Part One is available here.
In the second part of the interview/tour Mr. Thomas takes us through Encore and discusses various aspects of the design. You can’t help but be struck by the tremendous amount of experience and knowledge of your tour guide. There is no discussion of faults. His goal is to provide the best experience; if something doesn’t work it is changed until it feels ‘right.’ Change is accepted as inevitable; planned for and expected. This is where the synergy between Steve Wynn and Roger Thomas becomes present. Roger is the great interpreter. Or perhaps it is the other way around. Whatever the case, I’ve kept some of the conversation involving changes in the transcript. I find change in Las Vegas to be particularly fascinating. Here you have one man (two men) implementing continuous change that affects the experience of every traveler who enters his (their) realm. The memory of the experience is sealed by the details. Focus on the big picture and you get a fuzzy memory.
The conversation bounces around a bit. I tried my best to keep this focused. One thing that is noticeable on the tour is the tremendous amount of product designed by Roger Thomas. The purchasing ability of Wynn Resorts (as well as Mr. Thomas’ design ability) and the commitment to quality allows many of Thomas’ designs to go into general production. Much of the furniture is available for purchase at a store on the property.
We’re finishing a great breakfast at Society Café at Encore.
R: The room we are sitting in came about because I love to read Oscar Wilde. Everyone was doing very contemporary rooms, with no crown moldings. I do those rooms well, but I don’t enjoy them. I thought it would be fun to do a room for Oscar. Like a club that he would hang out in. A little too loud. Buttonhole flowers a little too big. Larger than life and completely irreverent. Like Oscar Wilde lived. That is what this room is about.
B: Are all the restaurants in the property owned by Wynn?
R: All are owned by Wynn and there are some that are in partnership with the Chefs. Every single chef is currently in residence at Wynn.
B: So therefore you have control over all of your product, not other corporations.
R: Even when someone’s name is on the door and we don’t own it they have to present to Steve (Wynn) and he has to approve it. That is part of their contract. Chanel, Jean-Paul Gautier… all of them had to present to Steve. Cartier had to redesign for Encore.
H: When is Steve (Wynn) going to retire?
R: Oh, Never. Steve will never retire. He doesn’t want to retire. This is his life.
H: Isn’t there going to be a vacuum?
R: The president, Andrew Pascal, is very much in tune with everyone in this building. He’s very creative. He thinks about how things can be better. He shadows people. I’ve come across Andrew in a carpet sweepers outfit. He’s taken every role in this hotel. In the uniform, doing what they do. Andrew is about possibilities. He doesn’t discount anyone.
We begin the tour.
R: The main floor of Encore was designed as a series of rooms. Each room would be identified by chandeliers and perimeters and no more than columns.
H: Why is there the heavy influence of red on the gaming area?
R: When Steve (Wynn) came to Las Vegas, all casinos were red. It was ubiquitous. Almost every one of them. One was blue and it didn’t do as well. The Golden Nugget (Mr. Wynn’s first casino project) was red flocked wallpaper, mahogany molding.. and he wanted to make a complete change. Whiten and Brighten. They made it beige and cream. Steve continued to do that… Nugget, Mirage, Bellagio. Steve effectively killed the red casino, since others were following his lead. When we were doing this one I said, “We killed the red casino, we get to bring it back.” At Encore, the color on the carpet background is Tulip Red. Steve loved the energy it brought to the space. So we brought that color onto the walls and the ceiling.
The chandeliers on the gaming floor are Murano glass. I designed them based on a women’s twisted skirt. Richard Avedon did a photograph (Rene, the New Look of Dior, Place de la Concorde, 1947). I tried to freeze that in this glass. This was the largest order of Venetian glass in the history of Murano.
When we did XS, I wanted simple coloring. I wanted gold. I thought that would be luxe. We wanted it to be dark. So we decided on chocolate and gold. We take you up (stairs in the entrance) just for the experience of taking you down. There is a sense of arrival. XS is about the body. That is what everybody wants at the end of the night. So we have this introductory wall sculpture. To make this sculpture we interviewed men and women to find the most fabulous bodies in Las Vegas. We chose one man and two women. We laser scanned them using a technique developed by the US Army for measuring uniforms. We posed the models and carved them out of foam. We arranged all of the models on the floor and took a lycra fabric soaked in drywall mud and we got in hazmat suits and stretched, pulled and pinned for 8 hours. A fiberglass mold of it was made- and then the fiberglass positive. At night this is lit by the glow of naked bodies, all trying to get at you. Pecs, biceps- that’s how we posed everybody.
