Overview

Like everything else in Vegas, dining is high stakes and high speed. This former cowboy town has a culinary culture that was born and still lives in the shadow of the city’s main attraction casinos. Big-name restaurants did not come to Vegas until the mid to late 1960s when the tourist trade took off big-time. That’s when casinos joined the arms race to attract world-class eateries. The result has been a booming business for architects, as long as they have the skill and resources to choreograph dining scenes that high rollers would look twice at. The firms on this list meet that criteria. Each one is a giant among giants, as each has a reputation for design brilliance that has gotten the attention of a famed chef or Vegas kingmaker. The ranking was trickier. It came down to experience, innovation, and genius.

Top Architects

10
KGA Architecture

Architects:
Ed Kittrell
George Garlick

Awards:
AIA Honor Design Award,
the AIA Nevada Merit Award,
The Outstanding Builder of the Year Award,
AIA Nevada Architectural Firm Award

Address:
9075 West Diablo Drive, Third Floor, Las Vegas, NV 89148

Contact:
702-367-6900
marketing@kgaarchitecture.com

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About KGA Architecture

When asked about his firm’s beginnings in 1975, partner Ed Kittrell, AIA, said that he and co-founder George Garlick, AIA, were “like the left hand and the right hand.” He was referring to the roles each naturally fell into: Garlock was the designer while Kittrell handled the company’s technical side. Forty years later, the two are still at the helm of a firm that’s licensed in 19 states and routinely handles elaborate projects for some of Vegas’s top power brokers. The firm has offices in Nevada and Texas and, before the recession in 2008, employed 100 people. Its portfolio is diverse, with an obvious strength in restaurant design. KGA has been honored with more than 35 awards, including the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Honor Design Award, the AIA Nevada Merit Award, The Outstanding Builder of the Year Award, and the AIA Nevada Architectural Firm Award.

Featured Projects

Mesa Grill at Caesars Palace is celebrity chef Bobby Flay’s only inroad into the Las Vegas dining landscape. The critically acclaimed casino restaurant serves food reminiscent of the American Southwest, and KGA’s design of the 8,800-square-foot eatery captured the essence of its rich cuisine. Colors are bold and the textures contrast tastefully. There are 28 seats at the bar and three levels to the dining room. At Chef Andre Rochat’s chic Alize in The Palms Casino Resort, French elegance was the theme. Parquet floors are glossy and the cabinets are made of glass. The hallway was designed to sparkle: light bounces off the cognac bottles and off the wood-paneled walls. For the now-closed but much-talked-about Ghostbar, also at The Palms, a dramatic design was created to fit a nightclub built on an ivory tower 55 floors above ground.

9
Jouin Manku

Architects:
Sanjit Manku
Patrick Jouin

Awards:
Interior Design International Hall of Fame

Address:
8, passage de la bonne graine, 75011 Paris, France

Contact:
33 (0) 1 55 28 89 20
agence@jouinmanku.com

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About Jouin Manku

“Two agencies, one common vision,” is how the principals of this Paris-based firm describe the unique blend of architecture and design that have made them international superstars. Sanjit Manku, born in Canada, supplies the architectural expertise, while Patrick Jouin, from France, covers the design end of the business. The two met in Europe in 2001 and combined their talents into this firm five years later. Since then, they have designed high-end restaurants all over the world, most notably the breathtakingly magnificent Alain Ducasse Au Plaza Athenee 2000 in Paris, just one of the Michelin star restaurants by famed chef Alain Ducasse. Although Jouin Manku does not maintain offices in Vegas, the pair have done extensive work on two of Ducasse’s Vegas eateries. Manku and Jouin have been profiled by The New York Times and Interior Design magazine. In 2012, Jouin was inducted into the International Hall of Fame.

Featured Projects

Ducasse’s first venture in Vegas was The Mix, formerly at the Delano Hotel at Mandalay Bay, which opened in 2004. Highlights of Jouin Manku’s design were a glistening fiber optic field over a bar that resembled red coral, a bamboo forest made of wood poles against one wall, a two-story wine rack running the length of another wall, and an oversized chandelier made out of 15k crystal pieces to resemble the bubbles in champagne. On the 64th floor of the same hotel is another of Ducasse’s swanky eateries, Rivea, which opened in 2015. The restaurant offers 180-degree views of the Strip. Jouin and Manku’s design was largely inspired by the sea, from the blue-and-white themed decor to a “Wave Wall,” made with hundreds of glass orbs that ripple like water.

