Challenge: In an effort to be more than just a place to gamble, casinos are expanding their offerings to include resort activities and fine-dining experiences. But to that end, how does one create a restaurant setting that allows patrons a break from the casino's myriad of noise and sound, yet given the expectation for excitement that comes with being in Las Vegas, remains different and striking enough to stand on its own? That was the primary challenge facing the designers of Sushi + Sake, a 2,700-square-foot restaurant at the Green Valley Ranch Casino Resort and Spa in Henderson, Nevada, a suburb of Las Vegas.

Architectural And Lighting Solution: The client turned to the resort's architects, the Friedmutter Group, who designed both Sushi + Sake and the adjacent China Spice restaurant. With Sushi + Sake, the client wanted a jewel that offered patrons a fun and exciting dining option until late into the evening.

From the design parti to the materials palette to the lighting features, Sushi + Sake celebrates the art of this Japanese cuisine. The design concept mimics the form and act of preparing sushi. The ebony wood walls with slate insets are symbolic of the bamboo mat used to roll the sushi. But perhaps the most poetic translation of this motif can be seen in the custom wave walls fabricated by Montreal-based Lumid. Friedmutter Director of Design Albie Colotto explains, 'We watched the choreography of how a sushi chef rolls sushi and interpreted that shape and movement into the light fixtures.'

These 24-foot-long, 4-1/2-foot-tall, coned walls are made of a faux alabaster skin on PETG, a co-polyester material, supported by a steel structure. The walls were fabricated in six sections and assembled on site. Thirty-six inches in depth, they are illuminated with LEDs (72 per foot) that are placed on special boards at the top and bottom of the curve. Each group of RGB LEDs provides 300 watts of light. A special 1/16-inch-thick optical film carries the color through the curve. The color-changing capability, on a 20-minute cycle, is made possible via a DMX computer control system and Lumid's own Lightingtools technology.

Although the wave walls are the key design element in the project, they are not the only lighting feature. As lighting principal Joe Kaplan states, the challenge became 'how to integrate such a powerful design element with the other elements.' The bar fascia is internally illuminated with T8 fluorescents sources. Incandescent MR16 pendants hang over the bar from a soffit above, which is also lit from the inside out with a neon cove. Behind the bar an abstracted aquarium sculpture comes to life with fiber optics.

The change in lighting levels relates to the different activities occurring in the restaurant. The entrance is slightly brighter. The saki lounge in the back is more intimate. The bar is also fairly bright, and the eating areas range between 5 to 10 footcandles with double that on the tabletops. Although Title 24 is not applicable in Las Vegas, as a Los Angeles-based firm Kaplan always makes an effort to comply with Title 24. 'It's good for everyone,' he states.

'Las Vegas is not the home of the 99-cent buffet anymore,' says Colotto. 'It's becoming a mecca for restaurateurs and designers. They take their work here very seriously, and that creates a great forum for design.'

Elizabeth Donoff


Project: | Sushi + Sake Restaurant at Green Valley Ranch, Henderson, Nevada

Design team: | Friedmutter Group (architecture and design); Kaplan Gehring McCarroll Architectural Lighting:

(lighting designer)

Photographer: | InSite Architectural Photography (left), Stations Advertising (middle), Lynn Campbell (right)

Manufacturers: | Celestial, Leucos, Lumid, Lumiere, Metalux, RSA