In addition to promoting high-end retail architecture, City Center’s master planners wanted to promote what David Rockwell calls a “climate-controlled, sustainable, fantasyland where people can shop, sleep, dine, and play.” So naturally he imported impressive talent for the restaurant design. And they didn’t skimp on the architectural details, or the energy.
Without a doubt the highlight is Aria’s Bar Masa, designed by New York designer Richard Bloch, who also designed Bar Masa inside New York’s Time Warner Center. The lofty Japanese restaurant has a giant stepped structural concrete roof (executed with the help of Aria designer Cesar Pelli) reminiscent of a floating staircase. Bloch tempered the “heroic”scale of the roof with a 90-foot-long aluminum-framed fabric structure—lit with upward-facing LEDs—that echoes that staircase and creates what Bloch calls a “ceiling within a ceiling.” This insertion—offset with concrete floors and large curtains of glass—makes the space feel cavernous, well defined, and somehow comfortable all at the same time.
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Just next door (and across a small indoor pond), is Shaboo, also designed by Bloch; a much more intimate version of Bar Masa. It’s all about contrasts: grey tubular aluminum chandeliers hanging over bright yellow chairs; a warm wood wall across from a large purple wall and an adjacent glass wall. What sounds garish looks surprisingly subtle and refined on site. Just down the hall is Lemongrass, a Thai restaurant designed by New York design stars AvroKo, reminiscent of a Thai silk factory with a combination of dark woods, raw fibers, and textured fabrics creating a rhythmic and sometimes distracting backdrop.
Yes, it’s a little over the top but also elegant and with a touch of craft that contrasts nicely with corporate spaces nearby. Meanwhile a standout inside Crystals is KAA Design Group’s Mastro’s Ocean Club. That space features curving white leather booths, chairs covered in ochre leather, and banquettes enveloped by the tree’s curving timber beams. Adding a finishing touch to the dining space are glittering circular chandeliers made up of jewel-like, irregular glass shapes. Did we mention it was perched inside a three-story tree? Yes, this is still Las Vegas.
Sam Lubell is the West Coast editor of The Architect’s Newspaper.
Jeff Green Photography