The Design Process for Creating Authentic Destinations

April 1, 2016 / Gabe Braselton

It’s simple really – we approach all of our projects on a human experience level. The design process we go through with our clients and the communities isn’t just about gathering statistics and numbers – we also experience the spaces and people that make a place special. We immerse ourselves in the community and its surrounding neighborhoods to know what makes each place special and to understand the spirit of the city and its people. The architecture is then a response to that information, not the other way around.

Las Vegas was a unique situation because it’s a place with a staggering 40 million visitors every year. We needed to cater this venue to both the Las Vegas residents and the tourist population. As covered in our previous post How Do You Out-Vegas Las Vegas, we wanted to create a destination that was authentic to the flash and glamour of Las Vegas, but also to the landscape – the mountains and desert of the region.

Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas
Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas

Here’s a glimpse of the process we go through to make sure we are designing authentic places:

Experience the Place and the People. Most people think they can experience everything Las Vegas has to offer in a long-weekend getaway, but we wanted to look at Las Vegas from a slightly different angle. What truly puts Las Vegas on the map? Like we shared in our FOMO-Driven Design post, Las Vegas is becoming more about the hospitality experience and entertainment value and less about gambling and casinos. In response, we set out to design the best entertainment experience in the country.

As another example, Milwaukee is a community with great pride in its urban core and a tremendous affinity for social gathering. As an event, SummerFest is the perfect embodiment of this spirit. We are currently working to build upon this energy and make the Milwaukee Bucks new arena an anchor for a new district where the community can gather for a multitude of events throughout the year. By integrating the arena as the backdrop for the planned entertainment district, we are extending the opportunity for community gathering and enhancing the existing framework in a currently under-utilized area of the city.

Look at the Site. We ask ourselves the following questions about each project’s site: What is special about this site? What are the challenges of this site? What are the opportunities of this site? We then look at dozens of configurations for the building to find the best possible solution, embracing the site challenges and opportunities. In Las Vegas, T-Mobile Arena site was just off the strip, which informed the way we positioned the building and the materials we used on the exterior. The 9,000 square feet of video mesh on the front and the open plaza as the arena’s front door is meant to pull visitors from the strip and make a memorable first impression and sense of destination. Once inside, the views of the strip and experience on the three exterior balconies are truly unforgettable.

Mine Social Media. It’s amazing the information that you can gather from social media these days! Fans and residents are very vocal about their sentiments, opinions and passions when it comes to a new venue in their community. For example, in Quebec, the local community’s passion for hockey is ever present. Digging deeper, we saw the types of venues really moved the meter with the fan base. In this case, the draw was toward incredibly steep seating bowls because fans wanted to feel on top of the action. We listened and responded – which resulted in an intimate and exciting hockey experience in the Videotron Centre for the residents, fans and visitors of Quebec City.

These are just a few ways that we design each facility to be authentic, while also being unique and true to the city and its people. Because of this process, places like T-Mobile Arena will be a unique symbol of Las Vegas and a destination for tourists and residents alike for decades to come. For more information on T-Mobile Arena, visit populous.com/tmobilearena.

Meet the author

Gabe Braselton

Architect, Associate Principal / Kansas City

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