Unless you’ve been on sabbatical or hiding under one of your warehoused slot machines for the past five years, you know that CityCenter is the newest—and largest—property to hit the Las Vegas Strip. A joint effort of MGM MIRAGE and Infinity World Development, a wholly-owned subsidy of Dubai World, CityCenter’s $8.2 billion price tag, 67 acres and 18 million square feet of mixed-use development is set to change the Las Vegas Strip forever.
At the center of this modern architectural feat is the beating heart of the urban complex: ARIA. The only one of the six towers to house a casino, ARIA is the vocal piece of the entire ensemble. Designed by César Pelli, whom some call the dean of American architecture because he served as dean of the Yale School of Architecture from 1977 to 1984, ARIA is a gorgeous 4,004-room, 61-story masterpiece of inspired glass and steel contemporarily designed.
Much thought went into the design of ARIA, and CityCenter as a whole, yet one thing is noticeably missing: the classic Las Vegas “themeing” that seems to define all major casinos on the Strip. ARIA is no New York, New York. It’s no Paris. And it certainly is no Circus Circus. Instead, ARIA has no overarching formal design theme. “The building is not bound to a theme,” Pelli said. Yet, one could argue that the natural materials and overtones that grace the inside and out of this facility could be considered a design theme of its own.
Upon entering ARIA through the porte cochere, a striking amount of glass and steel soars into the air above the entrance, welcoming guests into what at times feels like a space-aged building befitting an intergalactic space station. Surrounding the porte cochere area is another salient design feature: Focus, a 270-foot-long, curved flowing water wall designed with natural stone. Just one of the many water design features crafted by Wet Design throughout CityCenter, Focus is constantly changing in choreographed patterns sweeping water across the immense length and height of the wall, creating a calming ocean-like timbre.
Complementing Focus’ front flowing water is Lumia, a large water feature complete with “twisting ribbons and large arcs of streaming water” that create bold “water sparks” at their intersections. The first fountain ever to be lit in neon-crashing colors during daylight hours, Lumia draws visitors inside the property and creates a sense of energy and lavishness.
After entering ARIA’s grand glass entrance doors, guests immediately note the warming scent of light vanilla, a notable scent branding effort that MGM MIRAGE has employed throughout each of CityCenter’s arms, creating a unique scent for each building. Some studies suggest that strategic scents have been proven to increase sales and stay time from 20 percent to more than 90 percent, a fact MGM is hoping to capitalize on.
As the glass from the porte cochere gently filters in the rays of the Las Vegas sun, guests inside the main lobby are warmed by the natural light (although it is short lived once they move on to the casino floor). This use of natural light is just one of the myriad green design features inside ARIA and is one of the many reasons it was one of five buildings at CityCenter to receive the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED award.
As the general contractor, Perini Building Co. had a significant impact on earning LEED certification for the project. “Perini managed LEED compliance for more than $1 billion worth of building materials on the entire project,” Perini Building Co. Project Executive Laura Tameron said. Some of the notable sustainable efforts Perini performed were construction waste management, site pollution prevention, indoor air quality, regional and recycled content material procurement, and the use of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) wood.
Tameron also noted that many of the environmentally sustainable design and construction techniques implemented at CityCenter had never been approached on such a major scale. “ARIA Resort’s casino presented one of the most challenging efforts on the project,” she said. “The airflow in the casino streams from under the floor through slot machine bases, resulting in fresh air delivered directly to the guest, better indoor-air quality and a more comfortable environment. Traditional casino airflow is from the ceiling downward. The new design required over a thousand floor penetrations and complex ductwork.”
CityCenter also created a market for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood use in Las Vegas. “Perini and its subcontractors procured more than 91 percent of the total wood for the ARIA Resort & Casino and Crystals from FSC chain-of-custody certified suppliers and manufacturers,” Tameron added. FSC wood products came from more than 85 FSC certified mills, material vendors, suppliers, distributors, manufacturers and fabricators.
Like CityCenter’s other properties, the inside spaces of ARIA are ultra-contemporary and urbane, yet minimalistic and sometimes cold at the same time. As guests find their way through the myriad restaurants, stores and clubs, they will come across some breathtaking examples of lush foliage, natural reclaimed wood, stone, tile and fine art.
Among the public art collection throughout CityCenter is an 84-foot replica of the Colorado River made of reclaimed silver (another sustainable accomplishment) by Maya Lin, creator of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., that hangs above the main lobby desk. Other equally inspiring pieces can be found throughout ARIA and the rest of the development.
“ARIA and CityCenter reflect a combination of innovation, energy and visionary design that we believe will reshape how the world views the destination resort experience and attract visitors from around the globe as a landmark of taste and style,” said Jim Murren, chairman and CEO of MGM MIRAGE. “CityCenter will become the benchmark by which all new developments will be measured, and it won’t be surpassed in scope and grandeur for decades.”
While the verdict on whether or not it has actually accomplished these goals is still up in the air (it’s only been open for a few months as this issue goes to press), one thing is for certain: It is big, bold and unbelievably brilliant when it comes to its architecture, construction and design.
Owners: MGM MIRAGE and Infinity World Development (Dubai World)
Operator: MGM MIRAGE
Design Architect: Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects
Architect of Record: HKS
Design Leadership Team: MGM MIRAGE and Gensler
General Contractor: Perini Building Co.
Construction Management: Tishman Construction