8
YWS Design & Architecture

Architects:
Tom Wucherer
Michael Stewart

Awards:
AIA Nevada Excellence in Design Awards and the AIA Nevada Architecture Firm Award

Address:
5005 West Patrick Lane, Las Vegas, NV 89118

Contact:
702-243-5670
info@ywsinternational.com

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About YWS Design & Architecture

After graduating magna cum laude with a Master of Architecture from California Polytechnic State University, Principal Tom Wucherer, AIA, spent 13 years learning design and plan implementation at top firms in Vegas. Wucherer’s projects included work on the Bellagio and Treasure Island. Principal Michael Stewart studied architecture at the University of Arizona and at the Imperial College of London. In 2001, Wucherer founded YWS with the goal to “revolutionize design.” That meant hiring architects, designers and coordinators who could work as a team on each project. In 2009, the firm went global. By 2010, it had added an interior design department. In 2010, Wucherer received the US Green Building Council’s “LEED Projects as an Individual” award. The firm’s awards include three AIA Nevada Excellence in Design Awards and the AIA Nevada Architecture Firm Award.

Featured Projects

YWS’s sophisticated and elegant design for Bardot Brasserie at Aria Resort and Casino calls to mind the informal bistros popular with Parisians at the turn of the 20th century. This is a restaurant where some deserts are topped off with shards of 24k gold. At the Bellagio Hotel & Casino, YWS created a modern decor for celebrity chef Todd English’s 6,000-square-foot, high-end Olives Restaurant. Hakkasan at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino is where Vegas diners go when it is nightclub ambience and trendy Cantonese entrees they’re in the mood for. The restaurant’s 89k square feet span five floors and include a restaurant, night clubs, and VIP room. The project fetched a G2E 2013 Casino Design Award for Best Interior Design for a Casino Resort Restaurant or Nightclub. And though it’s no longer around, the Boa Steakhouse at Caesars Palace — which featured a centerpiece made out of 800-year-old driftwood — won the 2007 AIA Nevada Excellence in Design Awards and the Interior Environments Citation Award 8,000 square foot.

7
Gensler

Architects:
Art Gensler
Andy Cohen
Stephen Ranck

Awards:
ENR #1 Green Building Design Firm in Commercial Offices,
Building Design + Construction Giants #1 Office Sector Architecture Firm,
Design Futures Council Lifetime Achievement Award

Address:
3883 Howard Hughes Parkway, Suite 650, Las Vegas, NV 89169

Contact:
702-893-2800
info@gensler.com

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About Gensler

This goliath among architecture firms got its start in 1965 and hasn’t stopped growing since. Today, San Francisco-based Gensler has over 5,000 employees and 44 offices in Europe, Asia, Australia, the Middle East, and North and South America. Not only does Gensler maintain offices in Las Vegas, it was the Executive Architect for the 18M-square-foot, mixed-use private development complex known as City Center in the heart of the city. Gensler consistently ranks first on Interior Design magazine’s list of largest firms and ENR’s list of Top Global Design Firms. Architectural Record gave it the number one slot on its ranking of Top 300 firms. Building Design ranked Gensler as the Most Admired US Firm in 2016. That same year, founder Art Gensler, FAIA, FIIDA, RIBA, was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Design Futures Council.

Featured Projects

In 2016, award-winning chef and Chopped winner Roy Ellamar chose Vegas as the location for his farm-to-table concept, Harvest at the Bellagio. Gensler’s community-centric design features a lounge at the restaurant’s entrance and a wall leading to a public promenade. Lighting fixtures at the mixologist bar are made of hand-blown glass. At The D Casino is Andiamo Italian Steakhouse, which is decked out in dark walnut panels, rich leathers, custom-made dome lights, and intricate drapes and fabrics to create an elaborate but intimate dining experience. Gensler matched a color palette to the restaurant’s Detroit heritage. Also at The D Casino is Gensler creation The D Grill, which is located on legendary Fremont Street. The color palette for this renovation is muted. Gensler’s design blended large glass pendant lights, vibrant graphics, and backlit metal art to impart a dramatic, vintage aura.

