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Is Las Vegas a Real place?

This lesson questions the concept of a real place and asks students to consider a definition of "sense of place" in relation to a place that flamboyantly flaunts its inauthenticity - Las Vegas

Key questions

How can the term 'sense of place' be defined?

What is meant by a 'real' place

How can the term 'sense of place' be defined?

‘Sense of place' can be defined as the character that places have (or do not have) or, as a perception that people hold of a place and not by the place itself. Both physical and human factors lead to certain places developing an identity which contributes to a ‘sense of place'. If you compare Venice in Italy with the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas (which is a Venice-themed hotel and casino) factors in the former such as language, art, music, history architecture, climate, economic activity and the surrounding landscape all contribute to Venice's unique ‘sense of place'. The Venetian Hotel by contrast, can be regarded as lacking a ‘sense of place'.

What is meant by a 'real' place?

A place is a space that carries meaning, often through human occupation or by human interpretation. Every place has a particular location and a unique set of physical and human characteristics. These include what a place is like, how it has changed and is subject to future change. Whether a place is ‘real' may relate to whether it is has a ‘sense of place'. If it does not, it can be described as ‘inauthentic'. These can be places that have no special relationship to where they are located. They could be, or may have been built, anywhere. Some heavily commercialised places, like Las Vegas has been for tourism, which is unrelated to the landscape, can be described as having no ‘sense of place' and by extension not ‘real'.



Watch the introductory video.

Can you guess the location of the place in the video?

Why might this place be described as an "impossible place"?

Think about:

  • Architecture

  • Economic activity

  • Location

  • Water supply

Main Activity

Look at the Venice and Venetian Las Vegas images

Working in pairs, use the Development Compass Rose to identify the differences between the places.

Locate both places on Google Earth.

The first image is The Venetian Resort in Las Vegas, USA - a hotel and casino with a Venice theme - situated in the Nevada Desert. The second image is taken in Venice, on the north eastern coast of Italy.

Which place is more "real"? Why are some places more 'real' than others?


Do you live in a ‘real' place or a ‘Clone Town'?

Is your town a ‘Clone Town' indistinguishable from dozens of others around the country? Or is it a genuine ‘Home Town' that is distinctive and recognisable as a unique place?

The Clone Town Britain Survey is simple and can be used in any town in the UK. It should take no more than 30 minutes and can be completed while strolling along your local high street.

Does your local area have a unique identity? What is it?

Your challenge is come up with a definition for the term "sense of place" and describe your city's, town's or village's ‘sense of place' in 50 words.

File nameFiles

File type



Impossible Places Lesson 1 Las Vegas Introductory Video


6 MB

Impossible Places Lesson 1 Development Compass Rose


83 KB

Impossible Places Lesson 1 Clone Town Survey Sheet


34 KB

Impossible Places Lesson 1 Venetian resort


232 KB

Impossible Places Lesson 1 Venice


202 KB

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