I have seen the future of Vegas … and it smells good

One man’s visit to the CityCenter Sales Pavilion

It’s as if Las Vegas had a dream of itself - and somehow forgot to include the Las Vegans.
Photo: Leila Navidi

If the vastness of CityCenter seems overwhelming or intimidating, I’d suggest a visit to the nearby CityCenter Sales Pavilion for an overview and a game plan before taking in the real thing. A marketing tool as work of art, as ambitiously, aesthetically grandiose as any outre installation by Matthew Barney, the Sales Pavilion is Disneyland for the competitively acquisitive. The Cirque du Soleil of open houses. Architects Gone Wild.

It stands as a substantial Strip attraction in itself, a thrill ride for grown-ups, who visit in throngs. Those who are addicted to weekend walk-throughs, glossy “shelter porn” magazines and TV design shows (you know who you are) are in for the time of their lives. People cluster around an oval table, mesmerized by a beautifully detailed, laser-cut and hand-assembled scale model of the complex, a miniature city illuminated from within, sheathed in shimmering, translucent skin, complete with a bite-size Bellagio flanked by a teeny tiny I-15.

It’s as if Las Vegas had a dream of itself—and somehow forgot to include the Las Vegans. Unashamedly “futuristic” in that Tomorrowland/Jetsons/Logan’s Run kind of way that went out of fashion in the early 1960s, this convergence of world-famous architects is an Escape to the Planet of the Super-Rich. It might be a haven for gods—or a lair for supervillains. All that’s missing is the dome.

Infernally, ingeniously crafted to seduce each sense, the come-on commences even before the Pavilion’s glass doors silently part. There’s valet parking, then a concierge and a posh coffee bar. CityCenter sales representatives hover like museum docents, as you are enticed to wander through each gallery or “vignette”—full-scale representations of the condo configurations—dramatically lighted in hues of chartreuse, tangerine and violet, complete with simulated dawn-to-dusk views of the Strip. Touch the textures of stone surfaces and pebbled fabrics, framed and highlighted swatches in ethereal and earthy color palettes and textures that have been chosen by the elite for the elite. Each room even has its own signature fragrance whispering, “This could be yours.”

The overall experience is sensually sensational, even elating—you’ve clearly reached the aspirational apex of luxury and achievement. It’s stimulating and soothing; you feel like you belong. For the moment.

But the view from this summit has a swift kickback, a shadow side. It might leave you feeling curiously deflated—like maybe you’ve been living your life wrong all these years. Left out. A loser.

Like any work of art, CityCenter’s surface beauty attracts and impels, then inspires a series of conflicting feelings. Awe, undeniably. Envy, perhaps. Lust, certainly. Greed, self-pity, fear ... After all, it’s hard to imagine your messy, all-too-human self living amid this intimidating, unattainable perfection. Though the structures are labeled as “communities,” there are no neighborhoods here. And it’s all but impossible to imagine children—shouting, smudging, skateboarding ...

It’s a slightly spooky apparition, an anti-utopia, a flash-forward to a world where the super-rich have eliminated the rest of us. The Rapture or Armageddon or another End Time scenario has arrived—and all that’s left are the sleek, shimmering buildings.

Is this godlike perspective of a future Vegas even better than the real thing? Not sure, but an hour spent fantasizing in the CityCenter Sales Pavilion made me covetous. I loved it. And I hated loving it. Still, I’ll be back.

Dreaming is free.


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