Las Vegas architecture, despite its uniqueness and historical intrigues, has been mistreated. Imploded, destroyed, affected by neglect or swallowed up at the breakneck pace of the last decades of growth, the individual meaning of once relevant buildings is lost. Since much of the population has recently arrived, there is the possibility of a more emotional breakup and buildings become vaguely familiar strangers.
But in focus: In Downtown Architecture in Las Vegas City Hall, photographers Jennifer Burkart and Ryan Reason extract them from the shuffle, new and old, for individual portraits that show their unmistakable personality. There is a sense of personal awe in most of the pictures – 25 buildings were selected. They are part of a community, intimate and warm.
Burkart and Reason, founders of the commercial photography studio Square Shooting, were selected by the Las Vegas City Bureau of Cultural Affairs last year to capture downtown buildings of architectural significance. Some were chosen by the city. Others were chosen by Burkart and Reason, the mainstays of the art scene who wanted to highlight structures that people pass by every day but rarely notice them while sharing elements of the city they love.
A picture of the Hotel John E. Carson on the 6th and Carson looks more like a painting than a photo and hangs next to a picture of the facade of the Catholic Church of St. Jeanne d’Arc – the neon sign parallel to the wooden door of the church and religious artwork.
The photos, which are now part of the city’s permanent collection, are designed in such a community-oriented manner that even landmarks like the Lou Ruvo Brain Health Center designed by Frank Gehry are presented up close rather than far and wide. In several pictures, branches in the foreground draw the viewer into the picture, regardless of whether it is the Bonneville Transit Center or the Smith Center and Symphony Park.
Whether they capture the communal, religious, cultural, or social institutions that round out a place, they show depth and connection in buildings that are not normally celebrated in an area that is about carefully packaged imagery.
In focus: architecture in the city center Until November 19th; Monday-Thursday, 7 am-5:30pm Las Vegas City Hall Chamber Gallery, 495 S. Main St., 702-229-6511.