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La Concha Motel - Paul R. Williams - 1961 - Las Vegas

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Message  Predicta Dim 29 Avr - 22:04

Hats off to the folks at the Las Vegas Neon Museum for preserving the La Concha Motel lobby. The La Concha Motel was designed by Los Angeles-based architect Paul R. Williams. It was located on the Las Vegas Strip, near the Riviera (which is now closed - wah!) and was open from 1961 to 2003. Last week, I visited Las Vegas for the first time in many years. It was my first time seeing the La Concha intact. My last time at the museum, the building was in pieces. BRAVO

La Concha Motel - Paul R. Williams - 1961 - Las Vegas 12823510

In Las Vegas, there is a neon graveyard located on three acres off North Las Vegas Boulevard. This outdoor lot is called the Boneyard, perhaps in reference to the legendary elephant graveyards of Africa. The lights may have dimmed on over 200 vintage neon signs, but they are not dead, only rescued and preserved by The Neon Museum. While French chemist Georges Claude invented the neon lamp, it was the competing hotels and restaurants of mid-century Vegas that turned them into art. Walking around The Neon Museum, the visitor sees the remains of Las Vegas kitsch—a 10-foot-tall martini glass complete with a lighted cherry, the giant glowing lamp from the Aladdin Hotel, thousands of incandescent bulbs, glittery signs and lots of neon glory (image 23). The Boneyard is also the home for one of Paul R. Williams’ most unusual buildings, the iconic 1,100-square-foot La Concha Motel lobby, his salute to Southern California Googie architecture.

La Concha Motel - Paul R. Williams - 1961 - Las Vegas Period10

The genealogy for the architecture of La Concha Motel is traceable to a Southern California restaurant designed by John Lautner, Googies, whose mascot was a cartoon waitress with fried egg eyes. Cheap, modern, flashy, where form does not follow function, Googie-inspired buildings were aesthetically unrestrained. Architectural historian Alan Hess described them as “cartoons in steel and glass, designed to catch the attention at highway speeds.” While the style was dismissed by intellectuals of the 1950s and 1960s as “a little too western, and a little too American for serious consideration,” it was immensely popular with the rest of the country.

La Concha Motel - Paul R. Williams - 1961 - Las Vegas 30-thu10

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Message  Predicta Dim 29 Avr - 22:04

When M. K. Doumani commissioned Williams in 1961 to design his 100-room motel, he envisioned something unique among the huge hotel-casinos such as Desert Inn, Dunes or Tropicana. (aerial image 3) He wanted his motel to be a memorable architectural sign, as memorable as the neon signage on The Las Vegas Strip. He wanted an architectural application that would set his hostelry apart and attract guests. (Paul Richard. Today's Family Digest. Nov. 1969) While La Concha did not have the amenities of the larger hotels, the drive-up motel Williams created was stylish, intimate and memorable.

La Concha Motel - Paul R. Williams - 1961 - Las Vegas 27-thu10

According to local historian Dorothy Wright, La Concha could only have been created for Las Vegas. Blending "high design and hands-on construction" the motel was built on a shoe string budget with different Doumani family members pitching in. Two sons worked on the actual construction and various members of the family shopped at local hardware stores for off-the-shelf fixtures. The money saved was used to build "a huge, towering sign whose base was the distinctive stylized La Concha logo." (Desert Companion. December 2012)

La Concha Motel - Paul R. Williams - 1961 - Las Vegas 21-thu10

But what about that “intersecting hyperbolic paraboloid” lobby of glass and thin-shell concrete? Was it a stylized conch shell, a butterfly or Williams’ playful take on America’s fascination with cars and science fiction? Whatever his intent, the building’s aesthetics were not out of character with elements in his previous work. Williams’ buildings were often filled with curves and circular details in the ceilings, building overhangs, arched entries, pool or lunch counter.

La Concha Motel - Paul R. Williams - 1961 - Las Vegas 23-thu10

While Googie-style architecture has often been criticized as the crass work of anonymous draftsmen, the La Concha Motel is an example of the style as designed by a serious and respected American architect. Few examples of this populist style survive, but Williams’ La Concha Motel lobby has been saved through the hard work of Nevada preservationists and architectural historians. The Neon Museum hopes to convert the La Concha Motel lobby into their visitor center in 2011.

