As a long-time resident of Las Vegas, I have often expressed my frustration arising from our limited cultural identity outside of tourism and gaming. We are a city of transplants, and implosion is a way of life here. We embrace the new and the temporary, in both our people and our structures. This identity has been at odds with the sustainability of our community, as well as our natural resources.
I, for one, am thrilled with the completion of The Smith Center in downtown Las Vegas, a performing arts venue designed to stand as a unifying symbol of progress to residents and visitors alike. The building is a rare monument to our city’s deepening cultural values and artistic vision.
Architect David M. Schwarz turned to Hoover Dam as the muse that inspired his art deco-style design. Few structures in the Las Vegas area have been built to last, and many of our most recognized architectural examples are merely imitations of famous works elsewhere in the world. Schwarz created an original, 200-year structure from 2,458 tons of Indiana limestone and 4,000 tons of structural steel. Schwarz used no EIFS (Exterior Insulation and Finishing System) materials. These are the temporary products typically used to create the faux finishes on our hotels.
Art deco influences are also seen in the Center’s beautiful 19-foot chandeliers and wood paneled walls, as well as its terrazzo floors, which were specifically patterned after the dam.
Many original works of art were commissioned for the Center. A bronze sculpture cast by Benjamin Victor was inspired by Oskar Hansen’s “Winged Figures of the Republic,” the two figures that sit on the Nevada side of Hoover Dam.
The Center is not only an aesthetic tribute to the dam, but a spiritual one as well. It is fitting that this monument was constructed during the worst recession since the Great Depression, and the $470 million project created many jobs during a time when they were desperately needed in our community.
“We’re thrilled because 3,600 skilled workers made their living building this place,” said Myron Martin, president and CEO of The Smith Center, in an interview with Renee LiButti. “All of these custom lighting features were made in this city. We were proud to put people to work.”
The Center was built, in part, with $150 million in funds provided by the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation. This represents the second-largest philanthropic gift to the arts in United States history. Endowment funds will make it possible for the Center to continue offering a range of performances at affordable prices for years to come. Making art available to citizens, despite their economic limitations, is just one of the Center’s missions.
The Smith Center was green even before it broke ground. The project is sited on land granted by the city, part of a 61-acre parcel of environmentally remediated and reclaimed rail yards. It is also the first performing arts venue of its size to be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certified. The Center has incorporated features like water-efficient landscaping and plumbing fixtures, energy-efficient windows and the strategic use of natural light.
The Center offers more than a dozen different venues of varying sizes, from conference rooms to theater space. In addition to performances, the Center hosts meetings, weddings and special events. Indoor and outdoor venues are available. For more information, you may contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Smith Center is a unique and distinctive addition to our city’s skyline and will undoubtedly sustain our cultural heritage for generations to come.
Green Tip for May:
I spent my Earth Day communing with nature on horseback. As part of my journey, I visited the Eldorado Canyon mine about 45 minutes from Las Vegas and only five miles from the Colorado River. The 1860s historic site has been restored and opened to visitors. They offer trail riding, ATV and kayak tours. I highly recommend this experience. www.eldoradocanyonminetours.com