Atlantic City takes a $2.4-billion gamble with the debut of Revel, a casino/resort distinguished by spectacular lighting design.
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As the number two gaming venue in the country (second to Las Vegas), Atlantic City has had a hard time catching up with the great gains made by the booming desert destination over the past 20 years.
In 2003, the Borgata hotel, casino, and resort opened in the New Jersey seaside city with a $1.1-billion price tag and 2,002 rooms. By 2005, it started undergoing a $200-million renovation and expansion. By 2008, it opened an upscale 800-room hotel called The Water Club.
By that time, the real estate market nationwide was struggling even as plans for a new resort called Revel – the largest construction project on the East Coast – were getting started. Understandably, the original plans for the Revel property had to be scaled back due to financial constraints. Despite the adversity (and with some tax incentives/financial help from the state of New Jersey), the Revel had a soft opening in April and its official grand opening on May 25.
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Revel’s hotel tower is the tallest structure in Atlantic City and the second-highest casino tower in the United States. Facing the beach and measuring a reported 6.3 million square feet, the Revel boasts 1,898 guest rooms (all with ocean views), two nightclubs (one of which spans three stories), a dayclub, 10 pools, 14 restaurants, three live entertainment venues, a 31,000-sq.-ft. spa, a 130,000-sq.-ft. casino, a “sky garden” that contains 30,000 live trees and plants, plus a private beach on the ocean. Construction is still on-going on the beach as well as for accommodating hundreds more guest rooms.
The ambiance that the operators of Revel wanted to achieve was not only an environment that is chic and sophisticated, but one that would set a new benchmark for casino resorts nationwide. The Revel is Atlantic City’s most expensive casino project ever and the first of the city’s casinos to be entirely smoke-free.
The stakes are high – it is hoped that the Revel will revive the gaming and tourism industry in the historic, ocean-front city and bring back some of its lost grandeur. To fulfill that tall order, collaboration between architectural firms was necessary.
Montreal-based Lightemotion, one of Canada’s leading lighting design firms, has been involved in the Revel project since its conception more than five years ago. Lightemotion was brought in by the design firm Scéno Plus, which has been an instrumental contributor in creating the exciting and breathtaking environment that envelopes visitors and guests during their stay.
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Initially, Lightemotion’s mandate was to design the lighting for the Cabaret and the Ovation Hall, a 5,050-seat transformable theater within the resort. However, after unveiling its value-added concepts to Scéno Plus, the interior design team proposed that the lighting firm take on the 130,000-sq.-ft. casino as well as the Ultra Lounge.
Francois Roupinian, the founder of Lightemotion, describes his philosophy for the Revel project as presenting “evolving environments created by light” throughout the many diverse public spaces in the resort such as the casino, the Ocean Way, the porte cochere, the Pool Play Zone, City Way, the main entrance, the Ellipse with its grand staircase, and the Dining Enclave.
“Our mandate was clear: create an atmosphere that is immersive and dynamic; something exciting, with a wow-factor,” Roupinian states. “The [most significant] technical feature in the Revel project was the ability to mix theatrical environments in an architectural setting and have both of those ‘worlds’ feel as one. Each lighting environment is controllable, allowing different moods to evolve during the course of the day and night.”
Fortunately, Lightemotion was given a lot of creative freedom. “We worked closely with the interior designers at Scéno Plus to make sure all of the lighting could be integrated in the space as well as the architectural/décor features,” Roupinian remarks. “The guideline from the client was to create warm environments that could evolve/change during the course of 24 hours. We would have to create something completely different from the standard casino setting.”
In fact it is the lighting effects that are responsible for changing the atmosphere around the clock. Throughout the casino and its connected spaces the illumination levels are warmer during the day, assisted by daylight from the expansive views of the ocean – a unique aspect in casino design. As the day progresses, the lighting softens and changes, moving through numerous programmable settings such as Afternoon, Cocktail Hour, and Lounge – from fresh ambers, roses, and sky blues to oranges, reds, and the darker shades of nighttime.
In addition to the lighting scheme changing with the passing hours, it also needed to accommodate a fluid environment overall. “In a casino, the gaming layout always changes, so our design had to be adaptable to the fact that the slot machines will [eventually] move as would the gaming tables,” Roupinian explains. “We had to create a design that could adapt to any layout the client would do [down the road].”
In this challenging economic climate, it was necessary for the designers to maximize efficiencies and reduce costs. Lightemotion worked to integrate a multitude of innovative lighting features – all of which have long operational lives and low maintenance – into the innovative interior design.
To that end, more than 3,600 LED fixtures, 3,100 downlights, 1,000 projectors, and 1,300 decorative or custom fittings were designed into the interior. “All of the lighting elements are incorporated into the architecture in such a way that items are lit from within,” Roupinian explains. “The plush red carpet of the main casino floor glows with a soft projected amber pattern; the gaming tables are draped in a soft, yet precise, light that provides a comfortable environment for the players; the walls and partitions are either accentuated with light or meld into the background (depending on the mood to be evoked), but all the while the source of the lighting is a mystery. We have been able to create magic,” he adds. “We brought an extra dynamism to the architecture and interior design. Working with talented designers has allowed us to really show our skills.”
Within this unique environment are numerous extravagant elements that set Revel apart from the rest: countless illuminated lighting spheres shrouded within a maze of sheer fabric to create a giant full-scale chandelier in the Dining Enclave; cushioned walls studded with hundreds of LEDs; and a shimmering golden mobile lit from above to form a sparkling faux chandelier in the main entrance and staircase made by renowned international artist Pascale Girardin.
The Revel is one of the largest projects that Lightemotion has worked on, and its mammoth size definitely had its challenges. “We had several mandates throughout the resort – and all of them had to be delivered at the same time,” Roupinian observes. “We subdivided our team to manage different sections of the resort to make sure nothing was forgotten and that everything was delivered to the client’s and our expectations.”
There are two areas of Revel that Roupinian is particularly proud. “I love the morning looks in the casino because it is so pure and subtle; it blends with all the richness of the fabric and materials used in the space,” he comments. “It creates a peaceful environment you feel good in and it merges very well with the daylight that comes through the west part of the casino.
“The other area I love is how the Lounge looks starting at 5 p.m., it is electric! It transforms the space that was bathing in warm light amber tones all day to more rich saturated colors in the mauves that slowly mix with richer ambers and oranges,” he notes, enthusiastically. “It is a very enveloping setting that is warm, but at the same time the mix with the other tonalities makes it edgy. It’s perfect for a great lounge and cocktail setting!”
Project at a Glance:
Client: Revel Entertainment Group
Project Name: Revel
Location: Atlantic City, NJ
Lighting Design: Lightemotion, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Interior Designer: Scéno Plus, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Architectural Design: Arquitectonica, Miami
Architect of Record: BLT Architects, Philadelphia