With Sphere, Las Vegas has changed era and dimension

(This article can be found in our special issue “Cities, everything that vibrates”, on sale from May 29 at your newsagent and on our site.)

Whether you speed along Sands Avenue or up Howard Hughes Parkway, you will see it, sometimes emerging like a celestial body that would eclipse the sky past The Venetian hotel, sometimes revealing itself more slowly, like a monumental dome emerging from the sands of the desert. But wherever you are in Vegas, it will never be far away. By day, it is a giant purple ball, a pyramid or ziggurat-style totem; at night, it is a globe entirely devoted to information technology.

Sphere – no article, just “Sphere” – shook things up in Las Vegas. Located east of the famous Strip (the avenue where the main hotels and casinos are located), the building moved the epicenter of tourism there last year. Its design disrupted its architectural identity.

However, the gravitational waves linked to Sphere’s arrival in town extend well beyond Sin City (the “city of sin”, nickname for Las Vegas). It’s impossible to miss the phenomenon in 2023, whether it takes the form of a gigantic eye, a toothless Halloween pumpkin, a giant advertisement for Paramount+ or thousands of other variations. Sphere is the architectural work of the year, the decade, even the century – visible, it seems, from space.

The work of all records

Physics textbooks sometimes describe a black hole as a billiard ball that sinks into the green carpet, dragging mass and light with it. In 2023, Sphere has been that ball: an inevitable concentration of viral content, made of striking images and astronomical sums of money.

Records orbit Sphere like satellites. At 112 meters high and 516 meters wide, it is the largest spherical object in the world. It is also the largest video screen on the planet, with 54,000 m2 of LED pixels on its external surface. This visual experience is expressed in dizzying numbers: 18K resolution, 160,000 speakers, capacity to project films half a petabyte in size.

James L. Dolan, the divisive New York entertainment mogul behind Madison Square Garden, spent nearly a decade bringing his vision of an immersive 17,500-seat amphitheater to life. With a bill of 2.3 billion dollars (2.15 billion euros), it is by far the most expensive entertainment venue ever built in Vegas, and perhaps also the first to suffer a loss of some 100 million dollars (93 million euros) in just three months.

Well before its inauguration in September – with a breathtaking residency by U2 – Sphere attracted crowds, with many curious people coming from elsewhere. Carolina A. Miranda, critic at Los Angeles Times, was the first to describe the way in which Sphere fits into the architectural history of the city, supported by field reporting. The building attracted as many opinions as it sold entry tickets: Charlie Warzel, from the monthly The Atlantic, told

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