6
Klai Juba Wald Architects

Architects:
John Klai II
Dan Juba
John Wald

Awards:
AIA Nevada Distinguished Service Award,
AIA Western Mountain Region Silver Medal Award

Address:
4444 West Russell Road, Suite J, Las Vegas, NV 89118

Contact:
702-221-2254
mail@klaijuba.com

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About Klai Juba Wald Architects

It wasn’t long after its founding in 1995 that Klai Juba Wald Architects was considered part of the Vegas hospitality elite. The firm specializes in architecture, design, and planning for gaming resort and hospitality projects. Principal and co-founder John Klai studied at the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University. Before starting the firm, he served as vice president at Marnell Companies. Co-founder Dan Juba heads the firm’s design department and is responsible for projects such as the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino and the Luxor Hotel expansion. Juba also studied architecture at North Dakota State University. He is registered in nine states. Like his partner Klai, Juba had served as vice president of Marnell. The firm has a stellar reputation for its excellent design of projects on the Strip. Many of its projects have been written up in publications such as Architectural Digest.

Featured Projects

Architectural Digest magazine called out Klai Juba for what it called an “intoxicating” wine storage design. The four-story structure is at Mandalay Bay’s Aureole restaurant. Klai’s brilliant design was inspired by scenes from the spy thriller Mission Impossible. Wine stewards must be fitted with harnesses to navigate the 10k wine bottles stored in a climate-controlled, stainless-steel structure rightly called a “wine tower.” Less grand is Klai’s crisp and clean design of the Brigg’s Oyster Company eatery at the Suncoast Casino. Monochrome describes the interior, where creatively designed black pendant lights – covered with industrial wire — hover over a U-shaped bar, adjoining an oyster-shucking station. At Planet Hollywood, Klai’s meticulous architecture plan at the Heart Bar drew diners who specialize in people watching. And its design of The Copper Whisk café at The Orleans shows its mastery of a French-themed dining experience.

5
Ed Vance & Associates Architects

Architects:
Edward Vance

Awards:
AIA Nevada Young Architect citation,
the AIA Nevada Service Award,
AIA Nevada Silver Medal

Address:
900 South Pavilion Center Drive, Suite 180, Las Vegas, NV 89144

Contact:
702-946-8195
evance@edvanceassociates.com

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About Ed Vance & Associates Architects

The principals of this firm, which opened in 2006, have about 60 years’ combined architecture experience in Las Vegas. Edward A. Vance, FAIA, received his bachelors’ degrees from North Dakota State University. He’s certified by the NCARB and is registered in seven states. Before starting his own business in 2006, Vance had served as president of the nationally renowned design firm JMA Architecture Studios. Vance has received the AIA Nevada Young Architect Citation and the AIA Nevada Silver Medal. He also served three years on AIA’s National Board of Directors. Co-founder and present Executive Vice President Jonelle L. Vance, NCIDQ, LEED AP, studied design and art at Avia College. She, too, worked at JMA Architecture Studios, as principal-in-charge and project manager. The firm’s impressive portfolio includes the Lucky Dragon Hotel & Casino, the Dynasty Resort Hotel & Casino, the Las Vegas Convention Center, and buildings at the World Market Center.

Featured Projects

EVA has done two stand-out dining projects for the Cosmopolitan Hotel’s restaurant collection. For chef David Myers’ French bistro Comme Ca, Eva chose mosaic tiles for the floor and mixed distressed oak with glass for the walls. Amber glass chandeliers and pewter accents create a vintage look. There’s even a private cabana on the wraparound patio. For seafood restaurant Estiatorio Milos, a Mediterranean look was chosen for one of the best Greek eateries in Vegas. That means ancient Cycladic art on the walls, marble on the floors, cases of aging meat and wines, aquatic murals, and white oak and stucco throughout. The bar is made out of pure white marble and one of the private dining areas, enclosed in glass, offers a spectacular view of the Strip.

