08/24/2011 03:08 pm ET | Updated Oct 24, 2011

Not a Special Effect: MGM Wants to Implode Norman Foster's Unfinished Vegas Hotel

On August 15 MGM Resorts International announced that it submitted plans to Clark County seeking permission to demolish the unfinished Harmon Tower, a Norman Foster-designed hotel in Las Vegas, due to structural flaws.


The unfinished Harmon Tower, in the CityCenter of Las Vegas, is scheduled to be destroyed. / Photo courtesy of Exothermic via Flickr

Their decision came from an assessment by a structural engineering firm that found "pervasive and varied" defects throughout the building that threaten public safety, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Rather than explore the possibility of repairing these defects, MGM decided that demolition would be the safest and most time- and cost-effective solution. Implosion would take an estimated six months of preparation, which entails safeguarding the surrounding buildings, followed by four months of debris removal. Alternatively, repairs to the building would take years if they were possible at all.

These findings bolster MGM's case to demolish the building, which they first expressed in 2010. As early as 2008, building inspectors have found a number of structural mistakes, including improperly placed steel reinforcement beams throughout the incomplete site. At that point the original plans to build Harmon Tower as a 47-story building were cut to 27, though it isn't clear whether it was due to construction missteps or Las Vegas' dire real estate situation. Legal troubles ensued between MGM and contractor, Perini Building Co., which insists it can repair the defects, and in 2010 called MGM's desire to demolish the building "publicity stunt," according to Architectural Record.

"Perini agrees that the fastest way to end the dispute over responsibility to repair MGM's design errors would be to blow up the building and destroy the evidence," the company recently wrote to the Review-Journal. "However, that would be far from the end of the dispute. MGM is seeking to implode the building to hide the fact that the Harmon is not a threat to public safety and to avoid having the repairs made that Perini and its third-party structural engineers have offered to do."

The empty hotel currently serves as a place to post billboards at the north end of the CityCenter, an $8.5 billion commercial and residential complex that opened in 2009, one of the worst periods in Las Vegas real estate.

-Janelle Zara, ARTINFO

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