‘Style’ enhances casino design

Jun 28, 2005 3:16 AM


The next generation of mega resorts in Las Vegas could be built from cyberspace, a consensus group of expert designers said during last week’s Casino Design 2005 conference at Wynn Las Vegas.

"Today’s tourists want excitement," said Tom Fo, director of design for Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo (WATG). "That’s why everybody wants to be like Las Vegas. Those projects that fail simply aren’t exciting."

Fo said that technology will have a huge impact in hotel design over the next decade.

"There’s no question lifestyle has become a major part of our thinking," Fo said. "Tourists are coming to Vegas 10-12 times a year, much more than in the past. They want the urban experience and to be spoiled. Las Vegas is the king of fantasy. It started with The Mirage in the 1980s. People want to take back an image from where they have been."

Cyberspace fits into the fantasy image of Las Vegas, according to Nunzio DeSantis, executive vice president of Dallas-based HKS Inc.

"When you speak of cyberspace, it’s not where we are headed so much as where we won’t go," DeSantis said. "We all long for escape and to be able to participate in the experience. Our job is taking them to their dream."

DeSantis said "green" — both monetarily and environmentally — will be a major force in future hotel design.

"When you walk into Mandalay Bay, it doesn’t have a casino feel," DeSantis said. "Themes will not go away, but owners of large casinos are realizing that less is more. It’s very important now to build structures where the environment blends in naturally."

Joe Emanuele, vice president of the Friedmuller Group, said that Atlantic City is finally beginning to understand Las Vegas and what it takes to attract today’s travelers.

"Exterior designs are in vogue," Emanuele said. "The Borgata is the first real Las Vegas-style hotel in Atlantic City. Here you can see the international style of architecture reflected in places like the Venetian and the new Red Rock Station."

Emanuele described the "international style" as huge vertical structures featuring lots of glass.

"You are seeing condos rise all over Las Vegas," Emanuele said. "This was the first year that Las Vegas revenues were eclipsed by something other than gaming."

David Mexico, principal of The Rockwell Group, said that engineers and designers must define "the brand."

"Comerica Park in Detroit (home of the baseball Tigers) was constructed downtown in a way that people could be entertained," Mexico said. "Coca Cola recreated the brand by having a giant Coke bottle in Turner Field (home of the Atlanta Braves) as a place to celebrate homers.

"You must fit the design into the character of what you are building," Mexico continued.

Fo emphasized that fantasies are successful only if they are authentic.

"Sheldon Adelson accomplished this at the Venetian," he said. "You feel like you’re in Venice. That’s what people want and that’s where the industry is headed."