Cotai’s Newest Paradise: Galaxy Macau

Though tropical might not be the first word that comes to mind when thinking of Asian casinos, it was one of the guiding concepts for the newest casino on the Cotai Strip, Galaxy Macau™, which opened May 15, 2011. In fact, designer Gary Goddard, founder and chairman of Gary Goddard Entertainment Design, called it “a lost tropical kingdom from a South Pacific paradise.”

Goddard shared that Francis Liu, vice chairman of Galaxy Entertainment Group, approached his firm to help develop a unique theme and design for the project that would set it apart from everything else in Macau. Building upon Galaxy’s existing expertise with Asian customers, Goddard set out to create a casino resort that would not simply copy something in Las Vegas. “I thought whatever we created should be unique to Macau and that it should speak to the Asian spirit,” Goddard said. “At the same time, I wanted it also to become a must-see experience for tourists and Westerners.”

The concept decision was to fuse Asian design elements with water and nature to create a true destination. But for Goddard, the goal was to create a resort that would become the most photographed, most talked-about project in Macau. “The idea was to create a destination resort that would become the iconic destination for visitors to Macau,” he said. “I think we have succeeded.”

Galaxy Macau is situated directly across from the back of The Venetian Macao. This location was another driving inspiration for Goddard. He wanted the property to act as a magnet, drawing guests from all over Macau—and for guests at the neighboring property to stop and notice the stunning Galaxy Macau.

“Sightlines were considered, as if we were creating a massive set that would become our calling card from the north, east, south and west,” Goddard said. “We also created a design that is intended to be more organic to Macau, to China and to the South Pacific region. We felt very strongly that our design would reflect the idea of an Asian tropical paradise, with a grand palace at the heart of it all.”

The palace is bathed in white and gold (the colors of royalty and the heavens) and surrounded by nature and water. This was part of the goal of creating that paradise feel for visitors that would appeal to many Asian cultures and other visitors as well. “It is our hope, as designers, that whether our guests are Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Filipino, Indonesian, Malaysian, all will find the resort comfortable, warm and inviting,” Goddard noted. “Likewise, we feel Americans, Europeans and other Western guests will find such design elements quite appealing and a true ‘must-see.’ ”

One of the most notable design elements of the Galaxy Macau is its skyline view of the massive room towers topped by cupolas (dome-like structures on the top of a building). This overall look of the resort gives it that certain “wow” factor from far away or up close. Goddard said he thought like a director, considering the long shot, medium shot and close up. “To me, we are not designing entertainment into architecture,” he said. “The architecture is an inherent part of the entire statement. We give thought to the total experience of the guest—from the first time they see it through to when they enter the resort and move through the public spaces within.”

Goddard says that the cupolas give shape to the towers and inspire thoughts of castles, palaces and cathedrals—all magnificent structures that fire the imagination. “With this in mind, the cupola became very important. It allowed us to suggest a cost-effective way of transforming each room tower into an epic scale ‘billboard’ that communicated a message of opulence, royalty, magnificence and wonder.”

This stunning piece atop the property, in fact, almost did not even happen. And with the cupola serving such a crucial role to the resort’s exterior look, there is actually quite an interesting story behind them—one that is owed to a fortuitous napkin ring. Goddard tells the tale behind what he calls fate at work. He arrived in Macau for a progress meeting with the project manager and the engineers who told him then that the cupolas wouldn’t work and must be cut. Their reason was because of wind shear factors. Goddard knew right then that without them, it would be a disaster for the design. So throughout their meeting, in his mind he kept going back to the cupolas and how he could keep them, while in a timeframe that wouldn’t allow for any new concepts.

Still perplexed with this, Goddard went to lunch with the same group. As the Chinese team was busy conversing, Goddard’s eyes fell upon a metal napkin ring in front of him. He explains: “It so happened this particular set of napkin rings was metal, with a cut-out pattern in them, forming a ring with a laser-cut pattern of openings in it. In my hand was the solution to the wind shear concerns for the cupola! I pulled the metal napkin ring off and held it in the air and said, ‘Gentlemen, what if our cupola is designed like this?’ I pointed to the openings in the metal rings and said, ‘If the wind can move through the cupola, will it work?’ ”

The rest, as they say, is history. The cupolas were saved. “This was an amazing moment, in that within a few hours we had a true design crisis and a unique solution that kept the design integrity for the project,” Goddard said. “It’s hard to believe that for a brief moment those cupolas were almost cut. I think everyone is glad we solved that problem.”

We definitely are glad, because the cupolas truly add an important element to the property that is an authentic Asian five-star resort destination in Macau. In all, the property came at an investment of $14.9 billion (HK) and includes more than 2,200 rooms, suites and villas across three world-class hotels—Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts, Japan’s legendary Okura Hotels & Resorts and the Galaxy Hotel. Galaxy Macau’s 39,000-square meter gaming floor houses 600 table games and 1,500 slot machines, with a specially designed high-limit slot area. Other amenities include more than 50 food and beverage outlets, distinctive retail shopping, lush oasis gardens covering 52,000 square meters and the world’s largest sky wave pool covering 4,000 square meters and featuring a 350-ton white sand beach. There also will be extensive in-house entertainment across multiple live stages and the ultra-exclusive China Rouge private membership club, theater, bar and restaurant. Galaxy Macau also announced plans for a nine-screen, 3-D, multi-function cinema theater to open later this year.

Owner: Galaxy Entertainment Group
Operator: Galaxy Entertainment Group
Architectural Designer: Gary Goddard Entertainment Design
Interior Designer: Alan Chan Design
Interior Architect, Interior Design, Lighting Designer: Steelman Partners
General Contractor: Shanghai Construction Group