Great cities have certain things in common—things like an active citizenry, an engaged architectural community and a signature skyline. Well, we’ve got one out of three.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Las Vegas, but for Las Vegas to become a truly great city—a city that has a connected and strong sense of place for all of us who call it home—architects must get more deeply involved in the city-making process.
To be sure, we do a great job of making buildings. But what about making a city? By city-making, I mean creating a great place that has three crucial components: context, cultural integration and ease of use. Context means you know where you are. Cultural integration means you identify with the place and attach meaning to it. And ease of use is exactly what it sounds like: It’s inclusive and has no barriers to access.
What makes architects suited for this tall order of city-making? Well, architects understand better than most people both the social and physical aspects that make up a great city. We see the big picture as more than just a sum of its parts. We’re students of great cities and understand the traits that make most cities great—traits such as walkability, open space, a sense of excitement, public places, and beautiful skylines.
So why aren’t architects involved in the city-making process in Las Vegas? A number of reasons. One, we’re too busy. There’s nothing wrong with being busy in itself—particularly as we’ve been busy struggling with the demands of the recent recession and we’ve needed to use all of our energy to survive. But as the economy recovers, we need to shed the survival mindset and transition to a thrive mindset. We need to get involved in community organizations that are focused on building a better community. We need to sit on local town boards, our homeowner’s associations, planning commissions, and run for offices. We can make a difference.