Photographers pulled out their wide-angle lenses and jostled for a spot where they could take in Revel’s imposing facade during a recent media tour.
“Look at this thing,” one said, crouching in a far corner of the SkyGarden, his camera pointed upward. “You can’t fit this sucker in the frame.”
Revel’s glass-and-steel hotel tower rises 47 stories above the softly undulating walls of the casino and the beach below, the city’s tallest spire. Its ash gray silhouette is the first thing motorists see in their approach on the Atlantic City Expressway, although it bears no neon signs or LED displays to distinguish itself from the rest of the skyline.
“The decision was made early on that the tower would be unlike any other in Atlantic City,” said Michael Prifti, the project’s principal architect. “We wanted it to be recognizable just by glancing at it.”
At a cost of $2.4 billion, Revel was expected to impress. Whether it succeeds in revitalizing Atlantic City’s flagging casino industry is almost irrelevant. It’s already irrevocably changed the resort town’s profile.
“Revel anchors the northeastern end of the skyline,” said Marty Blumberg, an Atlantic City architect unaffiliated with the project. “From an architect’s point of view, it’s a pure design and the sloped top gives it a fascinating form.”
Driving into the city, Blumberg said, the striking facade draws the eye.
“The question is, will it attract attention?” he said. “It’s so simple and so high that people may want to see what it is.”
Whereas many of the existing casinos take design cues from landmarks outside the city — Showboat bills itself as a “Mardi Gras” experience, while Tropicana’s The Quarter evokes pre-Castro Cuba — Revel’s architects say they looked to the surrounding environment for inspiration.
“The sinuousness of the building reflects the sinuous surf,” Prifti said. “The glass is silvery blue to emulate the water. You can hear the wind, the gulls, the surf.”
Prifti, of Philadelphia-based BLT Architects, said the complex is focused on the ocean. In that sense, he said, it hearkens back to the city’s first resorts.
Several “vista points” throughout the reception areas create an illusion that guests, who have just ascended a series of escalators up six floors to the main level, are looking directly out over the ocean.
“If you check in at the front desk and look back, you get a framed view of the ocean,” he said. “Even though you’re 114 feet above the ocean, you’re still connected to it. This image, this vision, melds with the horizon.”
The illusion is aided by a two-acre Skygarden of native flowers, grasses and trees cultivated on the roof of the casino. Coral blue pathways embedded in the roof mimic the shimmer of the ocean surface on the horizon.
Prifti said the cedars and pines will eventually grow to full height because they are planted in more than three feet of soil between the pedestrian walkway and the roof. A complex system of drains hidden in the roof will transport storm water 120 feet to the sewers below.
“I imagine people who play in the casino and find their way up here will discover this as a reason to stay,” he said.
But the vista points aren’t the only discoveries to be made.
The casino floor and event halls were designed by Scéno Plus, a Montreal-based firm known for convention centers and theaters. In all, 65 different firms were responsible for designing various elements of the resort, from the landscaping to the night clubs. Many of the public spaces, the 130,000-square-foot casino in particular, diverge from the typical casino mold.
Valérie Pageau, artistic director of Scéno Plus, said designing a casino floor was a challenge the firm didn’t initially welcome.
“We don’t gamble — we’re from Montreal,” she said. “It’s not a gambling culture at all.”
But the firm was issued a directive to design a casino unlike any other in the city, Pageau said. What Scéno Plus created more closely resembles a theater, with exposed rafters and catwalks to access a complex lighting system and suspended ceiling and lighting elements.
Groupings of slot machines and tables form “neighborhoods” — with customized furnishings and lighting fixtures — around a central hub, a live performance stage that will allow music to flood out across casino floor on the weekends.
“The social theater we have is right in the dead center of the casino,” Pageau said. “It’s meant to pulse all the energy out and have the sound bleed inside the casino.”
On the ocean end of the casino, a wall of windows lets in natural light, a long-standing taboo among casino designers charged with creating a hermetically sealed environment. Pageau said the windows help set the mood for the casino, in addition to giving visitors a sense of the time of day.
She said the atmosphere of the casino floor — both the aural and visual environment — changes throughout the course of the day and the week. It can also be changed based on the mood of the room.
“For example, if this neighborhood has no one there, we can subdue the lights instead of just closing it off,” she said.
On Saturday night, the music can be amplified and the colors saturated. On a Tuesday morning, lighter music will match lighter colors.
“During the day, you’ll have light yellows,” she said. “At night, they can have deep purples and pinks.”
Despite the building’s impressive scale, Prifti said, the designers paid special attention to the smallest details.
LED panels in other public spaces across the casino will also change with the time of the day, he said. And all the furnishings were wear-tested to ensure they lasted through thousands of guests and thousands of cleanings.
“Whatever got built had to be easily maintained so that it always looked as new as possible,” he said. “Guests want to have a spectacular experience that’s clean and sparkling and bright.”
To that end, resort staff come and go without being noticed through an infrastructure completely separate from the visitor areas. In the hotel tower, Prifti said, domestic staff use a core of six elevators separate from the main bank. Similarly, bartenders and receptionists disappear behind doors out of sight from their patrons.
“You will never see any service staff coming across this (lobby) floor,” he said. “The front desk staff is just going to magically appear.”
That attention to detail even extends to something as simple as the elevated island of lounge chairs in the lobby’s center.
“It was deliberately chosen that this would be slightly less than two feet up,” he said. “When you’re seated up there, I make eye contact with you. When you’re sitting down here, I have the dominance of height.”
It’s all indicative, Prifti said, of the 6.3-million-square-foot resort’s immersive experience, one designed to give visitors a plethora of entertainment options during their stay and encourage return visits. For its colossal scale, he said great care was taken to fill the resort with intimate spaces and windows connecting different guests’ experiences.
“You can see other guests enjoying themselves,” he said. “And as you enjoy yourself, you’re part of the show, too.”
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