Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The New Generation of Strip Development

For decades the Las Vegas Strip has gotten by with neon facades and pirate ships, but recent additions to the 4-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard have upped the aesthetic ante. The architectural designs of newcomers such as Wynn, Vdara and Cromwell have raised visitors’ expectations of Vegas megaresorts. Aria is one property that took this trend to new heights with its exterior design and public artwork throughout.

From the waterfall-surrounded valet rotunda to a stained glass-strewn patisserie, Aria is opulent to say the least. The centerpiece of the $8.4 billion CityCenter project, Aria opened back in 2009 to a star-studded VIP reception and grand fireworks display.

Aria is the centerpiece of the $8.4 billion CityCenter project.
Glenn Nowak, an associate professor of architecture at the University of Nevada Las Vegas’ School of Architecture, said this move from overly themed resorts to modern architectural marvels is thanks in part to the tourists.

“Las Vegas is seeing more discerning travelers interested in more than what old Vegas offered,” said Nowak, who heads up the college’s hospitality design concentration. “Aria’s design speaks to a more sophisticated tourist.”

The economic downturn of 2008 taught Las Vegas a few lessons. One of the most important is that tourists are looking for more than just gambling and showgirls. Aria is the poster child of post-recession Vegas. The megaresort offers guests more than $40 million worth of public art scattered across the grounds, such as “The Big Edge,” a unique sculpture made of canoes located near the main entrance. Interested visitors can download a mobile walking guide to Aria's public artwork. Another of the property's popular attractions, The Shops at Crystals is a 500,000-square-foot, high-end shopping mall, boasting such retailers as Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Tiffany & Co.

"The Big Edge" is an assemblage of more than 200 boats.
"We always imagined it to be the epicenter," Greg Jones, who led the Pelli Clark Pelli Architects design team in the development of Aria, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal back in 2009. "We wanted to make sure it was unique, not only in the design but how it interacts with the rest of CityCenter."

Arguably the most unique offering by CityCenter and its parent company, MGM Resorts, is the newly opened park next door. Aptly named “The Park,” this public space is an interesting development considering the lack of public parks in the area and the high premium placed on space along the Strip, but one that falls in line with urban planning best practices.

“When you’re stitching together urban fabric, you can’t use the same stitch over and over again,” Nowak said. “[The Park] is a more inclusive kind of space… like a front yard for some of these properties.”


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