As we eagerly await the opening of Resorts World Las Vegas, the first fully integrated resort to be built on the Las Vegas Strip in more than a decade, we reflect on the site’s history, and how we at Lifescapes International have been lucky enough to be part of it for the last 15 years.
The Stardust Resort & Casino originally called this site home, and when it opened in 1958, it was the world’s largest hotel. For decades, it was an icon of the Strip, featuring the legendary showgirls of the Lido de Paris revue, along with lushly landscaped gardens and swimming pools. But, as with many of the original prominent resorts on the Strip, the passage of time and the changing expectations of a modern Las Vegas resort led to its closure in 2006. This is where we come into the story.
A new resort development, to be called Echelon, was planned for the site, and they selected Lifescapes as the landscape architect. Since we were brought on board early, we saw the treasure trove of mature trees that spread across the (now closed Stardust’s) property, from pool areas to parking lots, and worked with the client to catalog them and have the best specimens saved before the towers were imploded in 2007. We know, from experience, that salvaging and re-using trees is not only respectful to nature, but allows new projects to benefit from years of tree growth that could have never been achieved from a nursery, as well as the feeling of history and permanence that their maturity brings to the landscape. While Echelon did not make it into existence, the trees that we salvaged did, and when Genting Group acquired the property in 2013, the trees just kept growing in a monitored nursery on site.
We were fortunate to be hired by Genting as the landscape architect for Resorts World Las Vegas so that we could continue our history with the site. Collaborating with the client and architect, Steelman Partners, for the last 8 years, we worked to create a landscape environment that felt contemporary and set itself apart from other properties on the Strip. That is not an easy thing to do, given the harsh, desert climate; the palette of plants that can thrive in dry, desert weather isn’t vast, so it is quite easy for projects to look similar. As we have been working in the Las Vegas valley for over 35 years and were the designers for many of the major resorts, we knew exactly what would work to give Resorts World Las Vegas a personality all its own. The wealth of salvaged trees we saved, now many up to 60 years old, really influenced our thinking, and we used them to anchor different landscape districts we created on the site.
Using a special 75,000-pound forklift to move them, the wide variety of reclaimed trees, including Olives, Southern Live Oaks, Mondell and Aleppo Pines, Mesquites, and gorgeous multi-trunk Mediterranean Fan Palms, some standing over 30’ tall in up to 12’ square boxes, now line Resorts World Las Vegas’ porte cocheres, act as sculptural focal points, massed together to make it appear as if the tower rises out of a forest. All in all, nearly 100 beautiful mature salvaged trees now grace the site, augmented by large quantities of other unique trees brought in from across the Southwest, creating a signature experience for the property.
Highly influential in this direction is Lifescapes’ Field Art Specialist, Patrick Derry, who describes, “Walking the site is like being transported to varied locales, from the tropics to the mountains, all by the different environments we created that wouldn’t have been possible without the existing trees.” Their size and presence truly give the landscape a vibrant, layered, and timeless appeal. It is not only very welcoming to visitors and guests, but also brings the historic connection of this property full circle.