty soaring high above the multi-lane freeway that bisects the site. But useful other than as a novelty? Well, it ain’t the #95.

The hotel behind the tramway is the Aria, two big curved towers with saw-tooth edges that throw shadows and patterns on the walls. Now I would be interested in seeing something like that on a smaller building in Ottawa rather than the usual rigid rows of balconies (The Claridge Strand building at Kent/Somerset has sawtooth balconies but no where near the same effect).

Here’s the exterior of another building, in dazzling colour:

Who would like this megaplex of giant-scale buildings?  Well, obviously lots of people do, because they stay there, or own condos there, or shop there, party there, and gamble there. But there is one group of Ottawans that would most definitely like the Vegas City Centre project, and here is a clue:

Yup, Ottawa traffic engineers would be giddy with excitement and admiration. Huge, multi-lane highways instead of streets. Pedestrians restricted to elevated bridges and devious out-of-the-way zig-zag routes where the destination disappears around yet another corner. Ariel people movers to get peds out of the way of cars. Keep those cars moving! Yup, Vegas must be their wet dream, their planning zenith *, their Corbusian fantasy of high rises on a plain, peds are locked away, out of sight, on elevated parks and interior malls, nothing to get in the way of moving more cars faster.

Me, I’d take Disney anytime. He keeps cars out, and pedestrians happy in a friendly appropriately scaled environment.



* or nadir?


One thought on “The Other City Centre Project

  1. I find the buildings cold and repulsive. Hiding people so cars can go faster seems a backwards way of doing things.

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