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Hoover Dam Visitor Center

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1989–1995, Spencer Associates. West of Hoover Dam
  • (Photograph by Julie Nicoletta)

The Visitor Center, built into the canyon wall just downstream from the dam, appears as a blemish on the landscape because it consists primarily of a windowless cylinder of apricot-colored concrete. The idea may have been to imitate the dam's massive forms, but a design using the colors and textures of the dam or the landscape might have produced a more sensitive result. On one side is a glass tower, perhaps meant to recall the form of the dam's intake towers but more vividly recalling angular mannerisms in the late work of Frank Lloyd Wright. This is the main entrance to the center, but only while in this transitional element can visitors enjoy framed views of the scenery. Across U.S. 93 stands a six-story parking garage made of precast concrete components; it is equally insensitive to the dam's design but, having been blasted into the rock, is nearly hidden from several vantage points.

The center was constructed to help accommodate the more than one million annual visitors to the dam, thus taking pressure off the dam itself. The interior contains displays on the dam's construction and function, as well as a theater and a staging area for tours of the dam. Before its completion, the center became the focus of controversy when the public learned that it would cost nearly four times the originally estimated amount. Shocking, too, was the fact that it took twice as long to construct the center as it had to build the entire dam.

Writing Credits

Julie Nicoletta


What's Nearby


Julie Nicoletta, "Hoover Dam Visitor Center", [Boulder City, Nevada], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Nevada, Julie Nicoletta. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000, 240-240.

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