LAS VEGAS — Love it or leave it. Hate it, laugh at it or admire it.
No matter what your feelings are about the Larry Ruvo Center for Brain Health in downtown Las Vegas, you have to admit it’s the most strange, wacky, outlandish, fantastic and bizarre-looking structure in all of Nevada.
Resembling a building partially collapsed by an explosion, earthquake or other disaster, the $100 million Center designed by renowned California architect Frank Gehry “certainly is innovative, but it resembles a piece of crumpled tinfoil,” says one architectual and design expert who asked that her name not be used in this story.
“It has shock value only for the sake of unsettling the sensibilities of the viewer. It is vertigo and seasick-inducing,” she added.
James Howard Kunstler, the well-known author and social critic who has criticized the effects of “cartoon architecture” in America, dubbed the Ruvo Center “The Eyesore of the Month” in his list of “Architectual Abortions in the USA and Around the World.”
Kunstler decried the building, which is covered with stainless steel and is located near the new Las Vegas City Hall and Smith Performing Arts Center, as “tortured... if I had a problem with my brain, I would not be reassured arriving at this Brain Center for treatment. Its impact on sadism is impressive.”
Eric Strain, architectual writer for the Las Vegas Sun, initially seemed to be another critic of the building when he wrote that it has had a “destabilizing effect on Las Vegans since it was unveiled. The building’s exterior appearance is “jumbled and twisted,” he said in questioning its “seemingly disheveled mass as inappropriate for Alzheimer’s patients.
“Will the design add to their bewilderment?” Strain asked in his newspaper review.
But he then reverses course, stating the structure “acknowledges the spirit of the mind ... that it can help position Alzheimer’s disease as the forefront of community awareness. Love it or hate it, you know the purpose of the clinic ... and that is the real joy of meaningful architecture.
Those who have lamented or admired the Ruvo Center’s design have nothing but praise for the Center’s important statewide, national and international roles in the research and treatment of Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases such as Huntington’s, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.
Completed three years ago and largely paid for by local philanthropist and liquor distributor Larry Ruvo in honor of his father who died of Alzheimer’s, the Center is affiliated with the renowned Cleveland Clinic of Cleveland, Ohio.
In addition to the main building, the one that is the subject of this article, the 60,000 square-foot Center campus also consists of three connecting and more conventionally-designed structures that house clinics, treatment rooms, physicians’ offices, spaces for physical, occupational and cognitive therapy and an auditorium.
Unconventional and breathtakingly-unprecedented architecture has arrived in Nevada, and as you gaze upon the Larry Ruvo Center, you most certainly will ask yourself:
“ Is this building monstrous and repellant? Or is it strikingly novel, whimsical, possibly even beautiful, and relevant to the causes it serves?”
David C. Henley is Publisher Emeritus of the LVN.