The most famous street in the world—Las Vegas Blvd—is under pressure.
In The Past
Wynn, Las Vegas
The strip was a street where the grand signature resorts were located. These resorts were designed on a grand scale and most featured very suburban oasis types of landscaping and design. Steve Wynn really cares about the strip and he created the beautiful front yards that makes up the complicated urban space. The large scale, combined with the finely manicured landscaping and the unique attraction lighting created the most famous district in the world.
All of the buildings were so beautiful that tourist had to explore the incredible interiors and attractions. This is the secret of success in Vegas. Las Vegas is not an urban shopping mall.
The people who approve the projects, together with operators that really do not understand the original design theories that made Las Vegas famous have ruined large segments of the strip in the name of commerce.
What has been done that threatens the luxury viability of the strip?
Buildings have been added in front of many of the resorts. These buildings house restaurants and bars. They might give the strip a party feeling, especially at night, but much of the gaming resorts are not being utilized like in years past.
Companies have built some of the ugliest buildings ever designed in front of grand gaming resorts. These facilities are designed to create immediate attraction for food and beverage purchases. Everything is wrong with these buildings—scale, color, lighting and sound. These buildings and businesses have ruined the strip, and unfortunately there are many more planned.
Many of the grand existing projects have started adding “out of theme” additions and signage to facades of the buildings. Some of these additions virtually destroy the original aesthetic. Many of the projects have crammed themselves as close to the strip as possible, eliminating the suburban experience and creating the dreaded URBAN aesthetic. Many people who vacation in Vegas often come from an urban location. Las Vegas’ weather, palm trees and pools—together with gambling—were the reason to come, especially in the middle of the winter. The urban experience needs careful consideration. A landscape design should not be completed by a traffic engineer.
Several of the most successful integrated resorts have maintained the original strip experience. It is my hope that new planning rules will be passed prohibiting independent leased buildings to be constructed on the strip. If not, the strips’ great buildings will only be a distant memory.
I love Las Vegas! I hope that everyone wakes up and sees that what is presently going on will ruin the Las Vegas Experience.
On Friday, May 11th, 2012, my daughter, Suzanne, graduated with a master’s degree in architecture from my alma mater, Clemson University in South Carolina. I could not have been more proud on that day. Suzanne has decided to live the architectural life as I have. It is a great tribute to me and my father; as she is the 3rd generation of Architects in the Steelman family. Suzanne completed many more things than her dad in her studies at Oklahoma and Clemson. Her educational experience was diverse, interesting and fun.
Suzanne Steelman and Stephen Steelman
Suzanne experienced so much at Clemson:
She experienced the architecture of Europe while she studied in Genoa
When she was able to tour Europe during that semester, it had a purpose…architecture
She had one of the same professors that I did 35 years ago, John Jacques. He played a great part in Suzanne’s education today (just as he did in mine)
She witnessed the construction of probably one of the greatest architectural schools in the United States. It is such a simple building, yet so progressive…It is the greatest architectural laboratory in the United States
She grew to love design and architecture
She studied a lot more than her old man. In her last semester she got straight “A’s
There are certain days one will always remember in life – your wedding, your kids’ birthdays… I will always remember May 11, 2012 as the day this father was very proud of his daughter and the life she has chosen.
I have had the pleasure of donating some funds to my alma mater, Clemson University, which they used to build a green roof on the new architectural building, Lee III. It is an incredible building designed by Tom Phifer (another Clemson Graduate) and Jon Jacques (one of my professors) of McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture. It is a stunning example of a great building that just happens to be an architectural school. Kate Schwennsen, the new chair of the architectural school is thrilled to have such a powerful architectural experiment as the home for architectural education in South Carolina.
The Green Roof is cool…literally. It has many great features from the light scoops to the 5 types of plants that grow on the roof. One of the most interesting features is that it is sloped, so even though the building is white, this roof seems to blend seamlessly into the background of the beautiful Clemson countryside.
Green Roof Reality
I, together with my daughter Suzanne, was very happy to have partially sponsored this roof…this innovative and modern approach to architecture of the future.
Green Roof at Sunset
When I graduated in 1977, I thought I was really prepared to be the architect of the future. Today I know that my daughter Suzanne is the architect of the future. Clemson and this building, Lee III, gave Suzanne the insight and desire to change the world.
Steelman and Green Roof Innovator
Thanks to Jim Barker, Kate Schwennsen and Jon Jacques.
American architects need to study abroad. Even in today’s age, with the advent of everything in the world being available on the web… It’s not nearly the same as being there; living the architecture, taking part in the 3D environment, understanding scale and respecting space, light and your neighbor.
