The New Yorker has a fascinating article this week (3/26 issue) about Roger Thomas, who has been the design chief for Steve Wynn's projects over the years. The current open, higher ceiling, chandeliers, "look" of many casinos is directly traceable to him. Among his products are the Bellagio, Wynn, Encore, etc and by extension the Venetian, Palazzo, Aria, Borgata, etc.
As the story goes, most 1960s through 1990s casinos were built along lines advocated by Bill Friedman, a highly respected designer of the time. The slot machines and tables would be the attraction for the eye, and would be arranged along the lines of a labyrinth. Side walls of the gambling floor would be notably devoid of items that would allow the gambler to maintain a frame of reference. Lighting would be subtle and artificial, no outside views. The gambler would be trapped.
Thomas turned this concept on its ear with Mirage, and then big time with Bellagio. The entrance to the hotel was separate from the casino, and had its own decorative elements (walking past the volcano, the Chiluly floating cloud, the conservatory beyond, etc). Compare this to older places like Sahara, where all access leads through the casino. Bellagio's shopping arcade is reminiscent of classic venues like the galleria vittorio emmanuele in Milan, or many European train station. Open, airy, light. In Bellagio, natural light enters the casino floor from many points.
He expanded that concept to Wynn, where light floods into the casino from several points, and focal points include fountains, etc visible from the gambling floor.
The article mentions that Friedman's concepts may cause some gamblers to feel trapped, while Thomas's ideas increase security and comfort. Wide open sight lines, clear directional markers, friendly colors in some cases, windows, etc cause the visitor to feel more comfortable, and to wager more money.
Much more money, it seems that tuning the rooms for women (with different chairs and furnishings), for younger gamers (with different kinds of music in different areas of the same casino), etc boosts occupancy rates in hotels and more activity in the casino.
Changing the focus from solely a place to gamble (Frontier, Sands, Sahara, Golden Nugget, etc) to a comfortable place with shops and restaurants that also has gambling (Caesar's, Wynn, Luxor, Mandalay, etc) has produced a huge bump in income for the owners over the years.
Link to follow.
Architecture INSIDE Las Vegas casinos
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