Glass maven's guide to Las Vegas

From chocolate fountains to windows that cool the scorching desert air, glazing contractors of the Sin City plunge into a melting pot of ideas to pursue the next generation of 'spectacular'
By Tiffany Lee-Youngren
August 1, 2006
COMMERCIAL, RETAIL, FABRICATION : MEETINGS AND EVENTS

Las Vegas without architecture is like a casino without high-stakes poker: Without the one, the other doesn’t make sense. Sleek high-rises and low-down dives define the city where any dream can become reality if there’s enough cash to be had.
From its origins as a stopover on pioneer trails, the city has always been a high-stake wager; it took construction of Hoover Dam to make the desert city a tourist hub. Since those humble beginnings, Sin City has emerged as one of the most sought-after regions in the world, where one can pay a visit to the Eiffel Tower, New York City and the pyramids of Egypt in one day.

Increasing numbers see Las Vegas as more than a weekend getaway. Upwards of 1.6 million people now make Vegas home, providing a wealth of opportunities for the local construction industry. Glazing contractors vie for small community projects as well as resort contracts ranging in the millions of dollars.

As an expected 9,000 glass pros start packing up their gear for GlassBuild America, The Glass, Window & Door Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center Sept. 19-21, the fantastic technology shown by each structure within this Glass Maven’s Guide to Vegas creates a framework. If you will number among the trade-show attendees, don’t forget to make time to view these structures. Selected by contract glaziers who work in Las Vegas, these buildings run the gamut of new construction, with visitors’ centers and condominium developments sharing space on the Strip with bigwig casinos. 

One caveat from many of those who dare to operate in Las Vegas: construction operations have become no less high stakes than the gaming tables. A number of projects with shaky backing fell through recently. In the first half of 2006, the construction media have been full of stories about general contractors and developers who lost everything in Las Vegas’ version of construction roulette.

Red Rock Casino Resort Spa
11011 W. Charleston Blvd.
Las Vegas, Nev. 89135
Owner: Station Casinos Inc., Las Vegas
Architect: Friedmutter Group, Las Vegas
Glazing contractor: Giroux Glass, Las Vegas
Completed: April 2006

The Red Rock Casino has the requisite roulette wheels and nickel slots, and one other element many casinos do not: windows. Most casinos are gaming friendly time warps designed to isolate gamblers from the outdoors and keep them making wagers long into the night. The designers of the Red Rock, however, located 10 miles west of the Strip in the shadow of the Red Rock Canyon Natural Conservation Area, aimed to create an indoor space that would incorporate the beauty of the resort’s outdoor surroundings; and that meant lots of glazing. Two dozen types of glass were used in the construction of the $925 million casino, and the low-rise glazing package utilized glass manipulators, boom lifts, scissor lifts and a tower crane for installation. At peak construction, the 87,000-square-foot casino buzzed with approximately 2,500 union tradesmen and 40 glaziers. Amazingly, the scope of glazing work, amounting to approximately $7 million overall, was completed in just under eight months.

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The author is a San Diego freelance writer, 619/398-7275, tleeyoungren@ucsd.edu.