Skip to main content

The Window Trick of Las Vegas Hotels

When I lived in Hong Kong I often passed by a residential apartment complex commonly known as the "monster building". 

"Interior of the Yick Cheong Building November 2016" by Nick-D is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

This housing estate, originally built in the 1960s, actually consists of five separate buildings: the Fook Cheong Building, the Montane Mansion, the Oceanic Mansion, the Yick Cheong Building, and the Yick Fat Building.

It has become a tourist attraction because of its very unique and - some might say - "dystopian" look. 

"Yick Cheong Building(益昌大厦)" by Wry2010 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Obviously, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so maybe you think that these buildings are pretty. In that case, good on you. But I guess there are also a lot of people who find them quite ugly.

One of the façades stood out to me in particular as being a massive, colossal mess. 

Although this is an extreme example, there are plenty of "monster buildings" in Hong Kong, usually housing estates constructed in the 1960s and 1970s. They have a very specific aesthetic: they look large, thick and heavy, with grubby, boring façades cluttered with protruding AC units. 

The 1960s and 1970s were the era of residential buildings that are, let's say, controversial. Some examples include the Unité d'Habitation by Le Corbusier, and the Trellick Tower in the UK. 

"Unite d' Habitation (Marseille)" by denisesakov is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

"The Trellick Tower" by stevecadman is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

I often wondered what makes these buildings so ugly and distressing (unless you like them, I'm not questioning anyone's personal taste), and whether there was beauty in them which I am not capable of seeing, maybe because of my own biases. And that's certainly possible. 

But a few days ago I stumbled upon a video that seemed to me to explain why these buildings make such a negative impression on me. 

In a lecture about the universal characteristics of classical architecture, professor Nathaniel Walker argued that human beings crave two things: order and variety. If there's too much order, it's boring and oppressive. If there's too much variety, it's chaotic and unpleasant. In his view, classical architecture all over the world aims at creating a "delicate balance between order and variety."

This makes a lot of sense to me. Because order and variety is what we experience in nature. For example, trees and mountains follow recognizable patterns, they have shapes that allow us to categorize them. Yet each tree and mountain is different and unique. The human body, as well, has forms common to all, it has symmetry and proportion, yet each individual is different. 

What makes these monster buildings so unsettling is that instead of a delicate balance of order and variety, they have too much of both. The moster building has too much order - it's a box with long rows of windows. But the façade also has way too much variety because of the AC units and the mishmash of colours and window frames. 

What does all of this have to do with Las Vegas hotels, you may rightly ask? 

Some Las Vegas hotels are truly massive structures. And maybe you don't find them attractive, either. But there's something interesting about their façades, which I find quite fascinating, and which maybe contains a lesson for residential architecture. It's the so-called "window trick". 

In order to make the buildings look smaller, less intimidating and messy, architects have come up with a "four or six windows in one" solution. This means they grouped several windows (usually four or six) together and made them look like one window. This creates the visual effect of "shrinking" the building, of making it more orderly and symmetrical. 

Here is one example: the Bellagio

"Bellagio, Las Vegas" by gamillos is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

"The Bellagio" by Studio Sarah Lou is licensed under CC BY 2.0.


From a distance, you just see regular windows. But if you look closer, you notice that what appears like one window is actually four or six windows grouped together. The Bellagio has 32 stories. But the highest of Hong Kong's monster buildings has only 18 stories. Which one looks more massive, disorderly and intimidating? 

Here are two more examples: the Treasure Island and the Caesar's Palace:

"DSC07105, Treasure Island, Las Vegas, Nevada" by jimg944 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

"Caesar's Palace Tower" by purpletwinkie is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Another window trick is what the Wynn uses: one stripe per two stories.

"Wynn Las Vegas" by Michael McDonough is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

The Monte Carlo (now Park MGM, as a reader pointed out in the comments) in Las Vegas doesn't use any window trick, and the building looks massive. Although it is more orderly and pleasant than the monster building thanks to its symmetry and some decorative patterns. 

"Monte Carlo Hotel Las Vegas" by hmerinomx is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.


I am not saying that Las Vegas hotels look beautiful. This type of architecture is made for casinos and nearby hotels, so I'd expect it to be kitschy.  

But I think this kind of visual trick could find application in high-rise residential buildings to make façades look nicer and gentler. 


Thanks for reading this post! If you enjoyed it, consider supporting. Thank you!


  1. A similar trick is used in the TASS building in Moscow:

    1. Thanks! I checked it out. However, I think it's a bit different, because the building is very small, so the windows don't have the same purpose of "shrinking" the building. The other thing I noticed is that the TASS building has very large windows but also a "separator" between two floors which actually shows that it's not just one window. But it's an interesting example!

