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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz

Forum Told How Wynn Structure Came to Rise so High

27 June 2005

When it was decided that a 170-foot man-made mountain would be designed to shield Wynn Las Vegas from the noise and bustle of the Strip, landscape architect Don Brinkerhoff had all of a day to show resort developer Steve Wynn what the conceptual model would look like.

Brinkerhoff, whose Newport Beach, Calif., company, Lifescapes International, designed the landscaping for The Mirage, Treasure Island and Bellagio, said the trick was making the mountain interesting for guests of Wynn Las Vegas.

He told about 300 people attending Casino Design, a three-day conference that is part of a yearlong series sponsored by the producers of the Global Gaming Expo, that Wynn's mountain concept came early in the resort's development process.

"It started out as something to hide the traffic," Brinkerhoff said Thursday. "When Steve said he and Elaine (Wynn) had thought about a mountain, I told him it was an interesting idea."

Brinkerhoff and his team spent a night building a 2-foot-wide by 2-foot-high model out of clay and plant materials. They showed Wynn the model the next day.

"Steve walked in and said, 'that's terrific.' He grabbed me ... patted me on the back and said, 'That's a good boy,' " Brinkerhoff recalled.

Brinkerhoff was joined by the lead design team for the $2.7 billion Wynn Las Vegas during the opening panel discussion of the conference, which presented an inside look at the five-year design and building process of Wynn Las Vegas. Brinkerhoff said the mountain lent itself to other design elements to enhance the experience of the property's guests. Wynn Las Vegas President Marc Schorr moderated the session.

Schorr said more than 130 exterior and interior designers worked on various elements of the resort. With 5.2 million square feet of space, Wynn Las Vegas is about 8 percent smaller than the Bellagio, which was the inspiration for the resort's design team.

DeRuyter Butler, executive vice president of architecture for Wynn Design and Development, said planners looked at Bellagio, a resort they opened in 1998, and wanted to make sure they corrected any design deficiencies.

"We looked at that space and asked ourselves how we could make it better," Butler said. "From developing that project, we knew some of its shortcomings and we had heard complaints from customers."

One of the main elements in designing the 2,716-room Wynn Las Vegas was narrowing distances for guest amenities to create an intimate feel at a large resort. One way was creating a "hotel within a hotel" concept by having separate elevators for regular hotel guest rooms and VIP suites.

Butler said the farthest suite to an elevator at Wynn Las Vegas is 100 feet; the farthest deluxe hotel room to an elevator is 200 feet. The resort's coffee shop is 400 feet from the main elevators because the location takes advantage of the terraced pool view.

"We didn't want our guests to come into a 5 million-square-foot facility and feel like they were in a 5 million-square-foot facility," Butler said.

The main focus of discussion was the mountain and how the man-made feature was implemented into the resort. More than 1,500 trees were planted on the mountain, many of them rescued when the former Desert Inn golf course was reconfigured. Specially compacted soil, pounded into place with pile drivers, and terraced walls back-filled with sand and hidden by the vegetation, created the mountain.

Once the mountain and its adjoining lake became Wynn Las Vegas' signature feature on the Strip, the team set about to create five waterfalls, eight gardens and other landscaping elements that would become entertainment aspects and blend with adjacent restaurants and lounges. He said the mountain and lake allowed for several of the restaurants to be designed in a way that each could create their own unique environment.

Schorr said that early on in the design phase, Wynn decided he wanted to hide the developing resort from passers-by to not only give a sense of mystery and discovery, but to ensure that the property's paying guests get full benefit of the experience. He said the thousands of people who watch the Bellagio fountains get a better view of the show than the hotel's clientele.

"It was presented to nonpaying guests out on the street," Schorr said. "The people in the restaurants and bars and lounges never got the show presented to them. That's why the shows are presented to the guests staying here. We believe the people who are paying for the resort should be the ones enjoying the show."

Schorr said several of the resort's design features will be used at Wynn Macau, expected to open in October 2006.