In a move that’s of no real surprise to anyone, the final Venetian Hotel-based Guggenheim museum (“The Hermitage“) will be closing in Las Vegas this Sunday. Following the two others closed in 2003 after abysmal attendance, this will be the final nail in the coffin for the Rem Koolhaas-designed museums in that steamy city of debauchery. But, like we said, we can’t imagine that this is coming as a shock to anyone — building a genuine museum in Las Vegas, not one built upon a strong foundation of irony, is like building a learning annex right next to a water park and a free candy store. Here’s a bit:
Most residents and tourists will barely register the loss of the museum, which drew 1.1 million visitors over nearly seven years. The Venetian will simply morph, with the menacing ease of a comic-book villain, into its latest, post-Koolhaas incarnation. The Jewel Box is reportedly set to become a sizable Louis Vuitton boutique. Still, the Guggenheim foray does offer some lessons, particularly when it comes to differentiating between spectacle as defined by leading architects and as it exists in Las Vegas.
For Koolhaas — and for his Rotterdam-based firm, Office for Metropolitan Architecture — the Vegas closure has to sting. Certainly it’s a reminder of a fact we all forgot for a time in the glow of his triumphant 2004 Seattle Public Library — that on the whole OMA’s attempts to build in the U.S., plagued by misjudgments as well as plain bad timing, have not gone well.