“Create a oasis in the middle of desert so great that it will be confused with a mirage.”
That was the assignment given to Don Brinkerhoff, CEO of Lifescapes International, and his team for designing the landscape in the most expensive casino-hotel in history.
The client that gave the assignment was Steve Wynn, the job required to be unique, out of the ordinary and to deliver an experience beyond any customer’s expectations.
Built in 1989 at a whopping cost of $620 million (which was unheard of at the time), The Mirage introduced the concept of a destination resort to the Las Vegas Strip, and maintains its status as an icon of the Strip to this day.
Recognized as trendsetters designing resorts and hotels, casinos, we would say that Don Brinkerhoff and his team succeeded in achieving the project brief.
Don Brinkerhoff: The Man Behind Las Vegas’ Iconic Resort Landscapes
The First Casino Resort in Las Vegas
Brinkerhoff’s solution to creating ‘an oasis in the middle of the desert’ was to design a tropical, South Seas oasis in the middle of a harsh, barren desert, and use a fire and water volcano at the front of the resort to become the real billboard for the hotel.
At that time, the largest market for gambling was in in Las Vegas, and people coming from Southern California would discover a unique attraction, with waterfalls , a jungle with majestic palms, a rainforest with animals, swimming pools and dolphin habitat.
The result was a destination like nothing else in Clark County; the first casino resort built on the Las Vegas Strip, paving the way for billions of dollars in development of the same.
While Vegas today is a highly competitive market, The Mirage didn’t had competitors for three years. Though other gaming operators saw the success of the Mirage, and started to build their own resort destinations, hiring Lifescapes again as the landscape architect.
Image: Ronnie Macdonald (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr
Lifescapes Influence on Las Vegas
Lifescapes focus was on creating a successful landscape destination for people visiting Las Vegas. The team worked with developers, operators, architects and consultants to create memorable, iconic landscapes in more than 15 casinos resorts on the Las Vegas Strip.
In addition, 40 more casino resorts were built across the US and the world, and if there’s one very specific influence Lifescapes has had on Las Vegas, it would be the firm’s portfolio of creating spectacular gardens.
Don and his Lifescapes team proved that landscape architecture can be an attraction. And The American Gaming Associations recognized Brinkerhoff’s innovations in the gaming industry by inducting him into AGA Hall of Fame; the first landscape designer to be honored in this way.
The Hall of Fame honors achievements of leadership and entertainment in the gaming industry. Brinkerhoff, at his induction, said that without his senior executive team, he wouldn’t made it this far and because of working side by side had lead the company to success.
Photo credit: Nan Palmero (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr
Designing Vegas and the World
Lifescapes changed the realm of landscapes architecture.
World-class architectural and interior designer Leonard Bergman said that Lifescapes priority is to gain a emotional response from the human being and he considers one of the most creative design firm ever.
Bhavna M. Mistry, who was formerly affiliated with Caesars Entertainment Corp., remembers when she worked with Brinkerhoff and Lifescapes in building a 27-story tower at the edge of New Orleans. She wanted that street to be a destination street, where people would feel like they were visiting Europe.
For over three decades, Lifescapes worked with major casino industry property owners and operators, like Golden Nugget Resorts, the Genting Group, Mirage Resorts, Bally’s Pinnacle Entertainment, MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment Corp., Las Vegas Sands Corp., and others.
They designed the iconic 4.5-mile of Las Vegas Boulevard Byway for Clark Country as well.
Other Designers Who Have Influenced Las Vegas
Besides enormous buildings, beautiful gardens, luxury accommodations, and enhancing interior design, designing Las Vegas city didn’t stop there. The city has also been shaped by game design of the slot machines.
Their design is a process of integration, which includes script writers, graphic artists, marketers, mathematicians, software, mechanical and video engineers. The slot machine is a symphony of different technologies that come together into a single piece.
Slot machines are driving the industry, and over the past few decades have shaped the concept of a casino as we know it today. In recent decades society has seen a shift away from the social forms of gambling by playing roulette, poker and blackjack and slot machines have grown in popularity.
In an ever evolving market, these slot machines have seen an infusion of digital and video technology into the Casino space. The locals call Las Vegas “The city of machines’’.
The Tourism Impact of the Online Casino
From 1989 when Brinkerhoff gave life to the first resort casino, to 2018 where the online casino is now having an effect on Vegas tourism, the gambling culture in Las Vegas has evolved rapidly.
The number of tourists visiting casino resorts continues to rise, as travelers often view gambling as a leisure activity, especially in a niche destination like Vegas. Though with the sudden availability of online casinos like Gametwist online, it will be interesting to see if this trend will impact casino tourism.
We think not, as Brinkerhoff and his team at Lifescapes didn’t simply create casinos. By incorporating pools, waterfalls, and stunning over the top gardens, in each resort they created along the Vegas Strip, they created destinations in their own right.
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