4
Novus Architecture

Architects:
Dwayne R. Eshenbaugh

Awards:
Daryl B. Dobras Award for Outstanding Graduate Student,
NEWH Top Design Firm

Address:
8 E. Charleston Boulevard, Las Vegas, NV 89104

Contact:
702-522-9292
connect@novusarchitecture.com

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About Novus Architecture

A full-service design, planning, interiors, and architecture firm, NOVUS was founded in 2009 by US Air Force Veteran Dwayne R. Eshenbaugh, AIA, member of National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), and LEED Advanced Professional certified in Building Design and Construction (LEED AP BD+C). Though not even 10 years old, the firm has done more than 150 projects spread across the public works, hospitality, healthcare, education, and commercial markets. Eshenbaugh received a bachelor’s and master’s at the University of Arizona, where he was honored with the Daryl B. Dobras Award for Outstanding Graduate Student in 1997. Senior Project Manager Marco Gonzalez, Associate AIA, NCARB, received bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Texas Tech University, then interned at Dekker Perich Sabatini, one of the top architecture firms in the Southwest. In 2016, Novus was recognized as the Top Design Firm by the NEWH. Its restaurant projects – all in Vegas — include the Hofbrauhaus Bar, Atomic Kitchen & Bar, and Bailiwick, a gastro pub at The Orleans Hotel & Casino.

Featured Projects

Novus was tapped by famed German-born chef Rainer Becker to handle the architecture for his first Vegas outpost, Zuma, at The Cosmopolitan. The project — estimated to cost about $5M – involved converting a former art gallery into a sophisticated “izakaya,” or Japanese gastropub. The 7,990-square-foot, high-end sushi eatery was one of the most anticipated restaurant openings in Vegas in 2016. Lavish doesn’t begin to describe the 7,300 square feet that Novus turned into the highly acclaimed Lago by Michelin-honored chef Julian Serrano at Bellagio. The interior design’s theme is the artistic movement known as Italian Futurism. Novus built an interior to reflect the movement’s focus on experimentation and all things cutting edge. For Five50 Pizza Bar at Aria, Novus was chosen by MGM Resorts International to be its architect of record, a distinction almost as prestigious as collaborating with Rockwell Group on this assignment. The $4M project – delivered by Novus three weeks ahead of schedule – allowed the firm to show off its ability to handle complex projects. Novus managed the specifications, cost estimates, mechanical engineering, food service, structural engineering, audio video, acoustical, lighting, low-voltage, and ADA. For its work on Five50, Novus received a 2013 NEWH HOSPY Award.

3
Marnell Architecture

Architects:
Anthony A. Marnell
David G. Howryla
Mitchell A. Trageton

Awards:
NEWH Best Fine Dining Award,
NEWH Vegas HOSPY Award,
James Beard Award

Address:
222 Via Marnell Way, Las Vegas, NV 89119

Contact:
702-739-2000
info@marnellcompanies.com

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About Marnell Architecture

Internationally renowned Marnell Companies and its affiliate Marnell Architecture is still run by a man known as one of Sin City’s most legendary Strip architects, Tony A. Marnell. After earning a bachelor’s from the University of Southern California, Marnell spent two years in graduate school studying with legendary architect Professor Alfred Caldwell. The training paid off big: Marnell went on to design and build such Vegas landmarks as the Rio Hotel in 1998 and the Bellagio and became the architect of record for Wynn’s The Mirage. Marnell also served as executive design architect for the $1.1B Borgata casino. This private company, founded in 1982, handles planning, design, construction, development, and consulting. There is almost no end to the local and national media coverage its projects have received. In 2009, Marnell was honored by the Las Vegas Chapter of NEWH for extraordinary design achievements that include awards for best hotel, best lobby, best suite, and best lounge bar.

Featured Projects

Marnell won a Best Fine Dining award from NEWH for Terzetto, which is much more than a steakhouse. The $9M project featured a marble table with seating for 12 that is suspended from above. Just as stunning are the elaborate glass walls, teak wood trim, and floating ceiling planes. The Hostile Grape also fetched a NEWH Vegas HOSPY award for extraordinary design. The $3.8M lounge serves wine by the glass. Its grandiose entrance is marked by a series of stairs which begins a linear design that boasts glass light wells to allow patrons to enjoy the outdoors but remain inside. Few chefs have rocked the dining scene anywhere in the world as has James Beard Award winner David Chang of Momofuku fame in New York. So, when The Cosmopolitan was undergoing a facelift, Marnell was pegged by Chang to convert the 200-seat restaurant from a retail space that lacked infrastructure for a dining establishment. Imbued with hip Asian chic interiors, the restaurant features an exhibition kitchen.

