Driving along Las Vegas Boulevard at night there is no shortage of the world’s most extravagant and gaudy hotels, casinos, clubs restaurants etc. all lit up in a splendor of lights to capture your attention and let you escape into another world where everything is stunning and life is thrilling. Leaving the Marquee night club too many nights in a row to want to admit our taxi would, each time pull out and drive past Crystals City Center Mall. On the first night as we sped past I caught a glimpse of a Louis Vuitton blossom logo flying across a wall and disappearing into a crevice in the buildings outer layers. “What on earth is this place?” I asked myself , “is this the LV Casino, why wasn’t I told?”Finally on my last day in Vegas I found time to sneak away and visit Crystals Mall. What initially I thought was just a cool LV store façade turned out to be an exquisite luxury mall designed by Daniel Libeskind and the Rockwell Group. At first it might seem a bit over the top for one to get so excited about ‘just another luxury mall’ but for me Crystals was living evidence of what a luxury brand mall could and should be like.
Fashion and luxury brands are about being creative, inspired and emotional. These brands are major patrons of art and creation in the world today and often employ famous architects such as Peter Marino to design their flagship cathedrals. To further prove the point, LVMH group’s corporate motto says it all: “Passionate about Creativity”. Given the luxury industry is so centered around design and creativity, why is it that so few of the malls that house these brands come anywhere close to achieving a similar level of design sophistication? Why don’t the malls arouse emotions and leave customers awed and excited at being inside an amazing architectural space, rather than just ‘another mall’? That’s why Crystals City Center got me so excited, because it is the first mall I’ve been too where the mall’s architecture awed me and achieved a coolness level on par with the flagship stores and products encased by it.
Crystals exterior works so well because the whole building highlights the individual brand stores (and facades), yet also brings them together in a coherent way to create a united presence. Its appearance suggests the massive flagships stores have been thrust up through the earth as if by some force of mother nature who had been keeping Tom Ford, Gucci and Prada hidden from the world until now, only to unleash these gifts to mankind in one foul swoop. Or, perhaps it was the devil, luring mankind with the forbidden fruits of LV and Tiffany, condemning us to eternal damnation for the deadly sins of lusting after LV bags, greed for Gucci gloves, pride of wearing Prada pumps, and anger and envy directed at the beauty who got the last (Hermes) Birkin!
The interior of Crystals is also something to be marveled at. The main interior feature is a massive wooden sculpture that adds form and flow to the cavernous space. This is backed up by whirlpool sculptures and solid metal trees than avoid being gimmicky and also succeed in gaining customers attention to say “wow, that’s cool”. The luxury retailers also enjoy a perfect scenario inside the mall – having a single floor of retail space that maximizes efficiency, while having two or three storey high facades to maximize their branding and exposure.
The world has never seen a luxury mall building boom like China is experiencing right now. In many of my posts including Are Luxury Malls in China Successful? and What China should learn from Hong Kong’s Malls I delve into some of the issues facing Chinese mall developers today. I estimate that there are over 50 new luxury malls being built in China right now, all scheduled to open in the next three to five years. And while some of these projects like LVMH’s L’Avenue project in Shanghai do have impressive looking designs and architecture, the vast majority of these malls are bound to be architectural disappointments.
Therefore, I implore any Chinese real estate developers embarking on luxury mall (or any mall) project for that matter to visit Crystals Mall in Las Vegas, and see what is possible.I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking.