Flashing lights on gaming machines typically characterize the otherwise dimly lit interiors of casinos, but not so with this 66,000-square-foot addition at the Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway in Yonkers, N.Y. Instead, Studio V Architecture, working with Tillotson Design Associates (TDA), aimed to rethink and reinvent the casino typology—or at least the typology’s approach to lighting.

Daylight streams into the casino entry through a 45-foot-tall low-E glass façade that curves in a gentle 300-foot arc along its entrance road, providing a backdrop to the casino’s porte-cochere canopy. And it’s this 200-foot-long arched canopy, which takes its organic form from the hilltop surrounds—comprised of structural steel that supports ETFE pillows with embedded RGB LEDs on synchronized controls—that plays the part of the “Learning from Las Vegas” roadside signifier.

The 24-hour nature of gaming also meant that the lighting designers needed to develop a lighting scheme that required little to no maintenance. It also meant finding a way to illuminate the dramatic canopy so that the LED sources wouldn’t interfere with driver’s sight lines at night. The complex curvature of the system translated to individually customized profiles for each row of ETFE-illuminating stem-mounted LEDs, which sit 12 inches above the frame. At intersections in the steel canopy structure, dimmable white LED downlights are positioned to illuminate the driveway. Pole-mounted metal halide floodlights extend from the roof over the top edge of the glass façade, washing it with even white light that contrasts with the coloring of the lit ETFE membranes of the canopy. An interior LED cove highlights the façade curvature from within the casino.

The result of these lighting strategies is a structure that beckons to potential gaming enthusiasts not with a busy array of lights, but with an undulating glow from which even Las Vegas could learn.

Jury Comments
There’s an incredible subtlety of transition.
The canopy has the resplendence of a moth wing.

The Yonkers Casino entry features a glowing porte-cochère canopy made of structural steel tubes and ETFE pillows.
Paul Warchol Photography Inc. The Yonkers Casino entry features a glowing porte-cochère canopy made of structural steel tubes and ETFE pillows.

The undulating form of the canopy contrasts with the curve of the 300-foot-long glass curtain wall of the casino.
Paul Warchol Photography Inc. The undulating form of the canopy contrasts with the curve of the 300-foot-long glass curtain wall of the casino.

An LED cove inside the entry area highlights the curvature of the glass façade and provides indirect lighting.
Paul Warchol Photography Inc. An LED cove inside the entry area highlights the curvature of the glass façade and provides indirect lighting.

The RGB LEDs can be controlled to provide a gradient of color along the canopy.
Paul Warchol Photography Inc. The RGB LEDs can be controlled to provide a gradient of color along the canopy.

A detail of the stem-mounted white LED downlights that are integrated into the canopy. They follow the canopy’s curvature and illuminate the driveway below.
Courtesy Tillotson Design Associates A detail of the stem-mounted white LED downlights that are integrated into the canopy. They follow the canopy’s curvature and illuminate the driveway below.

Pole-mounted metal halide floodlights extend over the four-story glass curtainwall of the casino, washing it with white light to provide a minimal backdrop to the colorful canopy illumination.
Paul Warchol Photography Inc. Pole-mounted metal halide floodlights extend over the four-story glass curtainwall of the casino, washing it with white light to provide a minimal backdrop to the colorful canopy illumination.

The canopy illuminated at night.
Paul Warchol Photography Inc. The canopy illuminated at night.

Details
Project  Yonkers Casino, Yonkers, N.Y.
Entrant  Tillotson Design Associates
Owner/Client  Withheld
Architect  Studio V Architecture, New York
Lighting Designer  Tillotson Design Associates, New York
Team Members  Suzan Tillotson, Ellen Sears, Mitul Parekh, Kate Nelson
Photographer  Paul Warchol Photography
Project Size  66,000 square feet
Project Cost  $45 million
Lighting Cost  Withheld
Watts per Square Foot  Not available
Code Compliance  Not available
Manufacturers  1212 Studio, HK Lighting Group, Philips Color Kinetics

To see all of the other winners of the 2014 AL Light & Architecture Design Awards, click here.