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Message  Predicta Dim 29 Avr - 22:05

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Message  Predicta Dim 29 Avr - 22:06

Fresh off the evening plane, and my friend drives us directly to the heart of Las Vegas Boulevard – The Strip. From the passenger seat, I soak in the throbbing lights, pirate boats, fountain shows and drunken revelers. But amidst the flash, what truly catches my eye is a tiny dark patch. Alone and deserted in the shadows is a round series of white clamshells, the strangest and most beautiful thing I’ve yet seen on The Strip. I ask my friend to please bring me back here in the daylight so I can get a better look at the building in the center of the Black Hole on The Strip.
La Concha Motel - Paul R. Williams - 1961 - Las Vegas Img_5410
Come to find out that within my first 5 minutes in Las Vegas, I fell in love with a building that’s scheduled to be demolished. But of course! As in St. Louis so it remains in Vegas: If I love it, it shall come down. For a person leaving St. Louis in disgust over how it wastes its evolving architectural heritage, Vegas was either the best or worst place to go, depending on what lessons I needed/wanted to learn.
La Concha Motel - Paul R. Williams - 1961 - Las Vegas La_con13
The building is the lobby of what was the La Concha Motel. The motel portion was demolished in December 2003 but the famous lobby remains behind as the sales office of the company schilling space in the skyscraper condo slated to rise in its place. Considering that downtown Las Vegas regenerates itself about every 15 years, the La Concha – and it’s next door neighbor, the former El Morocco Motel – has been a tenacious little trooper. But times up, ta ta.
La Concha Motel - Paul R. Williams - 1961 - Las Vegas La_con12

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Message  Predicta Dim 29 Avr - 22:07

But wait up! Turns out there is a Nevada Preservation Society! Concerning Las Vegas, would this define the phrase “exercise in futility?” But their first successful “save” is the La Concha lobby, which will be cut into 7 pieces and moved a couple of miles away to serve as part of the anticipated neon sign museum. Yes, there are small pockets of people trying their best to preserve Las Vegas history, and you’d think in a town with such deep pockets it would be easy, but no.
La Concha Motel - Paul R. Williams - 1961 - Las Vegas La_con10
Las Vegas owes its life to the building of the Hoover Dam, which was a WPA project in the 1930s, so “history” is a vague concept for this town. When locals say a building is old, they mean it might be 30 years old. When any city on the globe can be recreated with the proper props and financial backing, who cares about the physicality of a history that reaches back maybe 70-odd years?

Look to the mountains that 360-circle Vegas and you can feel the land’s history. It’s all insanely gorgeous, very Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid. Step onto the foot of a mountain, stare up into the abyss and know that not even Steve Wynn can recreate something this awesome (sure he created a forest, but it has that 15-year shelf life). But because of that mountain ring, there is finite space to build, and since Vegas exists solely for gambling, the most important buildings accommodate that activity.
La Concha Motel - Paul R. Williams - 1961 - Las Vegas La_con11
Gambling only requires a place for someone to sit down and bet. It truly doesn’t matter what the place looks like; money leaves you just the same at the Bellagio as it does at the slot machines in the gas station bathroom. With gambling, it’s not the container but the content, and if a particular building stops pulling in gamblers, then the building has to go. It’s that simple, and in a city where everything is a façade, I adore that rare form of honesty. Which makes the saving of the La Concha lobby all the more remarkably bizarre.
La Concha Motel - Paul R. Williams - 1961 - Las Vegas La-con10

http://www.beltstl.com/2005/11/la-concha-motel-las-vegas/

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Message  Predicta Dim 29 Avr - 22:07

La Concha Motel - Paul R. Williams - 1961 - Las Vegas La-con11
Built in 1961, this former motel lobby was disassembled and relocated from its South Las Vegas Boulevard location to its current home at the Neon Museum in 2006. This wasn’t a Lego build-off my friends, preservationists raised $600,000 to save this crown jewel and make sure it was lovingly preserved for generations to come.

Not totally unlike a place you might see on The Jetsons, the La Concha is a great example of “Googie” design. Go ahead and Google Googie to see what we’re talking about. Confession, we just wanted to say Google Googie.

La Concha Motel - Paul R. Williams - 1961 - Las Vegas Neon110

The mid-century design used thin-shell concrete and glass to resemble a seashell so it would be immediately recognizable from the street. Who needs advertising when you’ve branded yourself like a boss?
La Concha Motel - Paul R. Williams - 1961 - Las Vegas 91002110
“We are incredibly gratified that the State of Nevada has recognized the La Concha as a significant historic site,” says Danielle Kelly, executive director, Neon Museum. “Roadside architecture like the La Concha lobby, as well as the irresistibly alluring neon signage synonymous with Las Vegas, collectively function as aesthetic traditions cherished by Nevadans.”

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Message  Predicta Dim 29 Avr - 22:08

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The historical significance is a pretty big deal. The motel was designed by the first African American member of the American Institute of Architects, Paul Revere Williams and, because Googie was not recognized as a “legitimate” architecture style until recently, this is one of the few examples of the roadside design and a stellar one.

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