illumination Physics

Time Travel Circa Las Vegas

Las Vegas, Nevada

Circa is a preposition usually followed by a date or time of importance – a moment in time. For Circa Resort and Casino that moment in time is December 2020.

Circa will be the first brand-new resort built from the ground up in the downtown area since the D Las Vegas, which opened in 1980, known then as The Sundance

Photography: DeKo Productions - Devin Kolovich

Time Travel Circa Las Vegas

Las Vegas, Nevada

Circa is a preposition usually followed by a date or time of importance – a moment in time. For Circa Resort and Casino that moment in time is December 2020.

Circa will be the first brand-new resort built from the ground up in the downtown area since the D Las Vegas, which opened in 1980, known then as The Sundance

Photography: DeKo Productions - Devin Kolovich

Key Lime Photography | Las Vegas

Key Lime Photography Las Vegas

A game-changer, Circa has every contemporary advantage and yet pays homage to the history and style of the downtown precinct gathered around the Fremont Street Experience. Fremont Street was the first paved road in Las Vegas – closed to traffic in 1994 for the construction of the covered roof space frame with its integral light show that became the Fremont Street Experience.

But 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. Derek and Greg Stevens, owners of multiple downtown casinos, have constructed Circa upon the combined sites of three other properties they acquired: The Mermaids Casino, The Las Vegas Club and the Glitter Gulch Club (Glitter Gulch was once the nickname for Fremont Street.

Collectively they constitute the best development site: 18 Fremont Street, at the corner of Fremont and Main Streets. The redevelopment could not be a simple case of out with the old, in with the new. A wow factor was required, but one in keeping with a historical feel. “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.

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.

If the design of Circa is exceptional and appropriate, then the construction of the resort on time in December 2020 is astonishing. 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.

OUR BRIEF

The new resort would dominate the southerly view from Fremont Street and beyond. 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).

The south façade creates a canvas to draw attention and simultaneously send a message. 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.

The depth of the LED display on each floor would be limited to a height of approximately 1 foot (approx. 300 mm) due to the design of the curtain wall spandrel panels. The LED media was to span the full width of the south façade from right to left, with the LED density becoming progressively less at the western end to produce a visual gradient.

 

Shop 12’s design was based upon closely spaced RGBW luminaires. Each RGBW pixel would be spaced at 2.2 inches (57 mm). The use of illumination Physics data pixels illuminated an area of 1 37/64 inch (40mm) for each fixture. In proportion, the Shop 12 design mimicked Las Vegas illumination history and the pervasive use of the incandescent signage bulb, particularly in the downtown area. At night, the influence of history would be unmistakable, albeit digitally recreated in RGBW. Most importantly, the new LED fixtures were to be as invisible as possible during the daytime so that there would be no indication that there was lighting embedded in the façade at all.

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.

 

Key Lime Photography | Las Vegas

Key Lime Photography Las Vegas

Images by Ryan Gobuty courtesy of Circa Resort & Casino

Images by Ryan Gobuty courtesy of Circa Resort & Casino

Photography: DeKo Productions - Devin Kolovich

OUR SOLUTION

illumination Physics has manufactured a range of LED pixels mounted in strings for years – we are not alone in that. However, we were an early mover in moving from DMX onboard to SPI protocol for the pixel strings and ArtNet as the input protocol for the drivers. Not only highly cost-effective, but this would prove to be the key to defining the method of control. The illumination Physics Data Pixel 6 was ideal from both a size and light output perspective. Additionally, the metal (not plastic) housing can better withstand Las Vegas’ high summer temperatures and provides more sturdy and robust mounting options.

But this was only part of the answer, just the luminaires and drivers; a fully integrated solution was required: The data pixels needed to be pre-installed in panels then delivered to the curtain wall factory and integrated into the curtain wall modules that would form the building envelope of Circa’s hotel tower. The curtain wall panels would then be tested and shipped to the construction site in Las Vegas.

illumination Physics is a specialist in integrated façade lighting. We have collaborated with most of the largest façade engineering companies that manufacture curtain wall building envelopes. In some cases, we have been their consultant when it came to incorporating lighting into the curtain wall of a new or existing building. Decades of experience and the knowledge garnered from 70 completed projects were put to effective use.

Working with Shop 12, we developed metal panels in four sizes into which the data pixels could be securely mounted. The panels had laser-cut perforations to expose LEDs on the front. On the back, CNC machined mounting studs were attached to match the mounting lugs of a revised illumination Physics Data Pixel 6 LED module.

Key Lime Photography | Las Vegas
Key Lime Photography | Las Vegas
IP-Circa-Project-solution-2

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. The media panels were mounted in a back pan which was then glazed into each curtain wall panel. If required, a media panel can be removed from the front as the flush retaining screws are on the outside, painted to match the white finish of the panels and the rest of the curtain wall. Hong Kong-based façade consultants Hiersemenzel & Associates (HS&A) certified the media panel to curtain wall mechanical fixing design.

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. All cabling was numbered on the inside and outside so the mapping could be followed when it came time to connect the drivers.

 

IP-Circa-Project-solution-3and4

illumination Physics produces ArtNet to SPI drivers in several configurations with different outputs. For Circa, it made mathematical sense to use a combination of the IP Driver 8 output model (267 pcs) and the IP Driver 1 output model (118 pcs). The drivers were installed in the hotel bedrooms, thus specially designed to run silent cooling.

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.

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Key Lime Photography Las Vegas

THE OUTCOME

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.

Key Lime Photography | Las Vegas

Key Lime Photography Las Vegas

“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

PRODUCT LIST

  • IP Data Pixel 6 per string of 50 - 1772 pcs
  • IP Data Pixel 6 per string of 30 - 102 pcs
  • IP Data Pixel 6 per string of 15 - 201 pcs
  • Cable 1 - 2075 pcs
  • Cable 2 - 2075 pcs
  • Metal Work Type A - 102 pcs
  • Metal Work Type B - 201 pcs
  • Metal Work Type C - 79 pcs
  • Metal Work Type D - 471 pcs
  • Screws - 6956 pcs
  • IP Driver 8 800W (Artnet to SPI) - 267 pcs
  • IP Driver 1 100W (Artnet to SPI) - 118 pcs