2
Bergman Walls & Associates

Architects:
Joel Bergman
Scott Walls
Leonard A Bergman

Awards:
Sarno Lifetime Achievement Award for Casino Design,
UNLV Artists and Entertainers Hall of Fame

Address:
709 Valle Verde Court, Henderson, NV 89014

Contact:
702-940-0000
info@bwaltd.com

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About Bergman Walls & Associates

This firm was founded by a legend. Joel Bergman was one of the architects credited with shaping the Vegas skyline. Bergman earned his architecture degrees at the University of Southern California, then went on to become part of Steve Wynn’s in-house architecture team. Bergman designed The Mirage and Treasure Island casinos. In 1994, he teamed up with Scott Walls, another Wynn architect, to start his own firm, which has gained international recognition for high-profile projects focused around hospitality, dining, retail, and entertainment. Its projects include the interiors for Caesars Palace and the design for Trump Las Vegas. The firm continues under the direction of Bergman’s eldest son, Leonard A. Bergman, also an architect. BWA’s headquarters is in Vegas, but it also has locations in Minneapolis and Seattle and has expanded into Southeast Asia.

Featured Projects

The Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace is a 25k-square-foot eatery with seating for close to 600. BWA’s design captured the restaurant’s theme of showcasing the cooking process in an ultramodern, upscale atmosphere. Patrons can choose to dine in a glass-, wood-, or steel-decorated section as they watch the fast-paced food preparation playing out in nine exhibition kitchens. Also at Caesars is Central Michel Ricard, a 9,600-square-foot restaurant dishing out American food with French elegance. Structural highlights are a double sided full bar and outdoor patio terrace. “Surreal” best describes BWA’s design of Beijing Noodle No. 9, a $3.6M project completed at Caesars in 2008. Many layers of light decorate the ceiling of this 3,600-square-foot, ultra-modern eatery that specializes in Northern Chinese cuisine. There are stencils and laser cut screens on the walls and giant fish tanks at the entrance.

1
Rockwell Group

Architects:
David Rockwell

Awards:
Foundation Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America,
James Beard Award

Address:
5 Union Square West, New York, NY 10003

Contact:
212-463-0334
pr@rockwellgroup.com

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About Rockwell Group

Few names in architecture circles carry the weight that David Rockwell’s does. Most telling about Rockwell’s reputation is that he is the one writers at The New York Times turn to for expert commentary on restaurant design anywhere in the world. Rockwell, often described as a “visionary,” has famously said his New York-based firm serves to support his “far reaching vision for creating spectacular dining environments.” The firm was founded in 1984. It does not maintain an office in Vegas but it’s hard to find elaborately designed restaurants in the city that Rockwell’s genius did not play some role in creating. Elsewhere, the Syracuse University graduate is best known for New York’s legendary Union Square Café, Thailand’s famed Yellow Tail Sushi Bar, and the exotic Nobu Doha in Qatar. Rockwell’s other projects include The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. His deep list of awards boasts five from The James Beard Foundation, and in 2010, Rockwell was inducted into the Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America.

Featured Projects

For Five50 Pizza Bar at the Aria Hotel, Rockwell collaborated with Novus Architecture. This wildly popular and critically acclaimed restaurant showcases Rockwell’s choice of natural finish palettes and elements that honor Naples’ most famous culinary contribution to the world. The tiles on the floors are stamped and colored concrete, the ceiling is wrapped in chevron-patterned wood, and the bar is shaped like a horseshoe. White tiles curve around and completely encase the pizza oven. For the Chandelier Bar at The Cosmopolitan, Rockwell created digital programs for an interactive viewing experience. Three stories of the lounge and bar are wrapped in crystal and string. Also at The Cosmopolitan is Jaleo by Jose Andres, which won the James Beard Award in 2013 for Best Restaurant Design. Bars at the entrance were fashioned out of wooden tapas. The floor is terrazzo inlay that’s decorated with olives, napkins, and bronze sea urchins. And, of course, no description of Jaleo would be complete without mentioning the famous taxidermied bull (a faux) on the wall.

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