March 11th, 2011 — 7:58pm
convention sketch
MICE Space, Las Vegas Convention, (source)
Ivan Sutherland Demonstrating the Sketchpad System on the Console of the TX-2, MIT, 1963 (source)


‘I want to do a mini Las Vegas… I want to build 20,000+ rooms and millions of square feet of shopping and MICE space’.

—Sheldon Adelson, Chairman and CEO, LV Sands



MICE space (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions) hosts planned activities for professionals. Offering a cocktail of spatial products, MICE balances polar travel motivations: business and pleasure. Successfully combining these two markets has transformed resort development, particularly in Las Vegas.


Mr. Adelson’s Sands Corporation pioneered a mixture of gaming, hospitality, shopping and convention space with Las Vegas’ Venetian and Palazzzo resorts. Arranged around a fancifully themed spectacle, Venice’s Grand Canal, shoppers stroll simulated banks or employ a singing gondolier to transverse the mall. Monday through Thursday, MICE is filled with conventioneering professionals. While they’re not meeting, they are eating, drinking shopping and seeking entertainment—including gambling—financed with above average incomes and corporate expensing.


Convention activity dovetails nicely with Las Vegas’ traditional user group. Passing in the airport on Friday afternoon, MICE users vacate rooms, tables and bars as the weekend shift arrives.


By creating through-week demand, MICE… more


It is astonishing that so many architects continue to draw with mice. While the habit can certainly be learned, mousing divorces the desktop-bound motions of the hand from the on-screen production of a line such that the experience can feel less like drawing and more like the effort required to snatch that overvalued stuffed rabbit using the remotely-controlled robotic claw at the arcade. In other words, it’s a thoroughly unnatural act.


Computer-aided drafting was not always this way. Indeed, some of the earliest computer graphics systems featured interfaces more akin to traditional drawing methods. For example, Ivan Sutherland’s groundbreaking 1963 Sketchpad program utilized a ‘light pen’ which enabled users to draft directly on the surface of a CRT screen. However, 1963 also saw the invention of the first mouse prototype at the Stanford Research Institute. In 1984 when Apple’s influential Macintosh computer was released with a mouse, manufacturers and software developers quickly followed suit. Like everyone else, architects (who were just beginning to integrate computers into their workflow) were left with few other options.


Today however, more natural interfaces for computer-aided drawing do exist, and other creative professions such as graphic design and photography have already adopted them. With the spread of more affordable graphics tablets and touchscreen interfaces (not to mention the rise of repetitive stress injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome) one must ask: why do architects continue to hold onto their mice?


Brook Denison



Jacob Reidel


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January 18th, 2011 — 7:50pm
cirque core
An act from O, Las Vegas, 1998 (source)
One Church Street, Designed by Douglas Orr, New Haven, Connecticut, 1961 (Photo by Author)


Cirque du Soleil’s production, O, at Bellagio’s Strip-front resort features the impossible: water instantly alternates between solid and liquid states. This amazing scientific advance allows the show’s acrobats the ability to defy conventional assumptions about states of matter* and perform breathtaking feats. A sequence may feature actors skipping across a frozen pond, transitioning theatergoers’ focus to a team of acrobatic divers plunging into the aqueous abyss. Sometimes these contradictory sequences occur simultaneously! As the show progresses, sets rise from the murky depths, transitioning from placid stage to messy swampland hovel. Water is simultaneously solid and liquid; waves of vapor roll across the audience.


Out front, in Bellagio’s eight acre Strip-front lake, water gasses to Frank Sinatra on a schedule, delighting millions of passerby with watery magic.** Geysers explode, rocketing columns of water thirty stories. Pressure spent, the lake turns moody as watery lariats dance in perfect time to show tunes of yesteryear. Water is wholly conquered—flipped between states or scrambled together, on a whim, for spectacle and entertainment.


This all takes place in the middle of the desert.


One of the notable buildings from New Haven’s mid-century program of urban renewal is Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo’s 1969 Knights of Columbus Headquarters. The clearly-organized tower—its form dominated by four massive brick-clad concrete cylinders containing the stairs and toilets, between which span perfectly-square glass and steel office plates—is a strong, brooding, and almost medieval presence on the skyline. Like a number of Roche and Dinkeloo’s remarkable projects from this period, the Knights of Columbus Headquarters is an exemplar of structural and organizational clarity, and arguably ranks among the best towers of its time.


The same could hardly be said for One Church Street, the comparatively dumpy neighbor across the street. Designed by Douglas Orr—now little-remembered but once a prominent local architect and president of the American Institute of Architects—One Church Street was completed in 1961 as the headquarters of the First New Haven National Bank. It initially seems simple enough: a squat eight-story, vaguely Miesian (or perhaps more accurately SOMian) glass and steel box with an exposed service core to one side. However, something is strange. The service core, clad entirely in limestone… more


Brook Denison



Jacob Reidel


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