The La Concha Motel was opened in 1961[ and closed in 2004. It was designed by architect Paul Williams who was one of the first prominent African American architects in the United States and was also the architect who designed the first LAX [Terminal 1] theme building. It was located on the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada and was considered one of the best-preserved examples of 1950s Googie architecture. It was named after the resort community of La Concha, Spain. La Concha motel was also neighbors of El Morocco Hotel that opened in 1964 and closed 1983.
The Googie Aesthetics
The genealogy for the architecture of La Concha Motel is traceable to a Southern California restaurant designed by John Lautner, Googies, whose mascot was a cartoon waitress with fried egg eyes. Cheap, modern, flashy, where form does not follow function, Googie-inspired buildings were aesthetically unrestrained. Architectural historian Alan Hess described them as “cartoons in steel and glass, designed to catch the attention at highway speeds.” While the style was dismissed by intellectuals of the 1950s and 1960s as “a little too western, and a little too American for serious consideration,” it was immensely popular with the rest of the country.
The building’s aesthetics has a character of the shell. Williams’ buildings were often filled with curves and circular details in the ceilings, building overhangs, arched entries, pool or lunch counter. This building has incorporated a hyperbolic paraboloid lobby of glass and thin concrete shell.
While Googie-style architecture has often been criticized as the crass work of anonymous draftsmen, the La Concha Motel is an example of the style as designed by a serious and respected American architect. Few examples of this populist style survive, but Williams’ La Concha Motel lobby has been saved through the hard work of Nevada preservationists and architectural historians. Various celebrities had stayed at the motel, including Ronald Reagan, Ann-Margret, Flip Wilson, Muhammad Ali, and the Carpenters. The La Concha was featured in the 1995 film Casino. The La Concha Motel is now restored in the Neon Museum. The museum saved part of the hotel sign designed by the Young Electric Sign Company.