Lighting Design and the First Impression – Social at the Palms Las Vegas
As a followup to my last post about Las Vegas and photographing a lighting design, here are some photos I took a few weeks ago of a project I just finished working on there: Social, a new whiskey-centric watering hole at the Palms Hotel and Casino, designed by Rockwell Group.
As you can see, these photos were taken just prior to opening, as the temporary black curtains surrounding the bar would be taken down the next morning (after I left, of course), revealing the new centerpiece of the casino to the public. Now, I say centerpiece not to be egotistical (or do I?), but because the bar is literally located in the center of the casino gaming floor, and it’s the first thing you see as you walk through the front doors of the casino from the valet and taxi drop-off. Unfortunately I couldn’t photograph this view — black curtains aren’t very transparent — but trust me, it’s right there.
A project situated like this, of course, is a huge opportunity for any designer because the finished product will create the first impression for guests entering the casino, which is arguably the most important impression you can make on a hotel guest, especially in the visually-saturated environment of the Las Vegas strip. It’s the instant after arrival when the guest decides that they’ve made the right decision by coming to the hotel, and for our office, as lighting designers, the success or failure of the first impression all starts with creating a memorable first image.
For Social, our goal was to create a “beacon” of light at the center of that first image — a feature that would be visible from almost anywhere on the casino floor, especially from the front door — that would act almost like bright campfire in the woods, welcoming guests to gather around, relax and have a drink while enjoying the surrounding scenery, as well as giving them a landmark with which to find their way around. Walking through certain casinos, I know I’ve at times felt “lost in the woods” after wandering into a forest of flashing slot machines. While the Palms is not nearly as disorienting a place as other casinos, it’s still helpful to have a large, recognizable”guidepost” or “lantern” to guide you through. (Let’s see how many forest metaphors I can wedge in here, shall we?)
The success of this idea relied heavily on making the bar stand out from the background (we use the term contrast a lot to describe this difference) in order to make it both an attractive and memorable destination. After all, what good is a “beacon” of light if doesn’t cut through the fog? This was a challenge, since the background, in this case, is a casino full of blinking slot machines. Fortunately for us, though, there were few other large light sources or illuminated surfaces in this part of the casino that would compete for attention. The dark wood walls and lavender ceiling would be the perfect dark background to our brightly illuminated destination.
Working with Rockwell Group, we created a bright, sparkling bar tower surrounded by eight, sparkling custom pendants to catch the guests’ eye and create a striking visual landmark for the casino entrance. To cap off the space , we painted the ceiling white and illuminated it with cove lighting, creating an “umbrella” of light that casts a warm glow over the entire room (because everyone should look good while they’re drinking). Together, these three elements — bar tower, pendants, and lit ceiling — combine to form a visual image that we hope guests will remember long after they have left the casino. Of course, with its whiskey-centric menu, plush, comfortable seating, and attractive lighting, we hope that guests of Social will find it difficult to leave at all.