The Star-Studded Design of Vegas' $8.5 Billion CityCenter


MGM Mirage's CityCenter is claiming itself to be the face of the "new Vegas" when it opens this week. The $8.5 billion, 18 million-square-foot development right on the Strip bucks the mega-resort trend by corralling multiple hotel and residential concepts in one master-planned site. But it's also a revolutionary convergence of starchitects—Daniel Libeskind, Rafael Viñoly, and Norman Foster, just to name a few—who worked together to create a cohesive vision for what might be Vegas' first walkable, urban development. In addition to its long list of sustainable features—many of the buildings nabbed their LEED Gold certification—CityCenter wants to live up to its name, creating a new center for the city. So the 67-acre grounds are studded with public art installations and sculpted into parks and boulevards, not paved with buffets and miles of Fear and Loathing-inspired carpet.

Headed by executive architects at Gensler, the CityCeter project encompasses a jaw-dropping three architects-of-record, seven architects and 90 interior designers. The first three buildings—Vdara, Crystals, and the Mandarin Oriental—all open this week, so here's a look at all the design contributions that will make CityCenter a jackpot of contemporary architecture.


Vdara: Design for this 57-story condo/hotel was handled by RV Architecture, LLC, the firm of Rafael Viñoly. The no-gaming, no-smoking (I know! In Vegas!) complex has 1495 suites that are available for rent or for purchase. An overlapping crescent design nods to the circular Aria and The Harmon. Check out the fly-through.


Crystals: The Strip-side shopping district is the product of masterminds Daniel Libeskind and 2009 Master of Design David Rockwell. Fronting the complex, the retail, dining and entertainment district rises in distinctive angular chards from the street, and feature high-end stores like Louis Vuitton, Tiffany, and Ermenegildo Zegna and two dining concepts from Wolfgang Puck. Check out a fly-through here.


Mandarin Oriental: The Hong Kong-based hotelier only has a few properties in the U.S., adding Vegas as part of the second wave of its American invasion (Atlanta and Chicago are on deck next). This Kohn Pedersen Fox-designed building features 47 stories, split between hotel rooms (392) and residences (227). This is yet another non-gaming property with interiors by Adam D. Tihany.


Aria: Designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli, the Aria makes the grandest statement in the complex with 4004 rooms that will open mid-December. Among the riches within include a Maya Lin sculpture. The only gaming floor in the complex will be a big draw, as will Viva Elvis! the new show by Cirque du Soleil, which will find its home here. Check out great videos and interviews with the architects.


The Harmon: The last hotel tower to open—scheduled for late 2010—has 400 rooms in a zig-zagging 28-floor structure designed by Foster + Partners. The hotel already got some unwanted press when the tower was chopped from its original height (49 stories) due to a construction error (rumors of budgetary constraints persist, too). No matter: This boutique-style hotel will focus on super-luxurious amenities.


Veer Towers: These twin towers do actually veer—leaning in opposite directions. The 37-story all-residential properties were designed by Helmut Jahn with lots of glass and metal with exposed concrete, but won't be open until next year.

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  • David Osedach

    We will be spending the Christmas holidays in Las Vegas. A trip to City Center is tops on the list. After Las Vegas Outlet Mega Mall.

  • Chris Reich

    History will record these sanctuaries to greed were built during the years the American economy permanently retracted signaling the the start of the race between India and China.

    The U.S. and Dubai are now competing for greatest excess based on fading economies. Wall Street and Oil will both lose relevance in the next 20 years.

    The U.S. economy will be consumed by diabetic seniors and retail clerks with government health care.

    If we don't get our real business act together and rebuild the manufacturing base, Las Vegas will be a place for Americans to deal cards to Chinese Billionaires.

    Chris Reich, Want to See The U.S. Strong Again