Amidst the ‘city within a city’ MGM Mirage City Center project, Polish – American architect Daniel Libeskind designed the shops at Crystals which is a retail and entertainment space that serves the purpose of an immersive shopping experience for the customer. Opened in 2009, Crystals is a 5,00,000 square foot retail and entertainment space that will immediately attract the attention of a passerby on Las Vegas Boulevard. Like most of Libeskind’s structures, the jagged angles and crystalline shapes create a unique and mesmerizing experience capturing the minds of the audience. The style of architecture incorporated by Libeskind is ‘deconstructivism’ like most of his ‘postmodern’ structures.

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Bird’s Eye View_©Scott Frances

Design and Planning

The shops at Crystals act like a connective tissue amidst the high-rise structures of residences, boutique hotels, and casinos around The Strip. Doing justice to the name ‘Crystals’, the structure ticks all boxes of the project brief by serving the purpose of providing high quality and dramatic shopping experience. About 49 luxury retailers operate within Crystals, some of which include Louis Vuitton, Tom Ford, Tiffany & Co., Christian Dior, and Versace. Representing elegance and luxury, Daniel Libeskind has designed a unique facade with asymmetric geometric forms amidst the plain glass facades of adjoining high-rise structures. This unique facade draws the attention of pedestrians into this not-so-traditional retail shopping center. Libeskind intended to create a public arcade with a variety of dramatic experiences like water features, grand staircases, and play of angles.  

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Street View Las Vegas Boulevard_©Scott Frances

The play of obtuse and acute angles, high walls at different angles, interlocking forms punctuated with skylights, and yet seamless transitions between all units have given rise to this exhilarating and dramatic piece of architecture by Libeskind. “The intention was to create a spectacular urban project in a place that was full of kitsch,” says Libeskind, “to transform The Strip into a place that has integrity, with spaces that are unique and that give people a chance to see the world in a new light.”

Material and Construction

The ambitious project designed by Libeskind is a geometrically complex structure and occupies an entire city block. Libeskind invested in structural steel solutions throughout the building to execute this project. Sloping perimeter columns and roof trusses with lengths up to 60-m (200 ft) along with a 30-m cantilever over the entrance are some of the highlights of the structural solutions provided. The exterior forms are clad with stainless steel and provide a crystalline and reflective look to the structure. The structure is punctuated with glass skylights at appropriate locations to shower natural light into the interior spaces and open up views of the surrounding towers.

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The Flower Carpet_©Alexander Garvin
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Play of Angles_©Scott Frances

While the building appears to have different units when looked at from the exterior, the interior is a public arcade that is free-flowing and connected throughout. The interiors of the structure are designed by the Rockwell Group and the art installations inside the arcade are by WET Design. “We tried to create areas where people can meet and commune, different sorts of venues that people weren’t used to seeing in Las Vegas,” explains David Mexico, Rockwell’s principal-in-charge. More than 100 sculptures by Richard MacDonald and artwork by Dale Chihuly add more gravitas to the statement made by David Mexico. 

Some of the eye-catching settings inside Libeskind’s structure that add to the magic include the ‘Tree House’, that engulfs a dining area, the ‘Hanging Gardens’, which is a passageway lined with tree-like iron structures that support planters, the ‘Grand Stair’ and the ‘Flower Carpet’, which is inspired by the Flower Carpet of Brussels. The majestic three-story treehouse built-in mahogany and Sapele wood leave a lasting impression. In addition, two water features – ‘Glacia’ (a collection of carven ice totems that rise from a frozen sub room in the basement each morning, which melt throughout the day) and ‘Halo’ (a succession of transparent acrylic tubes containing vortexes of water.) add to the intrigue and drama of the space.

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Treehouse_©au.simon.travel
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Grand Staircase_©au.simon.travel
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Glacia_©au.simon.travel
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Halo_©au.simon.travel

Sustainable practices

Libeskind designed this public retail structure with special thought towards environmentally conscious practices in terms of the material used and the amount of energy used in this large public retail district. Some of the highlights of sustainable practices include – 

  1. Use of radiant floor cooling which specifically air conditions the space that is occupied. 
  2. Usage of wood products that are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified.
  3. Use of skylights to allow maximum natural light instead of energy losses due to artificial lighting.
  4. Use of efficient water fixtures that prevent wastage of water. 
  5. Attention to environmentally conscious practices has led the Shops at Crystals to be recognized for the LEED® Gold Core & Shell certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in 2009. 

This structure by Libeskind is also the world’s largest retail district to receive this recognition. Other recognitions for this structure include receiving the VIVA “Best-of-the-Best” designation by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) in 2012 along with ICSC Design And Development Award in 2011. 

References:

  1. Studio Libeskind (2020). Crystals at City Center, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

Available at – https://libeskind.com/work/crystals-at-citycenter/ 

  1. Marcia Argyriades (2010). CRYSTALS by Daniel Libeskind for MGM MIRAGE City Center

Available at – https://www.yatzer.com/CRYSTALS-by-Daniel-Libeskind-for-MGM-MIRAGE-City-Center 

  1. Picco Group. The Shops at Crystals (Exterior Shell)

Available at – https://www.piccogroup.com/shops-at-crystals 

  1. Aaron Seward (2010). Bright Crystal

Available at – https://www.architectmagazine.com/technology/lighting/bright-crystal_o 

  1. Art and Architecture at The Shops at Crystals

Available at – https://au.simon.travel/art-and-architecture-at-the-shops-at-crystals/ 

Author

Poornima is an architect from the city of Pune. Being a heritage enthusiast, she loves to explore the various threads of architecture, culture, and ecology that tie a community. She hopes to bring about a change in the perception of development in India.

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