Palazzi dei Rolli Genoa
In many European cities, architecture was created by architects with a common purpose, to benefit the lives of the inhabitants for CENTURIES to come. Architecture was not about a fad or an architect’s ego… It was simple and basic. Most American architects are trained in college to solve technical and artistic problems with a comprehensive and creative solution to these issues. But, can a young architect understand and have respect for the built environment without a healthy dose of living life in a foreign land? I think not. Every American architect should be required to live and study architecture where the quiet legends of design created great buildings and an entire lifestyle that has succeeded in staying useful and in style for 500 years.
The Genoa Stock Exchange
In Europe, buildings and architects are usually judged to be great in 50 or 100 years of use. In America, many buildings are judged to be great in 5 minutes… Only to be torn down and replaced in 20 years (or less).
Fountain at Piazza di Ferrari
My daughter, Suzanne Steelman, is studying this semester in Genoa, Italy at the extension of my alma mater, Clemson University. I had the pleasure of visiting her this weekend and was inspired in 12 hours. I am so pleased that she is experiencing life in Italy. Her six months living an architect’s life in Europe will give her the skills to be an architect of the future while respecting the past.
Suzanne Steelman on the balcony of the Clemson Villa Privata Piaggio in Castelleto
The Railway Station in Hanoi is a great example of how politics can destroy and deface the beauty of a significant city:
Hanoi - December 17, 2010
The politicians who permitted this design should be convicted of a serious crime. They have affected the life of its citizens by defacing one of the 7 great architectural buildings left in Hanoi. This has left a scar that will be felt for generations to come. Hopefully the new economy will allow the creation of serious architecture that will redefine the city.
Architect in the USA wants to hire 130 new employees in 2011, but cannot. Here’s why:
Obama and the FDIC fixed our banking system with new rules and regulations that say my business ($25 mil to $50 mil in Worldwide Revenues) does not qualify for any credit (receivables, unencumbered real estate, etc). Even with my personal guarantee, we are running our multimillion dollar business without a bank. After 19 years and a perfect banking performance record, my two banks have required rapid repayment of my LOC’s… $4,000,000 will not be available for job creation.
In my business, the tax code requires tax payments on any loan. Repayments from revenues require tax payments… $1,800,000 will not be available for job creation.
New Sources of Revenue/Credit
We have no credit and no bank willing to lend us any money (except without a personal pledge of my liquid assets). We just received several large commissions overseas, yet I cannot borrow a dime based on that contract (or any other). 20% of that commission would normally be used to hire new employees in the USA… $3,000,000 will not be available to hire new employees.
Large, revenue generating project overseas: Ho Tram Resort – Vietnam
Large, revenue generating project overseas: Happyland Theme Park
The health care situation looks bad. We are trending a 37% increase in 2011, since the new plan specifies all pre-existing conditions must be insured. We have always covered all of our employees… $183,000 will not be available next year to hire new employees.
Health Care Taxation
The new taxes on health care are unknown to us, but it could add $300,000 to our tax bill and $25,000 to the tax bill of our current USA employees… $325,000 will not be available to hire additional employees.
I am a small US based businessman. I am one company out of millions to the administration. In my small business world I am not able to hire 130 new employees in 2011. I would hire these employees if I could.
THESE REASONS ARE REALLY THE PROBLEM… FIX THEM AND AMERICA WILL ONCE AGAIN BE A WORLD BUSINESS LEADER.
In America 20% of the population smokes and out of those 20%, 93% want to quit! In Casino design we go to extraordinary measures to keep smoking as a part of the experience; a very bad part of the experience. We, as architects, assist our clients with political and architectural solutions to keep the casino the last indoor place that allows PUBLIC SMOKING in America. What would happen if all of the casino owners took a deep breath of clean air and stopped smoking within the gaming floors?
The last indoor place to smoke in America.
A new younger, more affluent group of healthy people will visit and participate in casino gaming. I personally, will not ever gamble next to a smoker. I hate smoking in the casino!
The dealers will be healthier and look better.
The facilities would able to meet LEED energy requirements since they will not be exhausting so much air conditioned air. This would permit much lower power bills and allow for the casino to take advantage of state and federal energy credits for constructing such a “today” building.
The facility would not require pumped in artificial smells to mask the foul smell of a cigarette stuck in a refrigerated box.
It would separate entertainment gaming from the “Drinking, Smoking and Gambling” always go together mentality… Why? There are many people who do not smoke and drink that want to visit a casino. Casinos are not bad for your health – drinking and smoking are!
