Circa Las Vegas, Nevada

Circa is the new magnet, designed to draw patronage to Downtown Las Vegas – built anew but also deliberately reminiscent of the retro style neon and signage that had gone before. “The new resort looks modern and yet it looks like it belongs in Fremont Street”, states Paul Steelman, CEO of entertainment and gaming venue specialists Steelman Partners, the Circa project architects.

Photography: DeKo Productions - Devin Kolovich
Photography: DeKo Productions - Devin Kolovich
Key Lime Photography | Las Vegas
Key Lime Photography | Las Vegas

The lighting design was the responsibility of Steelman Affiliate, Shop 12 Design. The lighting of Circa would compete for attention with every other Las Vegas property, particularly in the downtown area.

An integrated media façade facing Fremont Street formed the core element of a multi-faceted lighting design. However, there would be a nod to the light bulb style that has become synonymous with the local illumination history and architecture of the old Las Vegas. Shop 12’s vision would be a digital recreation of the analogue past.

From the very beginning of construction in February 2019 the site was difficult to access and complications of COVID 19 made it even more challenging. Nevertheless, supply chain disruptions were overcome and strict adherence to pandemic safety measures on-site applied; a testament to all involved in Las Vegas – especially our client, construction manager Tre’ Builders and partners David Agnello and Steve Hamlin, as well as their project manager Mo Pierce.


The hotel tower is the stand-out new landmark in the area: thirty-five inhabited storeys rise above seven floors of podium (there cannot be more due to the proximity of North Las Vegas Airport).

Shop 12’s President, Jon Champelli, had conceived of a media wall integrated into the twenty-eight spandrel panels in the double-height curtain wall units that comprise the façade envelope. The LED component would be introduced at each floor slab, approximately 10 feet (approx. 3 m) apart vertically.

Individual control of every pixel in 4 colours was required – a total of 94,675, including the signage. In daylight, the LED lighting equipment should be imperceptible, blending with the curtain wall spandrel panels. illumination Physics consequently had to match the custom white colour of the painted parts of the curtain wall panels.

Working with Shop 12, we developed metal panels in four sizes into which the data pixels could be securely mounted. A selection of media panels was tested in a full scale, 2-storey façade mock-up in Las Vegas.

The 853 media panels are all the same height (1 foot), but produced in four widths:

13.5 inches (343 mm) with 30 LED nodes – 1 string
27.5 inches (699 mm) with 65 LED nodes – 2 strings
41.5 inches (1,054 mm) with 100 LED nodes – 2 strings
56.25 inches (1,429 mm) with 150 LED nodes – 3 strings

In total, 2,075 strings were made for the façade, plus spares.

US signage contractor to the project, YESCO, used a further 11,000 data pixels in Circa’s signage.

Key Lime Photography | Las Vegas
Key Lime Photography | Las Vegas
Key Lime Photography | Las Vegas
Key Lime Photography | Las Vegas
10.Inspection of Fremont Street Project goods at Factory _ 17-July-2019 (1)

A cabling system was devised to connect the IP data pixel strings on the outside of the waterproof barrier with the inside face of each curtain wall panel. A starter cable with IP67 connectors was installed in a designated position in the back pan, passing through cable glands.

The media panels were shipped out of Hong Kong to the curtain wall factory where they were met by a remote illumination Physics team who supervised and assisted with the integration of our panels and cables into the curtain wall panels – a process that took 7 months. The panelised IP data pixels were tested prior to shipping, upon arrival, prior to installation and after installation into the curtain wall panels.

Two containers of complete curtain wall panels were shipped to Las Vegas per week. Despite the challenges of 2020, Tre’ Builders were able to complete the façade and oversee the fit-out so the hotel could open on time. We were pleased to work with National Technology Associates and their Las Vegas office who performed the control system integration for both the media wall and signage.

Circa has set a new standard in many ways. illumination Physics is proud to have contributed to Shop 12 and Steelman Partners’ inspired façade lighting design. Our admiration goes out to Tre’ Builders for their professionalism and determination to get the job done on time despite the most difficult circumstances.

Our Technical Director, Peter Kemp and Design Director, Simon McCartney are looking forward to booking a visit – circa 2021.

“The key concept for the South Façade at Circa was to create a video-fed low-res lighting feature that would magically materialize as the sun goes down. I did not want fixtures stuck to the façade, but integrated directly into the curtain wall materials. I wanted the façade to be completely smooth, with the lighting invisible to viewers until it gets turned on. These requirements were discussed with multiple manufacturers, but it was Illumination Physics that provided exactly the custom solution needed, and at a price that allowed the project to be realized.”


- Jon Champelli, President of shop12 Design

Key Lime Photography | Las Vegas