That is part of committing to your idea. When I did the umbrellas at Wynn… What I didn’t know was that for a year I was going to be travelling 45 minutes a day, three times a week to the factory to develop these umbrellas. You have to be able to maintain the energy of your invention.
So you go up and check out the whole scene. And be seen entering the nightclub. See and be seen.
Another concept we had were these negative figures behind the bar. We found when we did Tryst that everyone loved to pole dance. So we disguised them as floor lamps with chandeliers at the top and platforms. Every single platform is designed to sit on and dance on. All of the platforms are granite and non-skid. The backs of the furniture are designed to be sat upon. The furniture can be reupholstered within 15 minutes. The abuse (on the furniture) in these clubs is huge.
We continued the thought of bodies into the restrooms. We posed the models for photographs. In the Men’s Room we did a gilded mosaic Murano figure. The marble is from a single quarry in Carrara. They no longer sell it due to the extreme variation. Unless you are willing to go up to the quarry. I went to the cave and found the vein that I wanted.
H: Your average Joe who comes in here is an average Joe, correct? What experience are you trying to give them? XS is to the nth degree; it looks like a very very exclusive club.
R: Like every one of our guests- I am trying to give them an incredible memory. My job isn’t to design rooms. My job is to design experiences and memories. That is why we strive for consistency. I try to make rooms very simple and cohesive in their moods, in their motifs, in their colors- so that your memory of what happened in that room can remain fairly concise- and you want to go back for more.
We continue the tour outside XS.
R: The cabanas are also part of the experience. We have 27 of them. In the cabanas the cushions have a dark welt and a white welt. The white welt is the daytime welt. The dark welt is nighttime side. So that people don’t sit on the suntan lotion from the day.
R: Wynn was the first property we built from the inside out. With all of the other properties Steve was more interested in what his ‘billboard’ was going to look like. At the Bellagio the people who got the best view of what we spent the most money on were the guests at the Paris. We wanted to change that. Botero is about the inside out. All the way around this room there are sliding doors. All of those doors open. This is an indoor/outdoor room. The focus of the room is on the Botero in the middle. It took about 8 days to get her into place in the restaurant. She was placed on ice (once she was near placement) and we let the ice melt.
One day Steve walked in and said that something wasn’t right. The columns were in a dark brown and I realized you couldn’t see the difference between the columns and the sculpture because they were the same color. In two days they did all of the button tufted upholstery on the columns. All of the lights can be remote controlled. So if you move a table the maitre d’ can reset the spotlight. The floor was done in Murano.
Everyone builds bars with bottle displays on them. Why not defy gravity and have the bottle display go onto the ceiling? The bar top is old growth American walnut that has grown curved. We had it specially cut for the horseshoe bar.
Botero Steak House is named after Fernando Botero, a Colombian artist primarily known for his ‘fat’ bronzes and portraits. The centerpiece of Botero is a Botero.
Steve won’t let me use domes because domes have obnoxious acoustic properties. I designed a reverse dome with a dangerous point in the chandelier. A dome is concave a reverse dome is convex. Curving towards you rather than away. This scatters the acoustic. You never get reverberations below this shape, whereas you always get reverberations from the dome shape.
The butterfly and laurel leaves are the motifs of Encore. I needed something that would be pan-cultural. Butterflies represent fertility, abundance, luck, and beauty in every culture.
I did this cabinet for Edward Ferrell. I designed them because I loved 18th Century ormolu- mounted cabinets. I love them because the way light dances across them. This is a contemporary statement. The lamps are my design for Niedermaier. The top of the cabinet is red tigereye. That is not standard.
When I got to Paris I stay in the Seventh (Arrondissement) and I go to a little place called Le Comptoir (5, Carrefour de l’Odéon) for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The idea was that you could come here right at the foot of the elevators and use it as your own Parisian café. The floor was inspired by Josef Frank- I did the motif in Murano glass and in carpet in the other room. The chandelier is part of the construct in the other room.
The butterfly is the great symbol of metamorphosis in the animal world. I wanted a symbol of metamorphosis for the human world. My favorite metamorphosis story is of Daphne. [The story of Daphne and Apollo in a nutshell: Apollo makes fun of Cupid for playing with bows and arrows. Apollo is shot by Cupid with a golden arrow- he immediately falls in love with Daphne. Daphne, meanwhile, is shot with a lead arrow, which makes her spurn Apollo’s advances. She appeals to Peneus, her father, the River-God, who turns her into a laurel tree. Apollo forever after wears a sacred laurel, and the laurel leaf was thereafter used by the leaders of Rome.] Daphne is mid-transformation. And the leaves of her tree have grown on the red lacquered wall.
Next: The Spa at Encore and Todd Avery Lenahan.
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