In a city where there is rarely a shortage of glitz and glamour, the decision to double the size and raise the profile of The Fashion Show Mall at the northern end of the “Strip” in
Las Vegas required more than the usual facelift. The plan, as outlined by the mall’s owner, The Rouse Co., was to redevelop it not only as a shopping venue with eight major department stores, but a destination as well.
The center’s architects envisioned an entrance that would incorporate a 500-foot-long, 150-foot-tall shade structure which would double as a delivery vehicle for messaging and entertainment. The hovering form, dubbed “The Cloud,” hangs partly over the street with images and messages projected on it from five full-color scrolling film image projectors housed in 9-foot-tall glass enclosures.
Design architects Orne + Associates of Los Angeles and Laurin B. Askew, Jr., FAIA, of Baltimore sought a “timeless” architectural aesthetic that would separate Fashion Show from the high-octane themed gambling attractions of Las Vegas. They envisioned reshaped entries from Las Vegas Boulevard, a transparent glazed retail facade, and sidewalk cafes and restaurants, all oriented around a street-side plaza.
Playing both to the plaza and the street are four 24-foot-high by 43-foot-wide daylight LED video screens that move continuously along an elevated 330-foot steel track called the “Media Curve.” Completing the effect are a multi-channel immersive sound system and high-intensity, color-changing lighting and gobo projections.
Inside, Fashion Show features an 85-foot-high Great Hall in which an 80-foot-long fashion runway rises from the floor for live fashion shows and other promotional events. Three more LED video screens totalling 4,300 square feet are suspended from motorized hoists in the ceiling, creating a “backdrop” to a square stage on the main floor for events such as product introductions and brand showcases. When not in use, the displays retract neatly up to the second floor.
“The iconography of the renovated Las Vegas Boulevard presence of Fashion Show is extended throughout the interior of the existing retail center and the expansion,” says audio/video consultant David Gales, principal with Vantage Technology Consulting Group, Manhattan Beach, Calif. “Great Hall is the new geographic center of the property and the hub of the interior marketing, retail, and entertainment platform.”
Prior to its makeover, Fashion Show was, by Las Vegas standards, “pretty low profile — not much attention was paid to the mall,” notes Gales. The development literally transformed the shopping center into an “innovative retailing, contemporary environment, with state-of-the-art media technologies capable of communicating the ever-changing nature of fashion and style.”
Gales says “integrated media technology” was critical to “maintaining the cohesiveness of the concept” throughout the extensive retail space. Much was achieved through a series of cohesive interior and exterior electronic elements running on a fiber network operated from a central hub. “Electronic technology is a critical tool used to link various areas of the project,” he says.
Throughout the mall’s courts and passages, digital kiosks provide continuity of the electronic messaging and communication program. “Each of the kiosks integrates a 60-inch flat-panel video screen mounted in a portrait format to display video and graphic content. The scale and positioning of the kiosks respond to the pedestrian scale of the passages and the more traditional retail spaces.”
The breadth of the technology and its applications in Fashion Show was a challenge to some extent, says Gales, although “we build large networks and data centers all the time.” Where the learning came in, he says, was in the “application of digital media at this large distributed level.”
Also new to Vantage was the use of large LED screens. The four screens in the plaza are 24 feet high by 43 feet wide and move independently on a 380-foot-long elevated steel track to form a kaleidoscope of color and motion. They can be viewed individually or combined for a single, 172-foot video image. “LED became an economical alternative and the technology become more advanced and viable,” notes Gales. But, he adds, “getting the screens to move was a monumental undertaking. We tweaked a lot of things a little bit to get it to work.”
The project “was approached from a clear, structured, building-block approach,” Gales relates. “The core lies in the Master Control Room, dubbed ‘Show Central,’ which lies at the parking garage level below the Great Hall. It houses all of the head-end media production, storage, playback, and control electronics. A structured cabling approach provides network and audiovisual signal tie lines to satellite equipment rooms and distribution closets located strategically across the property.
“From the Show Central control room a single technician can monitor and operate all of the media playback functions of the property. A network of ‘Media Hydrants’ enables remote connection to the audiovisual infrastructure for staging of temporary events throughout Fashion Show. Extensive network connectivity also provides technician access to complete control system operations from any data port on the property.”
The digital backbone for the system had to support not only current uses, but be scalable and refreshable to deal with future changes. “The problem in a mall is that the technology (delivery devices) could look dated,” Gales explains. “We had to create a backbone that allowed the front end to be refreshable without the back end becoming obsolete.”
The display screens, which are modular, fit into this refreshable philosophy because they can be replaced without having to tear down and start over again. In fact, Rouse is leasing the LED screens from their manufacturer (Barco). The lighting control system, which covers the plaza, Great Hall, and stage, “is also scalable,” Gales notes, and can be operated via the Web on a PC.
The design of Fashion Show’s A/V systems and infrastructure were based on assumptions about how Fashion Show would be used. Since opening, it has been used, for example, by Rolls Royce to promote a new model. While the stage was designed for product launches and was capable of lifting an object the weight and size of a car, it hadn’t necessarily been constructed with such an event in mind.
“We couldn’t anticipate how any particular event would be staged,” Gales says, “and we used these early experiences and events to give us information about how to better accommodate the actual usage of the facility during the second phase.” No specific operating group designated to run the system at the time it was created, he adds, “and once you get in, you have to create an organization to run it.”
With Fashion Show, “Rouse wanted to take baby steps all the way through,” Gales notes, such as contracting each of the two building phases separately and separating the shell work from the A/V. “They make malls every day, but not the A/V part of it.” And because Rouse prefers to work with companies over and over again, Gales explains, “they were building relationships, and wanted to get to know the individuals working on the projects.”
The best way to make sure Rouse executives understood the A/V technology was to show them, Gales says. “We went through many, many mock-ups and showed them how it all works. We did it for video, lighting, and LED screens.” Vantage even traveled around the country looking at different LED screen applications to find the best one. “We had to figure it out ourselves first and then explain it to them.”
An unforseen obstacle facing Vantage during construction was the need to replace its A/V systems integrator at the last minute. Just days before the materials were ready to be shipped to the job site, the original integration firm suffered financial problems. Fortunately, the replacement firm, Ford Audio-Video of Oklahoma City, had participated in a paid design workshop as part of the selection process.
While “Ford was most familiar with the project,” Gales adds, “the designs had progressed” by the time they came on board. “We were well documented in terms of fabrication, but not in terms of details that filled in the information gaps,” he says, on such things as equipment and scheduling. The schedule, which was driven by the holiday shopping season, wasn’t flexible.
Despite switching integrators, Fashion Show was a relatively trouble-free project, resulting in a spectacular venue that Gales says “offers an endless variety of fashion, promotional, brand advertising, sponsorship and entertainment opportunities. From the exterior Plaza through the renovated interior retail passages and courts to the Great Hall, electronic media technology has been integrated in a way that establishes an identity, draws visitors, guides them through the property, enhances sales, and creates incremental revenue opportunities — all the while delivering an appealing visitor experience that can be varied in response to shifts in visitor demographics, shopping seasons, and local events.
“The completed Fashion Show project has met and exceeded the expectations of the owner and the project team. Through it all, the project team worked remarkably well together to bring a wide variety of strategic, creative, technical, and managerial talent to the effort.”
– Joanne Friedrick
orne + associates
altoon + porter
vantage technology consulting group