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A Fresh Start at The Axis

The stage at The Axis. Image © Gensler

Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas is one of the most recognizable brands in live entertainment. Yet even the most indelible brands occasionally require a refresh.

The need for a fresh start is what drove Planet Hollywood’s recent conversion of the resort’s PH Live theater into The AXIS, a state-of-the-art 7000-seat venue capable of hosting a variety of live entertainment options. I was part of a Gensler team that Planet Hollywood hired to complete this project. Our charge: Retool the theater so that it would cater to a younger generation of music lovers and shift the interior so that the space could work for musical acts ranging from Nine Inch Nails (NIN) to Justin Timberlake.

The history of the theater is quite astounding. Neil Diamond opened the venue in 1976 and since then the space has hosted a wide range of musical performers and other live acts. After many years of success the theater now required a new identity. It also needed an array of seating options from general admission to VIP lounges while sustaining its functionality as a multipurpose venue for concerts as well as television events (such as Miss USA) and cater to a diverse crowd.

The Axis's entrance. Image © Gensler

What struck me at the onset of this project is the way the venue brims with history. The space has what I called “potential energy” – the sum total of all those great shows and moments, memories and spectacle. So rather than eradicate the past, our design team opted to leverage those elements in motion, harness the space’s potential energy, and create a feeling of kinetic connection that will ultimately amplify the guest experience. Using sweeping gestures and refreshed, high contrasting materials, we gave The AXIS a distinctly modern feel. The layout, however, is carefully balanced to create a foundation for a varied array of experiences affiliated with a wide range of likely future events.

The AXIS is nestled within Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. We initially struggled with designing the front door; it needed to make an appropriate and compelling statement while respecting the context of the visually intense space situated outside the casino entrance and along the Miracle Mile Shops. Our design solution creates a highly visible geometric portal, designed to transition the guests quickly into The AXIS. The goal was to create a vibrant, paparazzi-esque experience that quickly announces that this is a new venue worthy of notice, a place to see and be seen.

The lobby space takes a cue from the existing elliptical space. Through use of dramatic geometry and lighting, we created an engaging and sensory-driven experience. This is not merely a place to pass through en route to the performance; it is an intimate SPACE that sets the tone for the event and can be utilized in a variety of ways. An expressive color-changing LED chandelier accentuates the volume. The concourse zones ensure ease of visibility of food and beverage as well as merchandise options. It was vital for Caesars Entertainment, the parent company for Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, that the theater’s user experience break new ground in terms of service standards and accessibility to products. This space also acts as the transition zone from lobby to performance space.

The lobby. Image © Gensler

A sweeping acoustical wall and proscenium arch accents the theater and performance space, creating a dramatic backdrop and reinforcing the gestural aesthetics of the lobby. These elements double as a projection backdrop and provide opportunities for a completely immersive experience for concert-goers. The sound system was upgraded to a state-of-the-art installation, further enhancing the guest experience. The new general admission zone adjacent to the stage and the intimate VIP lounge seating creates a focused energy within the seating bowl. Guests who have purchased VIP table seating will be pampered with world class table/bottle service operated by Drai’s Management Group, the premiere nightclub service provider for the venue.

We set out to provide a space for enhanced experience, for entertainment and for celebration, and we believe The AXIS embodies the relationship between each audience member and the performer and performance stage. Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino sees the opening of The AXIS as a critical first step in a series of new investments along the east side of the Strip.

The Axis opened on December 27, 2013, and drew rave reviews from those in attendance. We look forward to more exciting nights at The Axis in the near future.

The concourse. Image © Gensler

Brett Robillard wants to reduce things to their absolute essence. His work bridges some of the earliest traditional ideas about architecture with new ideas about sensory space and finding the specific purpose in everything. He works in Gensler's Las Vegas office and can be contacted at brett_robillard@gensler.com.

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