“It’s a fun time in Vegas right now, with the economy up,” said Beth Campbell, principal and managing director of Gensler’s Las Vegas office. Downtown is being reborn, thanks in no small part to Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s multi-million dollar investment. The Strip, too, is booming—see the High Roller observation wheel, which opened on March 31. At the same time, the spendthrift breeziness of the pre-recession years is gone. “Everyone is coming back to life, but with a refined focus and purpose,” said Campbell. “I would say the clients and developers are cautiously aggressive…they still want to grow, still want to reach for the sky…But they’re really focused on how they’re applying [their money] to make these projects happen.”
Campbell described the change as a “big shift to experiential design.” In most cases, property owners elect to pour most of their money into key client areas, keeping behind-the-scenes spaces simple. “It’s the peanut butter concept,” said Campbell. “You can spread it thin across the whole piece [of bread] or just put it all in one corner.”
As an example, Campbell cited Gensler’s renovation of an existing office campus for budget airline Allegiant Air’s new headquarters. Construction on the five-building, 120,000 square-foot complex began last month. “It’s been a very measured approach to this new facility for them, keeping in line with their corporate values and their low-cost approach,” said Campbell. “But they put their people first, and they’re doing the same thing in their office space.” To accommodate multiple work modes, Gensler created a variety of spaces, including open office space, individual work stations, and collaboration zones. Flexibility was the keynote. “Although we’re doing drywall partitions, we’re doing it in such a manner that if they want to move these boxes they can,” said Campbell.
Gensler also recently renovated The AXIS Theater inside Planet Hollywood, home to Britney Spears’s “A Piece of Me” show. The clients “had one mission in mind and that was to create a great experience for the people who are coming,” said Campbell. As with Allegiant Air, the theater’s owners “were very measured, they were very methodical about how they wanted to apply their money.” The theater’s lobby is outfitted in shades of grey and black, the sharp lines of the asymmetrical portal balanced by a massive LED sculpture spiraling from the ceiling. In keeping with the nightclub theme, the auditorium’s walls are also black, as is its domed ceiling. Rows of purple seats hug a half-ring of VIP tables and, against the stage, two standing areas.
Campbell sees last month’s RFP for a Downtown Master Plan as further evidence of the new zeitgeist, which couples renewed optimism with careful planning. “It’s a mechanism for the city to evaluate what’s in place, what do we really have,” she said. “It’s going to take a look at, are they spending their money in the right places?” Timed to coincide with the completion of a new form-based code for downtown, the master plan will define an overall strategy for the city’s revitalization. “It’s really interesting to watch,” said Campbell. “It’s measured. It’s not just a shotgun approach.”