Illuminating Concepts Serves as Executive Lighting Designer for $8.7 Billion MGM CityCenter in Las Vegas
By: Mark Winter
- This is the first project of any significant size or scope for which there was appointed an “Executive Lighting Designer”.
- Illuminating Concepts oversaw and coordinated work of 17 lighting designers on the project.
- Largest privately funded real estate project in the history of the U.S.: 20 million square feet, $8.7 billion in development costs
- Illuminating Concepts served in capacity of design, consultant, procurement, integration, implementation and documentation.
- Despite its size, scope and grandeur, the project achieved LEED certification (Gold), with Illuminating Concepts as Executive Lighting Designer
CityCenter commenced in 2004 as a blank canvas 67 acres in size, imagined by a diverse group of visionaries with the energy, foresight and talent to create the most ambitious and innovative development ever conceived in one of the world’s most dynamic cities. It began with a master plan developed by New York’s Ehrenkrantz, Eckstut and Kuhn Architects for a high-density destination with engaging places and experiences, smooth public circulation and keen regard for its surroundings.
To realize this plan, MGM MIRAGE executives traveled the world and met with numerous architects to review their work and understand their approach. When the search concluded, MGM MIRAGE had chosen eight of the world’s foremost architects to begin an intense design phase that would take CityCenter from merely an idea to a reality.
This “dream team” of architects included a proverbial “who’s who” in world-class international design: Helmut Jahn, Rafael Viñoly of RV Architecture, Foster + Partners, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, Studio Daniel Libeskind, Rockwell Group, and Gensler, who was awarded the role of Executive Architect after MGM MIRAGE’s extensive search for a firm that could handle the formidable task of leading a project of this dramatic scale, design complexity, aggressive schedule, and preeminent caliber.
To find an Executive Lighting Designer who was equally able, talented, visionary and committed to meeting both rigorous standards and challenging deadlines, they turned to Illuminating Concepts (IC).
The CityCenter project is the first on record to have had any firm serve in the capacity of Executive Lighting Designer, underscoring the vital role IC played in coordinating, managing, consulting, leading and implementing a project-wide lighting package that spans all 20 million square feet and totaled in excess of $170 million of this magnificent $8.7 billion development.
Up to the Task
Such an undertaking was no small feat. Over the course of the project’s development lifespan, IC managed, directed or collaborated with 17 other lighting designers and consultants. Whereas in most projects the lighting design, integration, procurement and documentation work are awarded to a number of disparate lighting partners and distributors, the visionaries at CityCenter saw the value and ultimate success in having one firm manage nearly the entire process.
“We’ve found this to be a differentiator for our company,” said Ron Harwood, IC’s president and founder. “There can potentially be a disconnect between a designer’s vision and the logistical, practical application of a contractor’s bidding and construction process. To satisfy both the grandeur of the designer’s visualization and the less glamorous world of codes, standards, specifications and electrical engineering, we brought the entire spectrum in-house.”
For a project of CityCenter’s size, scope and ambition, this was especially imperative, said Kelly Stechschulte, project director with Illuminating Concepts. “The unique architecture and interior of both public space and private venues, which ultimately make the project so successful, created unique challenges with respect to documentation, specification, field review, and final fit-out. Additionally, the introduction of energy-efficient lighting within a gaming environment without sacrificing the aesthetics and MGM’s quality and performance expectations demanded creative design as well as keen attention to specifications, product procurement, implementation and engineering.”
IC, throughout the CityCenter experience, even identified and established a new process within the company itself. In collaborating with so many other firms, from design to procurement partners, IC established a more collaborative structure in which the firm’s procurement team would work more directly with the design team, and vice versa, so that designers would design with a future eye towards procurement needs; and even procurement professionals would think like designers, taking a more critical and creative eye at specs, standards and measuring them against a particular product being procured.
“That balance of creativity and engineering—left and right brains working together—is what we feel makes IC and the projects we work on so special,” Harwood added.
To complete that “entire spectrum” Harwood references, IC even served as “general contractor” of the lighting implementation and integration process, maintaining an on-site presence weekly and working in concert with the project’s other contractors to make sure the lighting design vision was being realized through the proper integration of the appropriate products procured.
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Taking the Lead on LEED
How does a project, of the size and scope of CityCenter, in a city known for opulence and spectacular showmanship, become LEED-certified and, in fact, a model for “green” design and development?
The challenge for IC was to approach the project with energy conservation and sustainability in mind, but to pull off the “electricity” and magnificence of the biggest thing to hit the Vegas Strip without sacrificing the experience, energy and ambiance for the visitor.
In the end, six of the project’s components earned LEED gold ratings from the U.S. Green Building Council, marking it the highest LEED achievement by any hotel, retail district or residential development in Las Vegas. As a result, the 20-million-square-foot metropolis is one of the world’s largest sustainable developments.
Serving as an Executive Lighting Designer and coordinating energy consumption logistics with the project engineers, IC managed the project’s lighting and energy specifications to comply with local ASHRAE and LEED standards, possessing keen understanding of the applicable LEED requirements and consulting with the various lighting designers to achieve them. In fact, during the course of the process, IC developed a white paper that would serve as the project’s standard-bearer for compliance codes and regulations methodology to maintain LEED certification standards across all project components and collaborators.
Stechschulte (LEED AP) noted, “There are quite a few credits that relate to energy consumption, light pollution, and more, and many of the prerequisites of each of these categories require that the lighting meet or exceed the stringent ASHRAE requirements. Without having met those prerequisites, the credits which may or may not have included improvements to the standards could not have been obtained.
Harwood added, “There are fewer lights per person at CityCenter than most projects in Las Vegas, but you would never know that to look at it. It’s one of the most spectacular and brilliant jewels in the Las Vegas crown, but it remains so by applying standards for energy consumption that are relevant to LEED certification.”
CityCenter is an urban community filled with fine art and spectacular architecture. It is home to the 4,004-room ARIA Resort & Casino, Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas, the astonishing Crystals retail and entertainment district, Vdara Hotel & Spa, The Harmon Hotel, and Veer Towers. All come together amidst plazas and common spaces alongside pools and beautiful landscaping. CityCenter is a place of high-tech meeting spaces, brilliant residences, world-class spas, extraordinary dining, sophisticated gaming and modern art, seductive bars and spectacular live entertainment.
Illuminating Concepts’ diverse portfolio features a collection of award-winning designs that have enhanced the energy and grandeur of stadiums and arenas, complemented the understated intimacy of historic districts, and activated the retail energy and brand identity of iconic retail destinations for more than a quarter century. Founded in 1981 and headquartered in Farmington Hills, Mich., IC is one of the world’s largest lighting design firms, providing full service design and implementation of award-winning lighting systems for architectural, retail, environmental and theatrical applications worldwide. Broad experience creating stimulating, impactful and memorable experiences for some of the world’s most recognized brands has evolved the firm’s range of services to incorporate multimedia systems, audio systems, interactive features, special effects, water features and all-encompassing control solutions. For more information, please visit www.illuminatingconcepts.com.
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