SPHERE AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS
My night in front of the world’s largest LED screen
The moment I first laid eyes on the Sphere, from a cramped window seat on approach over the Las Vegas Strip, my airplane precipitously plunged what felt like between 90 and 300 feet. This was the variety of turbulence that makes people gasp and clutch their armrests, that threatens to pop open the overhead bins. It seemed a fitting welcome: The Sphere had already coaxed me into seat 26A on a flight partway across the country, and now it was pulling me toward its unmistakable, shimmering orb-ness with a final gravitational tug.
Thinking this way about a building is ridiculous, I know. But have you seen this thing? Quite literally, the Sphere is a large arena—a futuristic entertainment venue for concerts and other Vegas spectacles. But such a description undersells the Sphere’s ambitions. It is the architectural embodiment of ridiculousness, a monument to spectacle and to the exceedingly human condition of erecting bewildering edifices simply because we can. It cost $2.3 billion; it’s blanketed in 580,000 square feet of LED lights; it can transform its 366-foot-tall exterior into a gargantuan emoji that astronauts can supposedly see from space. This is no half dome and certainly not a rotunda. This is Sphere.