New York state of mind: A Las Vegas retail shop evokes the look of Manhattan Streets

New York, New York. They say if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere, so why not build a facsimile in Las Vegas? The creators of the New York-New York Hotel and Casino have done just that, with a facade that incorporates scale models of the Empire State and Chrysler buildings, the World Trade Center towers, even the Statue of Liberty. The look is carried through to the interiors as well, with gaming areas, restaurants, and retail venues themed to serve up a slice of the Big Apple.

One shop in the retail complex that successfully evokes elements of life in the metropolis is I LOVE NY NY. The architecture and interior design firm AM Partners (Honolulu) collaborated with Joe Kaplan Architectural Lighting (Los Angeles) to give the 3,100-sq.-ft. (279 sq. m) venue an appropriate streetwise look. Built-out for owner/developer WH Smith (Atlanta) at a cost of $235 per sq. ft., the space features a mix of decorative and industrial-style luminaires to illuminate apparel and accessories amid a themed environment showcasing icons of Manhattan streets--from traffic lights and street signs to subway maps and full-size taxis. The overriding theme is transportation in New York City, with vignettes including a "taxi wreck" on an unfinished bridge (well, it is New York, after all). A winding street pattern on the floor guides customers from the front of the store toward the rear, while exposed ductwork simulates an industrial warehouse look overhead.

The store is located on the mezzanine level of a retail promenade set near sky bridges that transport visitors to the property from the neighboring MGM Grand and Excalibur hotels. One challenge for the design team was the somewhat awkward individual retail space within which they had to work. "The footprint was extremely long with one narrow entrance point from which to enter," says AM Partners (AMP) project architect Robert Domingo. "Like the Soho Village Shops which we designed on the lower level, AMP had to negotiate with the hotel owners to increase the store's entrance opening to as large a size as possible to improve the flow of customer traffic."

"The space was quite disjointed," confirms Kaplan project manager Dave McCarroll. "Laid out for maximum points of purchase, there was a series of about eight different cashier zones. To organize the space into manageable sections, the design team's concept was to divide the store into New York City districts, with each area themed in a very specific style. We designed the lighting to reflect the character of each separate district."

"We wanted to create a level of visual excitement by developing a heavily three-dimensional character to the space," says principal lighting designer Joe Kaplan. The LDs achieved the look by implementing a layered lighting approach. One layer is the ambient lighting within the space, paired with the keylighting of products. Next, theatrical techniques are used to backlight display niches, illuminate coves, and uplight strategic elements to create a canopy of light on the ceiling. The final layer of light encompasses several sparkly elements here and there to enhance the sense of perceived depth throughout the space, with luminaires acting as visual focal points more than as illumination workhorses.

"Each layer is effective unto itself, but becomes much more important as part of the larger composition comprising all the layers," Kaplan says. "We were also very conscious of the colors of light, because certain lighting creates a more emotional response in shoppers. We tried to blend them together to create a sense of excitement." The lighting team used Halo halogen PAR-38 lamps to illuminate the apparel. "Halogen is the best source of light for the keylighting of merchandise in retail," Kaplan says. "It gives you a nice color rendering and that crisp white color of light that makes product look great, whether it's clothing or hard merchandise."

"We specified a lot of decorative fixtures along the walls to coincide with the circuitous architectural rhythm of the space," McCarroll says. "The luminaires draw your eye deeper into the store the farther you walk in." Key decorative luminaires include sconces and pendants from D'AC Lighting, Neidhardt's Venus sconce, and industrial, blue-glass jelly-jar fixtures from Stonco. To weave a thread of continuity throughout the space, according to McCarroll, D'AC luminaires with a curved profile are featured at the eight modules. "We hung those luminaires down lower than any of the other fixtures, so they serve as visual cues for customers," he says. For ambient illumination, the workhorse of the space is an Abolite luminaire with a cage fitting and factory/warehouse look. An infrastructure of Halo track fitted with PAR-38 luminaires, set amid the ductwork in the exposed ceiling, offers flexibility for display reconfigurations.

"Most of the decorative elements on display--taxi doors, street lights, gas pumps--were backlit with Architectural Cathode neon to create a nice halo effect along the wall behind, adding to the appearance of depth," Kaplan says. The theming elements are also highlighted from front positions with the PAR-38 track luminaires. Additional neon augments the store's facade.

Kaplan's firm has built a track record in Las Vegas designing installations at properties including the Bellagio Hotel & Casino, The Mirage, Treasure Island, The Motown Cafe, Ethel M. Chocolates, and the new Sega GameWorks. He says teaming with an architecture firm based in Hawaii to design a Manhattan street scene along the Strip was an interesting logistical exercise. "The whole project was designed without ever meeting face-to-face with the architect. We transferred information by fax, modem, and a lot of telephone calls, and were able to iron out all the details."

The design team's bright lights, big city retail scene appears to be a winner, or as Frank and Liza are fond of belting, "A Number One, king of the hill, top of the heap."

Owner, Developer WH Smith, New York-New York Hotel & Casino

Architect, Interior Design AM Partners Robert Domingo

Lighting Design Joe Kaplan Architectural Lighting Joe Kaplan, Dave McCarroll

Contractor Price Woods

Equipment Halo PAR-38 mounted pendant track system with color filters Lithonia T8 linear cove fluorescents D'AC Lighting decorative pendants, sconces, and wall beacons Neidhart Venus sconces Columbia wall-mounted fluorescent sign lights Abolite decorative sconces, pendants, and wall-mounted dome lights Lumiere in-grade uplights Ardee low-voltage striplights Architectural Cathode dimmable neon Stonco surface-mounted jelly jar fixtures Stonco bridge-mounted fluorescent floodlights CSL recessed low-voltage downlights and wallwashers Prudential T8 linear fluorescents Hubbell wall-mounted rotating beacon Fiberstars fiber-optic cable