Daniel Liebeskind’s latest showstopper provides yet another example to support the theory that museum and consumer spaces are growing more and more alike. Mr Liebeskind, whose soaring angular neo-expressionist vernacular has seen him become known primarily for high-profile commissions for museums, public buildings or office buildings aimed at attracting blue-chip corporate tenants, has now offered us his vision for an unadulterated palace of pleasure.
MGM’s Mirror City Center in the heart of hedonistic Las Vegas is quite simply a stupendous development that sees Daniel Liebeskind creating the central hub – or city center- pulling together this ‘vertical city’ on Los Vegas’ central pleasure strip, between the Bellagio and the Monte Carlo. Nestled between tall skyscrapers housing literally thousands of private residences and a number of hotels and casinos –one in a thrusting 60 storey tower- the MGM Mirror City Center sees Liebeskind reapplying his signature asymmetrical spiky lines to a new context.
Call it what you will, it is fundamentally a shopping mall. However, this is an iconic and very exclusive shopping mall. Almost opaque from the strip, pedestrians are attracted towards a dramatic entrance that sits in the space between the highly reflective metal-clad forms with sharp edges that form the skin of the complex. Inside, the angular intersections and triangular voids that are all part of Liebeskind’s Cabinet of Dr Caligari style float high above the irregular floors that house the high-end commercial tenants. As in his museum structures, these dramatic neo-expressionist cathedral ceilings in contemplative white allow for a complex diffusion of light through the void spaces. And, as in his museal spaces, here too the expansive communal areas are filled with art works rather than tat. In other words, this is a shopping mall with the refined and rarefied air of a museum, exactly the right kind of ambiance for the luxury brand stores that the development aimed to attract.
Within Daniel Liebeskind’s elegant refinement of the shopping mall, we are reminded of the noble intentions behind this much-maligned architectural phenomenon. After all, architectural legends like Frank Lloyd Wright were amongst the first to embrace the potential of such a Utopian plan for consumption. So, all in all, it’s not hard to understand why luxury brands like Miu Miu, Bottega Veneta, Bulgari, Marni, Tom Ford or Louis Vuitton, to name but a few, have been happy to open stores within. With its refined museual sensibility, Mirror City Center signals exactly the right kind of image that such brands aspire to retain.
Of course, one could also contextualise this development in the larger picture for Las Vegas itself. It’s notable that approximately the last fifteen years has seen a shift in the approach to development within the city. Once known only for its tack and mob connections, for more than a decade there have been numerous examples bringing a little more style to the city without losing its penchant for the spectacular. Realising that the wealth to be made by and within the city, various developers have most definitely focussed on projects more likely to attract affluent middle-class visitors and potential new residents. In a perhaps unconscious realisation that the nouveau riche first stock up on bling and then look to culture and refinement of taste to augment their social status, MGM Mirror City Center is an excellent testament to the changing social attitudes and aspirations of the consumer, both American and in the form of international tourists to the oasis of pleasure in the Nevada desert. No longer content to conspicuously consume just any old thing, the contemporary shopper – whether local or visitor- expects find items of quality that denote a certain sophistication and taste.