Inside the park—literally named "The Park" as both a brag and a reference to its central location—the landscaping features all the details one would expect from a modern, cutting-edge public space. Abstract, 60-foot tall steel structures, fabricated by Dutch shipbuilders, offer shade and a symbol the designers hope becomes a city icon. The resilient landscaping includes native vegetation, 250 trees, and more than 7,000 plants, all watered by an on-site well. The colors and patterns of the benches and dividers were influenced by the local landscape (metaquartzite stone planters were even sourced from a local quarry). Where is this paragon of park design? Why, the center of Las Vegas, of course.
The Park, a new four-acre greenspace that opened in April, sandwiched between the Monte Carlo and New York-New York, offers a very public symbol of a changing Sin City. Designed by Jerry van Eyck and his firm !Melk, the new park begs an important question: can the Vegas Strip, a bustling, crowded streetscape originally meant to ferry tourists and gamblers between casinos, become both a pedestrian-friendly landscape and an urban oasis from the desert climate?
Its designer believes the design merely recognizes a new reality for the world’s most heavily-trafficked tourist destination.
"The Strip is an economic engine for the tourist economy," says van Eyck. "It’s not a highway anymore, where you drive between casinos. It’s completely saturated with properties and people."
Over time, as the city has become more of a multifaceted tourist mecca and moved beyond its old-school, casino-first orientation, the landscape of the Strip has changed, with more open, outward facing facades and entrances on hotels. The investor in The Park project, MGM, saw the creation of the eight-block-long park as an investment in public space, one that would increase engagement between properties and the value of surrounding real estate and restaurants (park or not, Vegas is still a bottom line town).
The entire design vocabulary was drawn from the surrounding desert, according to van Eyck, from the earth tones and materials used on planters to vegetation that can stand up to the arid climate. Along with the arching steel towers meant to protect visitors from the sun and hectic Vegas streets, the landscaping carves out a moment of peace in a city defined by rampant, rapid development.
"This park really brings back what Vegas originally was," says van Eyck. "It was an oasis in the desert."