The Venice–themed Venetian Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, opened on May 3, 1999, on the former grounds of the Sands Casino. It includes several exclusive hotels with 4,049 suites, 4,059 hotel rooms, a 120,000-square-foot casino, and several theaters.
Its entrance consists of scale replicas of some of Venice’s most iconic landmarks, such as the Campanile Tower, the Rialto Bridge, and The Doge’s Palace. Its biggest “draw” is inside on the second floor, above the gambling hall: a half mile long recreation of the Grand Canal, populated by singing gondoliers and culminating in a version of the Piazza San Marco. The ceiling is a simulated sky and the lighting resembles dusk twenty-four hours a day.
This area, essentially a high-end shopping mall, is called “The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian” and is managed as a separate commercial entity. It is a privately managed public space, protected by security guards dressed as Italian policemen. Here, Venice is creatively re-arranged and would spatially confuse anyone familiar with the actual city. The craftsmanship is unusually ambitious for Las Vegas, involving real bricks, stone, and marble. However, the intention is not to literally mimic, but to deliver the landmarks of Venice as a platform for commercial expression (minus the patina, social complexity, or the burden of historic preservation).
Travelers in the Nineteenth Century had a keen appreciation for the picturesque, which Venice epitomized. With the development of tourism they sought the direct experience of awe-inspiring locations without the inconvenience or danger. Within the context of the Las Vegas experience Venice is the latest manifestation of the picturesque in three dimensions. It is sublime not only in its verisimilitude but in the apparent impossibility of delivering the canals and landmarks of Venice on the second floor of a casino complex in the desert.
An equally enormous version of the Venetian and the Grand Canal Shoppes opened in Macau, China, in 2007.
Andrea Robbins and Max Becher 2010/11