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A Burning Man-Premiered Sculpture Ignites Las Vegas' New Light Art Park

Oh, and did we mention the waterfalls cut from locally-sourced rock?
April 13, 2016, 4:55pm
Bliss Dance by night (photo by Barry Toranto)

The Las Vegas Strip has everything: world-class shopping, dining, entertainment, and some of the most iconic casinos and hotels around. But until now, it's lacked the one thing that many less flashy neighborhoods usually have: a park.

The Park, as it's actually called, is a new promenade joining two hotels and casinos on the west side of the Strip: New York, New York, and Monte Carlo. It has five restaurants plus a smattering of retail carts, all leading up to the gargantuan, new, 20,000-seat T-Mobile Arena. Yet what truly sets this park apart is the art.


Designed by New York-based !melk landscape architecture and urban design, The Park's creative features include Italian artist Marco Cochrane's 40-foot-tall, illuminated Bliss Dance, which premiered at Burning Man in 2010 and took over 10,000 hours to complete. Inside the thousands pounds of stainless steel rods, cable, and mesh are 3,000 colored LED lights that illuminate the sculpture at night, providing a distinct sense of movement.

The Park’s water walls (photo courtesy MGM Resorts)

Meanwhile, a pair of eight-foot-high, 100-foot-long waterfall walls wind throughout, framed by over a thousand tons of red meta-quartzite. The rock was sourced by the eco-friendly Las Vegas Rock, whose artists cut up stones using 3D computer programming. The water walls and stone share a dual function: they provide a serene, eye-pleasing environment while also cooling down visitors during high temperatures.

Then there are the 16 LED-filled shade structures, collected into groups of four. The shade structure's multifunctional and multipurpose design not only provides a respite from heat during the day, but at night, doubles as a color-changing art installation, emitting a visual symphony that's easily one of the most envigorating aspects of The Park.

Shade Structures by day (photo courtesy MGM Resorts)

The shade structures range from 55 to 75 feet tall and weigh between 26,000 and 44,000 pounds, each having taken over 2,000 hours each to complete. They were built in a shipyard in Rotterdam by the Dutch company IHC Studio Metalix, which specializes in designing and fabricating materials for both ships and aircrafts. The structures, which resemble trees, are all completely different from one another, with inch-and-a-half steel plates that are perforated with designs unique to that one structure.

Lighting designer and artist Leni Schwendinger worked on programming the shade structures' changing colors. She says that the palette reflects what is naturally found in the Southwest, and points out that the holes in the structures are painted white, which enables the colors to appear more vibrant from the point of origin inside.

Shade Structures by night (photo by Tanja M. Laden)

Just as each shade structure is unique, each tone is unique to that shade structure: the ones with long holes always emit bright green, the small holes placed together emit magenta, and the fragmented shapes emit amber orange. Two color sequences are bright, while the other two are neutral. Then, they swap hues throughout the entire evening during the programmed sequence.

Every 15 minutes on the hour, all the colors mimic a blossoming cactus, with warm magentas, vibrant blues, deep oranges, and greens overtaking the whole space. "So we have the color sequence, which is the norm, for each group, and then we have the blossom every 15 minutes," Schwendinger says. "And then we have, what I think is always important in projects like this, what I call the palate cleanser—or the white space on the page, which is a neutral color. If everything's fantastic all the time and changeable, and saturated and 'out there,' it will become normal. When you have the white space on the page, it allows you to see that fantastic sequence."

Shade Structures by night (photo by Tanja M. Laden)

The gold and white neutrals are slower and more static than the bright colors, allowing viewers' eyes to rest and notice how the four groups of shade structures work together. When the visual chime, a.k.a., the "cactus blossom" hits, the colors are visible through the leaves of the park's trees all the way to the Strip, reinforcing the structures' spatial relationships both with the forms and the light, and with each other.

"So the idea, in a way, is that they're breathing," Schwendinger says. "The idea is: light is changeable, light is malleable, light is adaptable, therefore we can create a kind of sense of breath in the park."

Shade Structures by night (photo by Tanja M. Laden)

Schwendinger also says that it was something of a challenge working with the already-programmed illuminated signage on the Strip, so she asked the hotels across the street to dim their lights down a bit. She also opted not to mimic the existing lighting on the Las Vegas Strip. "Think for yourself: would you like to see something breathing, evolving, a little bit mysterious here in Las Vegas, or would you like to see something that's very dynamic and bold? I call that 'the sublime' and 'the carnivalesque.' And we opted for something kind of in-between here."

Shade Structures by night (photo by Tanja M. Laden)

Click here to learn more about The Park.


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