We might have seen this coming had we been paying more attention to the wall-size print of Édouard Manet’s “Le déjeuner sur l’herbe” (“Luncheon on the Grass”), halved and flanking the bar at Aria’s Sage.
Certainly, we’ve asked ourselves why the purple-hued reproduction is there. But what if the nod to Manet’s 19th century piece—a radical shakeup of traditional and accepted painting at the time—was our cue that something groundbreaking was going to happen on Las Vegas Boulevard and that MGM Resorts’ Jim Murren and company would someday decide that what today’s tourist needs most is a park?
Not just any park, of course, but a $100 million public park and promenade right on the Strip in front of New York-New York and Monte Carlo, a place for relaxation, a borrowed composition—in this case, from New York’s Madison Square Park.
Looking back, it all seems so clear. Las Vegas has a history of actualizing themes architecturally, but only after easing into them via wall murals in restaurants and hallways and motifs and signage.
We’ve dabbled with three-dimensional green spaces already with Mirage’s rainforest and New York-New York’s casino that once referenced Central Park. But actually taking a park outside and placing it on the Boulevard is really just, I don’t know, progressive.
Even a corporate park designed with commerce in mind breaks from the faux everything that is Las Vegas. Murren was reportedly inspired by New York City’s Madison Square Park, a small, somewhat formal grassy space with walkways, a fountain, benches and gardens. Renderings released show only a shaded shopping promenade.
It feels as if MGM execs are taking a cue from Project Linq down the street, which had architect David Schwarz design a pedestrian-friendly shopping area loosely modeled after New York City’s Meatpacking District. Schwarz cites studies showing that tourists will (and want to) meander outdoors on Las Vegas Boulevard, no matter the extreme temperatures.
Murren seems more focused on freeing the consumer from confining interiors: “Today’s customer wants to be out in the open and wants to be independent,” he says. “They don’t want to be told what to do. They don’t want to be captured and trapped in any kind of resort.”
For a resort town bent on keeping tourists at the slots and tables, this planned sprawling outdoor patio changes everything.