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OpenLearn Live: 5th August 2016

Updated Friday, 5th August 2016

The building that set the tone for Las Vegas. Then more free learning across the day.

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OpenLearn Live is the point where learning and research connect with the things that matter to you. This page will be updated across the day.

Yesterday, we caught up with how Brexit might affect Wales, visited an exhibition in pain and jumped on a steam train

On this day last year, we went beyond the British bake-off, discovered how GZA is teaching science and explored the wisdom of buddha

See the complete collection of OpenLearn Live

Today's posts

The Olympics get set

This evening, the Olympics get under way and if you want to stretch your mind a little as you watch the athletes doing their thing, we've got you covered.

Here's just a quick dip in our Rio-themed content.

First, could you be a successful coach? Do you have the skill to take a talented kid all the way through to the podium - or would you push too hard and kill their enthusiasm? Find out with our interactive challenge:

Take the Medal Quest challenge

Can simply being part of a team help sportspeople overcome pain? Research appears to suggest the answer is yes:

Read Can being part of a team help break the pain barrier?

Can keeping physical fit help your mind stay in shape? Try our free course:

Try Exercise & mental health

50 years on: Caeser's Palace opens

This week we've been marking 50 years since England won the World Cup by not bothering about that and looking at other news stories from the same week. Here's what we've featured so far this week:

We're rounding off the week with an iconic American building. Fifty years ago today, Caeser's Palace opened in Las Vegas.

Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas Creative commons image Icon Antoine Taveneaux under Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0 license

The opening was glittering. The walls was glittering. It was all about the glitter:

Caesars's founder, developer Jay Sarno said: "I'm going to design a casino with lots of columns and statues and fountains and tons of marble." 

This set the template for Las Vegas. The luxury-boosted-to-gaudy nature of the city's casinos isn't just about showing off, though. The aim of any gaming-based business is to get people to gamble. There's two schools of thought about the best way to do that, though.

Bill Friedman, author of Designing Casinos to Dominate the Competition The Friedman International Standards of Casino Design believed in getting people onto gaming almost as soon as they put a foot through the door; more recently, Roger Thomas' Playground Design has taken hold. Friedman believed that, while the exteriors of casinos could offer elaborate fantasies, inside, there should be a standard, functional design. As io9 notes, though, the science suggests that Thomas's less intense, more playful approach is more successful:

A team at the University of Guelph have conducted a number of studies on the psychological effects of the gaming design versus the playground design. In one study, examples of playground and gaming casinos were identified. 48 participants were recruited by the researchers as they left casinos in Las Vegas, and researches took small groups of the volunteers to four casinos in a row. After being given money to gamble in each casino, the participants were asked to rank the casinos they visited. In the end, they ranked the playground designs much higher on overall pleasure and "restoration" — defined as "a cognitive state where the effects of mental fatigue are offset and there is a respite from daily routine and distractions." As gambling leads to mental exhaustion, a design that promotes restoration is likely to keep people gambling longer.

Las Vegas is starting to tire of its Caesers-centric image of being a place where architecture isn't taken seriously. In the last few years, planners have taken deliberate steps to try and encourage builders to think beyond faux-Doric columns and replicas of famous landmarks. The New Yorker heard about the plans:

“We wanted to create an urban space that would expand our center of gravity,” Jim Murren, the chairman of the company, told me. Murren, an art and architecture buff who studied urban planning in college and wrote his undergraduate thesis on the design of small urban parks, oversaw the selection of architects, and the result is a kind of gated community of glittering starchitect ambition. There are major buildings by Daniel Libeskind, Rafael Viñoly, Helmut Jahn, Pelli Clarke Pelli, Kohn Pedersen Fox, and Norman Foster; and interiors by Peter Marino, Lewis Tsurumaki Lewis, Bentel and Bentel, and AvroKO. There are also prominent sculptures by Maya Lin, Nancy Rubins, and Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. “The idea I wanted to convey was to bring smarter planning to the development process in Las Vegas, to expand our boundaries of knowledge,” Murren told me. “Las Vegas is always looked down upon. CityCenter is a counterpoint to the kitschiness.”

Meanwhile, the building that kickstarted the kitsch needs some love of its own. Fifty years standing in the Nevada desert has taken a toll:

Caesars Palace, which marks its 50th anniversary next year, is spending almost four times the original cost to build the Strip resort in order to remodel the property's first hotel tower.

A $75 million renovation of the 587-room Roman Tower began this month, which will include renaming the structure the Julius Tower.

The hotel's first guests stayed in the Roman Tower when the late Jay Sarno opened Caesars Palace on Aug. 5, 1966. The tower's cost was $19 million.

Looking that cheap doesn't come cheap.

Caeser's palace wasn't the only major building in America to mark a milestone on August 5th, 1966. Across the country, in New York, a construction crew started work on the buildings that would eventually be known as the World Trade Center.

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