Experiencing Great Architecture and Creative Built Environments

-NV-Las Vegas

Bellagio Las Vegas (1998)

3600 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Las Vegas NV

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One of the grand resorts in Las Vegas, Bellagio’s design is influenced by the picturesque town of Bellagio on Lake Como in Italy. Known for it’s elegance and opulence, the “theming” of Bellagio feels more accurate and authentic than the other more kitschy themed casinos on the strip ( i.e. Luxor, Excaliber, New York New York, Circus Circus and even Caesars Palace). It looks real compared to the other “decorated sheds” on the strip.

From the Fountains of Bellagio out front, to Chihuly’s glass flower art installation in the lobby ceiling, the Conservatory (Currently with the Chinese New Year installation), and the Cirque du Soliel’s “O” show and theater, Bellagio is really spectacular. It feels expensive and exclusive (and it is). Everytime I go to Las Vegas I am drawn to the lake out front to watch the Fountains of Bellagio, day or night the show is fantastic- and it is free.

Visited January 24-26 2014


Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas (2010)

Arquitectonica, Design Architect; Friedmutter Group, Executive Architect

Las Vegas NV

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Visited January 24-26 2014

Built on a sliver of land between the Bellagio and CityCenter, the Cosmopolitan consists of two towers over a multistory base building. The exterior design architect is Arquitonica, the famous Miami area based firm that designed the condo towers featured in the Miami Vice TV series intro. Interestingly, the Cosmopolitan appears way down near the bottom on the architect’s website portfolio page  – below even their Miami Vice era work. Unfortunately, I agree that is where it should be. They have done some amazing work all over the world, but these towers I was very disappointed with when I experienced them on this trip.

The smaller east tower, closest to Las Vegas Blvd. has balconies completely wrapping each floor. They seem more appropriate to the Miami climate than the Las Vegas desert (but it may have been the developer’s demand not the architect’s influence). The proportions of the top profile of the tower from the north and south elevation is, well just odd. The top few floors on the street facade step back slightly, then the roofline rises up to form the backdrop for the sign, then angles down to the western edge of the building. Unfortunately I do not have a photo of it…as I did not want a photo of it. Now I wish I had one just to include here to let you decide for yourself. Here is a link to a web photo. What do you think?

The interiors have some interesting spaces and elements – as well as some odd installations. The check-in lobby had a fascinating video wallpaper installation wrapping the large square columns. A series of black & white video images were displayed. The relatively low ceilings are mirrored, and the black floors have a high gloss which reflect the video displays and for a very dramatic display.

From there the interiors get confusing to me. In niches around this lobby are purple tufted Adams Family-like settees with antique black telephones and venetian glass chandeliers. Speaking of chandeliers……the multi-story bar/lounge in the center of the casino, retail and dining areas is aptly called the “The Chandelier”.  This extravaganza has strands of crystals flowing from the ceiling of the upper level down to the Casino level, draped in layers around the 3 bars and lounge. Bathed in a fuchsia light, this larger than life installation seems more obnoxious than elegant…then again I remind myself it is Vegas.

Oh, and just incase there is not enough bling for you, Liberace’s rhinestone covered roadster is parked just below The Chandelier.

Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas Website


Aria Resort and Casino (2009)

Cesar Pelli / Pelli Clarke Pelli, Architect

CityCenter Las Vegas

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4,000,000 SF, 4,004 rooms, 61 stories, LEED Gold

This casino, resort, hotel and convention center is quite unique in Las Vegas. In a sea of casino buildings trying to replicate other buildings, other cities, other cultures, and other centuries, Aria’s crisp clean, contemporary architecture is , well just really really good crisp, clean, contemporary architecture. It is honest through and through.

Cesar Pelli has taken the 4,000 rooms, arranged them in gently curving towers of unequal height, and given each of them a corner window. Inside, the lobby’s long registration counter is in front of a wall of glass overlooking a small vest-pocket park featuring a large Henry Moore sculpture.  Hanging above the registration counter is one of my favorite art installations. It is a glistening silver casting of the Colorado river flowing across the space by Maya Lin. It is beautiful.

Outside the main entrance, edging the circular drive is a fascinating and wonderful water wall. The sloped wall with a textured surface has an ever-changing waterfall flowing over it.  From a trickle to a deluge, the water creates a display that is visually, sensually, and audibly soothing.

The more I walked around it and through it, the more I appreciated this building and casino. The casino has a more masculine feel than most others on the strip. Aria does not try to be anything other than what it is, a great contemporary resort and casino, arguably the best on the strip.


Crystals at CityCenter (2010)

Studio Daniel Libeskind,  Architecture

Rockwell Group, Interior Architecture

CityCenter Las Vegas

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Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas (2009)

Kohn Pederson Fox, Architects

CityCenter Las Vegas

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Vdara Hotel and Spa (2009)

Rafael Vinoly, Architect

CityCenter Las Vegas

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Veer Towers (2010)

Helmut Jahn, Architect

CityCenter Las Vegas

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The Harmon (2009)

Sir Norman Foster, Foster + Partners, Architect

CityCenter Las Vegas

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The Harmon designed by Foster + Partners is part of the CityCenter Las Vegas Development on the Strip. Officially “The Harmon Hotel, Spa & Residences”,  it was planned to be a 49 story tower with a 400 room boutique hotel and 207 residential condominiums (including 3 floors of luxurious penthouse condominiums). During construction, defects in the steel reinforcing were discovered by inspectors. The superstructure of the hotel’s 28 stories was completed, but the interiors were not built out. The residential condominiums above were cancelled altogether (which coincided with the crash of the residential real estate market in Vegas).  After many engineering studies and litigation, demolition of the unfinished tower is pending.

It currently is arguably the most expensive billboard ever built…


CityCenter Las Vegas (2009)

On the Las Vegas Strip

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CityCenter Las Vegas is a $9.2 billion development on 76 acres on “The Strip” in Las Vegas. It is sandwiched between the Monte Carlo and Bellagio Resorts. (The Cosmopolitian Resort was constructed at the same time as CityCenter and is now open on a sliver of land between CityCenter and Bellagio). The Master Plan was designed by Ehrenkrantz, Eckstut & Kuhn Architects.

The main buildings in the mixed use development are the Aria Resort and Casino, The Mandarin Oriental Hotel and residential condominium tower, Veer Towers residential condominiums, Vdara Hotel and Spa, The Harmon Hotel, Spa & Residences, and The Shops at Crystals. The Harmon tower, originally designed to be 49 stories, but was only built to the 28th floor due to structural issues.  Although the distinctive multi-toned blue glass curtain wall exterior was installed. the interiors were never built out and the tower’s demolition is pending.

The buildings were designed by internationally known architects – at least the superstructure, building form and exterior curtain wall design. The list includes Cesar Pelli, Daniel Libeskind, Helmut Jahn, William Pederson, Rafael Vinoli, Sir Norman Foster and David Rockwell. The building’s interior architecture was mostly or completely designed within the superstructure by other architects to meet the needs of the hotel, condominium, retail, gaming and entertainment occupants.

I will include images and comments on each of the main buildings in CityCenter with separate posts. For links click on the names here: Aria, Mandarin, Veer, Vdara, Crystals and Harmon.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was one of the architects that worked on the Mandarin Hotel guest rooms, Mandarin residential penthouses, Veer residential penthouses, and Harmon residential penthouses projects.