Northern Quest Resort & Casino, The Northwest’s ‘Urban Lodge’

When the Kalispel Tribe of Indians realized the Inland Northwest area of the United States needed a tourism boost, they rightly turned to Hnedak Bobo Group (HBG) architects to expand the Northern Quest Resort & Casino into a beautiful, world-class casino property near Spokane, Wash.

The tribe desired to create resort amenities that would elevate their property to a position as the region’s premier four-star luxury resort. “Together with the tribe, we developed strategic amenities and design quality that would attract their target market, while subtly integrating the unique traditions of the Kalispels into their resort investment,” stated Rick Gardner, AIA, principal and partner at Hnedak Bobo Group.

For the Kalispel Tribe, the property is more than just a casino. The project was an investment in the future and economic vitality of the region. The casino employs both tribal and community members, and is one of the top employers in the area.

And so, in 2008, planning commenced to set the project scope and tone for the Northern Quest expansion. “It was determined during early planning activities that a key goal in the resort design involved the introduction of new marketing opportunities for revenue generation and media exposure,” Gardner explained.

This included a new hotel, casino expansion with separate smoking and non-smoking gaming floors, an upscale cigar bar, a television studio turned sports bar, and other related F&B amenities. The team decided to phase the process, with the hotel and spa opening on Dec. 31, 2009, the casino opening in January 2010, and the final phase finishing in March. It was a tight schedule, but the design teams tackled it head on, with the casino and hotel opening an impressive 12 months from the start date.

Gardner explained that all elements of the expansion were designed to appeal to a younger demographic by weaving together contemporary design with the essence of the Kalispel’s rich cultural history.

“In determining what cultural elements to blend into the property design, tribal leaders traveled with HBG designers to experience important natural sites on the reservation land, including the Pend Orielle River,” Gardner shared. “From these first-hand visits, HBG designers integrated culturally-inspired artwork, decor, textures and design elements throughout the resort for a tailored appeal that uniquely expresses the resort’s location in the Inland Northwest and the Kalispel Tribe’s original homeland in Usk, Wash.”

The exterior of the property has a clean, yet warm, look. The 10-story tower’s first and second floors are clad in stone to serve as the base of the building, and the body is clad with silversmith finished metal panel and continuous ribbons windows at the guestrooms. Exterior accents include metallic tile bands embedded in the stone columns at the porte cochere. Other accent elements include glass curtain wall facades at the ends of the tower with insulated metal panel eyebrows and vertical fins of multi-tone bronze finishes to create a variegated pattern.

Inside the hotel, the guest rooms have contemporary dark wood furnishings and clean lines. The Superior Suite features floor-to-ceiling windows with views in two directions. And the Premier Suite’s design was inspired by the subtle natural elements that have been part of the Kalispel tribe’s culture for centuries.

The Northern Quest’s lobby/lounge is an inviting space, serving as the living room for the hotel and offering a bar with comfortable lounge seating. It is positioned near the hotel connector bridge, and also serves as a small atrium with clerestory lighting and water features arranged as focal points that draw people in from the exterior. The floor is finished with a patterned-stained concrete, symbolic of the river. Gardner further explained: “The space is bound by a see-thru ribbon fireplace, clad in travertine. Opposite the bar and adjacent to each side of the lounge are screen partitions composed of bronze mesh and metallic beads, washed with light from ceiling coves and floor coves, to provide an intimate sense of enclosure while still offering diffused views into the space as wells outside the space.”

The Heritage Hallway connects the casino to the resort’s hotel wing. Here, you’ll find an array of tribal artifacts and a digital display of tribal elders sharing their stories, historical images and language translations.

Indigenous stone, wood and earthen materials were used to naturally enhance the resort’s contemporary warm color palette and symbolic design elements. For example, in the casino’s “Liquid” bar, the entry is offset by a wall of flowing water and a natural wooden sculpture. A hand-painted tiered ceiling is representative of cave-like overhangs found on reservation land, and river reeds are represented by vertical tubes placed near the resort’s water features.

But the tribal influences certainly don’t stop there. The 14,000-square foot Current Spa & Salon features an indoor swimming pool with natural stone and a lighted river ceiling effect inspired by the Kalispel Tribe, who are known as the “people of the river.” Additionally, tribal-inspired elements influence the services provided at the spa and salon, including the use of organic products and healing treatments featuring scents and restorative herbs that celebrate the native tradition.

And on the staircase leading downstairs to the spa is an original 21-foot chandelier designed by ALSC Architects that honors the Kalispel tribe through its representation of hand-blown glass cattails, leaves and water droplets.

The gaming floor has a stacked stone base and an EIFS multi-toned body with both cool and warm gray tones. Accent features are insulated metal panel eyebrows and vertical fins with a three-toned bronze finish to create a variegated pattern. Prodema wood panels provide a rustic brown finish to soften the exterior and give off even more warmth. The open gaming floor, with table games at the center, has a ceiling feature designed with metallic reeds to recall vegetation found in tribal waters on the reservation.

For visitors wanting more to do, Northern Quest offers several dining options. The hotel houses Masselows, a three-meal fine dining restaurant. Guests dining at Masselows will be greeted in Salish, the native language of the Kalispel Tribe. A food court has two franchised owner-operated venues, Villa Italia and Fat Burger. The Q Ultimate Sports Experience is a family-friendly sports bar and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with the “ultimate” sports experience.

The property also houses a cigar lounge that is finished in warm bronze tones and dark espresso woods, designed specifically to accommodate the cigar aficionado. This space has access to the Q Ultimate Sports Experience via a private stair and also provides a balcony overlooking the sports bar dining area.

Owner: Kalispel Tribe of Indians; Kalispel Tribal Economic Authority
Operator: Northern Quest Resort & Casino
Architect: Hnedak Bobo Group
Interior Designer: Valli Design Studio; Hnedak Bobo Group
Contractor: JE Dunn
Structural Engineer: Hotel: Desimone; Casino Expansion: DCI Engineers; Parking Structure: Walker Parking Consultants