Lifescapes International is a legendary company in gaming. When the Mirage in Las Vegas was first being imagined, Steve Wynn turned to Lifescapes founder Don Brinkerhoff to design and build the famous volcano. Since then, it’s attracted millions of visitors each year.
Through the years, Lifescapes has been the go-to company when casinos consider their landscape architecture. Andrew Kreft, director of design for Lifescapes, explains how a well thought-out and designed concept can bring the outside in and create an environment that’s not only pleasing to the eye, but safe and secure in this difficult time. He spoke with GGB Publisher Roger Gros from his office in California in November.
GGB: How has landscape design changed over the years?
Andrew Kreft: Prior to the Mirage opening in 1989, the concept of landscape design was, you drive past the landscape to get to the parking lot, and then you go inside. And that was about it. Steve Wynn changed that. His idea was to create an environment where you’re transformed to a different place the minute you enter a property. That’s the very idea of resort. He wanted to continue that experience from the curb, through the resort all the way to the back of the property.
The concept of the volcano was that you could see it all the way down the Strip. It really drives you into the property. You make a promise when (visitors) come into the property, and you have to keep that promise all the way through.
In today’s casino, particularly during the pandemic, how important is it to bring the outdoors inside?
There shouldn’t be such a hard and fast line between what’s inside and what’s outside. We try to create a more undulated differentiation between indoors and outdoors to blur that line. We create more windows. Back in the day, there were no windows in casinos, but now it softens the appearance and makes it easier for people to stay longer.
Now we’re creating these outdoor rooms you can see from the casino or restaurants that have these unique experiences. They’re each curated for very different experiences.
How early does your company get involved in a project?
We like to start on a project as soon as possible, so we can create an integrated design. We need to be part of the master-planning process. We’ve been very fortunate with our clients, especially with the Wynn organization, in that they see value in that idea. It’s not just about the great architecture; let’s just make it look pretty around the edges. It’s how can we influence the architecture to create a more unique experience for the guests. That kind of thing isn’t possible if you come in at the last minute.
Let’s talk about the pool area, always a key component of a casino resort. How does that come together?
For resorts, the pool area can be the heart of the project. If you’re looking at multi-night stays, you want people to stay on the property as much as possible, so let’s give them an environment where they have choices.
How do you create an environment where you can create enough outdoor rooms that can speak to the different interests of your guests? Some people don’t want to be on display. They want it a little quieter, with more privacy. Other people want to be front and center and part of all the activity. So we try to create a pool area that’s interesting for multiple days. And the pool area shouldn’t be seen as something that can only be used during the day.
So you’re saying landscape architecture isn’t just icing on the cake, it can be a revenue stream. How do you communicate that to casino owners?
If we can get in there early and bake this into the design, we can create revenue or value in places where you might not have thought it was possible. It won’t end up costing you anything extra if you do it early on. But if you come in late, you end up reacting and playing catch-up.