Outdoor smoking at a European casino designed by Steelman Partners
No matter how “cool” and unique the design/project is, it is not “cool” to smoke. Forget that 22 years ago The Silver City on the strip tried a no smoking casino and failed… That was 22 years ago. It is really time for the gaming entertainment operators to realize that holding onto smoking in casinos is dating the industry. Somehow, in an IPAD world, the 600 year-old gaming industry looks old. Please stop all smoking in all casinos NOW!
Slot room for smokers in Holland designed by Steelman Partners
Energy used to be cheap and abundant in America, but our natural resources are being used at a rate greater than any time in the planets’ history. These resources create a country’s economy and their standing in the world. Simply stated, countries that are blessed with natural resources have more power, more influence and more money.
Our buildings use 23% of power generated in the world. For centuries, buildings have used natural resources to heat, cool, ventilate and illuminate them. In recent times, construction duration increases with building energy utilization.
Here are some reasons why:
Buildings have been constructed in locales where climatic conditions do not allow for effective use of natural resources, such as the massive development of the deserts of the world.
Buildings have been allowed to be constructed taller. Do you know how much energy is used to flush a toilet on the 100th floor?
Environmental building systems are a little like Mc Donald’s. Unfortunately, many people eat at McDonalds because it is cheap and fast – just like many systems are designed for cheap installation costs. The real cost of a high-in-fat fast food hamburger is very large if you consider the price of medical attention, lack of productivity and early death… and that cost is even higher if these habits are passed on to the next generation.
Buildings’ energy costs are very high when you consider the following:
The cost of energy is a variable. A typical operating business can experience over 25% of its profits going to energy increases in any given year.
As big buildings try to save energy, they work with the controls that are designed into the system. The biggest energy saving is in reducing the return air, or making up air requirement. Reducing the air changes will make the building’s indoor air quality poorer, causing a lot of other issues such as dirty air, occupant illness and building maintenance issues.
Paul at Outdoor Ski Area
Paul at Ski Dubai
Many large buildings use excessive amounts of energy. A Las Vegas megaresort might use 30 to 40 million dollars per year in energy. The ski slope in Dubai uses the carbon equivalent of 3500 barrels of oil per day to cool the ski area. The Indoor Ski Area in Dubai uses the carbon equivalent of 3,000,000 miles of driving per day. An outdoor ski area in an appropriate climate uses the equivalent carbon footprint of 1.5 days of Ski Dubai for their power consumption for the entire year. To even add more insult to this statistic, a standard ski area will entertain 20 times more skier days than Ski Dubai.
Big, energy wasting luxurious buildings are going the way of the big gas guzzling cars of the 70’s and 80’s. People will begin to make entertainment decisions on the basis of modern views when they have the opportunity… someone must be the first to build an ECO ENTERTAINMENT PRODUCT. Steelman Partners is in the process of trying to design this new product for many clients.
Eco Casino Design
Sustainable Elementary School – Bio Climatic Section
The question was recently presented to me as to whether the Aria and Encore are setting a trend in casino lighting. The first naturally lit casino was Harrah’s Laughlin. We designed the Sands Macau with a very large east facing window that creates a golden intoxicating natural light in the casino. Everyone looks better, feels better and stays in the casino longer when surrounded by natural lighting. Young people do not live in eternal darkness!
East Facing Window at the Sands Macau
There are lots of reasons why casinos are gravitating toward letting in natural light. Here are several:
It offers more of a resort experience.
The old casino guards who said, “Do not ever let them know what time it is” are retired.
It extends the gaming hours; people naturally want to be in daylight during daylight hours.
Day lighting techniques can place the sun in a building so there is little or no glare.
It saves money on energy.
Here are some theories behind the rationale as to why casinos traditionally have not had natural lighting:
The old traditional dark way was just the way in which all casinos were designed… as Giant Refrigerated boxes.
Many jurisdictions do not allow gaming equipment to be visible from windows.
Many slot machine operators would not allow any glare on the gaming screens.
Most windows were used for direct light, not filtered light.
Brightness is a lot more popular today than it was in the past.
Younger people look much better today than 15 years ago. They look great in natural light.
Casinos are reluctant to change. Why change something that works or fix what isn’t broken?
Natural lighting in casinos can affect the guest’s experiences in the following ways:
It will provide the guest with more energy.
The design will have “longer legs” – it will stay popular without massive renovation.
The casinos will make more money since the gaming day/night will be extended.
The guest will extend their visits to see two or three interior experiences – many of them made by a higher force. They will enjoy day and be awed witnessing the casino transform to night in front of their eyes; almost like looking at a big city at sunset.
A new and different type of customer will be found in the casino, one that would have never considered a casino experience in the past.
Sands Macau Casino
We know that the Sands Macau worked…we are sure that Aria will work. Natural light in the casino will be the rule, not the exception!