  2. The buildings you dislike are Bauhaus inspired.

    1. But, I have to say that there are also Bauhaus and Bauhaus-inspired buildings that I like. Many high rise buildings in Hong Kong follow Bauhaus principles and I like many of them. I also lived in some of them :)

  3. The Monte Carlo in Las Vegas is now ParkMGM, for those trying to look it up.

    1. Thank you, I'm going to issue a correction!

    2. you corrected the wrong building (Park MGM is the new Monte Carlo, not Caesars Palace).

  4. Here's an explanation I found persuasive for why the 60's and 70's buildings don't appeal to us:

    It aligns nicely with your astute observation about the windows, in that they humanize these large buildings.

  5. I think a crop of this photo of the Bellagio shows the windows more clearly.

  6. When I lived at Unité d'Habitation I found it totally outdated as a living environment and weirdly laid out.

    1. Interesting! Was it at least cheaper than other apartments? And how about public transport, shops and services in the neighbourhood?

  7. If there were ever a candidate for ugly massive buildings, Japan would surely be near the top of that list. Even newer structure for dwellings are an eye-sore.

    1. Vancouver BC - the call them ice cube trays.

  8. How do the windows look from the inside?


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Living in Taiwan: Seven Reasons Why It's Good to Be Here

Chinese New Year can be a pretty boring time for a foreigner. All of my friends were celebrating with their families, and since I have no family here, nor have I a girlfriend whose family I could join, I had nothing special to do. Shops and cafes were closed - apart from big chains like McDonald's or Starbucks, which were overcrowded anyway. So I had a lot of time to think. On Saturday evening I went out to buy my dinner. While I was walking around, I heard the voices of the people inside their homes, the sounds of their New Year celebrations. Then I suddenly asked myself: "What on earth are you doing here? Why are you still in Taiwan?"  Before I came to Taiwan, some Taiwanese friends of mine had recommended me their country, highly prasing it and going so far as to say that Taiwan is a "paradise for foreigners" (bear in mind that when I say foreigners I mean 'Westerners').  "It's easy for foreigners to find a job," t

Is China's MINISO Copying Japan's MUJI, UNIQLO and Daiso?

Over the past few years Japanese retailers such as UNIQLO and MUJI have conquered foreign markets, opening shops in cities such as Paris, Berlin or New York and becoming household names in several countries. But the success of their business model seems to have inspired people with dubious intentions. As the website Daliulian recently showed, a new chain called MINISO, which claims to be a Japanese company selling ‘100% Japanese products’, seems to be nothing more than a knock-off of UNIQLO, MUJI and Daiso, copying their logos, names and even the layout of their stores. The company’s webpage proudly announces – in terrible English – that “ MINISO is a fast fashion designer brand of Japan. Headquartered in Tokyo Japan, Japanese young designer Miyake Jyunya is founder as well as the chief designer of MINISO, a pioneer in global 'Fashion & Casual Superior Products' field. ” According to the company’s homepage, MINISO advocates the philosophy of a simple,

Macau: Gambling, Corruption, Prostitution, and Fake Worlds

As I mentioned in my previous post , Macau has different faces and identities: there is the old Macau, full of colonial buildings and in which the pace of life seems to resemble a relaxed Mediterranean town rather than a bustling, hectic Chinese city, such as Hong Kong or Shanghai. On the other hand, there is the Macau of gambling, of gigantic hotel and casino resorts, and of prostitution. These two Macaus seem to be spatially separated from each other, with an intact colonial city centre and nice outskirts with small alleys on the one side, and bombastic, modern buildings on the other.  The Galaxy - one of the huge casino and hotel resorts The Importance of Gambling for Macau's Economy Dubbed the 'Monte Carlo of the East', Macau has often been portrayed as the gambling capital of China. Media reporting on Macau tend present pictures of the city's glistening, apparently luxurious skyline. But a visit in Macau suffices to realize that it is fa

Trip to Tainan

Tainan Train Station Last weekend I made a one day trip to the Southern Taiwanese city of Tainan (Chinese: 臺南, pinyin: Táinán), the former capital and one of the most important centres of culture, history and architecture of the island. This blog post is also intended as a special thank to Grace, a Taiwanese friend who was so kind to show me around, and very patient, too. Since Tainan doesn't have an extensive public transport net, Grace picked me up at the train station with her motorcycle, a vehicle that, along with cars, is regarded by locals as indispensable for living comfortably in Tainan. To my great embarrassment, though, I had to admit that I cannot ride a motorcycle. That's why we had to take busses to move around. It was the first time she ever took a bus in Tainan. And now I know why: busses come more or less every half an hour, and service stops early in the evening. No wonder Tainanese snob public transport. Grace had no idea about the routes and about whe