Revel and the New Atlantic City

Since the dawn of civilization architecture has been the benchmark of cultural values. One needs only to look to the most ambitious, impressive and expensive structures from any region during any period of history and there will be substantial indication of whatever cultural generalization one wishes to observe. Even since art has entered what is understood as a postmodern period, buildings have remained as highly practical with purposes meant to attract visitors by function and design. As you page through history you will find palaces, burial sites, temples and many other examples of public interest. In many cases the mere image of a particular structure evokes the whole of any particular civilization.

Fortunes of the past have been built upon violent conquest, or indoctrinating manipulation of the masses, American culture is driven by individual desire. While there are many examples of great American architecture, much of it falls into the category of cheaply boring and childishly kitsch. It is to this former category that I attribute much of Atlantic City. The idea, so far, has been to make the interior of the Casino another world; when we enter we are escaping to an exotic destination. We can see how the American casino’s design has moved closer and closer to Disneyland. The only thing that really changes is the theme. Unfortunately, entering one doesn’t provide the sense of escape to any place resembling from where the theme originates. The best example of this experience is Bally’s Wild West Casino where, upon entering, we find a huge plastic rock that resembles something between Disney and a historical wax museum.

With Borgata, in 2003, a sleek, relatively simple, contemporary design emerges. We find the first hotel and casino to not employ such a decorative theme like most of the other casinos in Atlantic City.  Perhaps Borgata is a response to the old Vegas glamour like that found in the Scorsese film “Casino.” At the very end of that film, the ugly masses descend upon Vegas as the city becomes gentrified. Borgata does not “rob history” as we are prone to do when we become bored with current fashion. Another form of gentrification is nostalgia like Johnny Rocket’s or Hard Rock Cafe. The danger in Borgata’s simplicity is appearing too sterile or corporate as we find in some aspects of the $1.1 billion complex; however, I find it comfortable and a much needed departure.

That departure makes way for next year’s Revel, which I took great delight in photographing as you see here. Right now Revel is costing $1 billion and there’s room for expansion. Following the success of Borgata, Revel sits on the Boardwalk and features an ocean inspired contemporary design. The facade literally waves and practically no where will you be without a view of the sea. We don’t yet know what the inside will look like; however, the small peeks we’ve been offered display a comfortable, modern appeal nothing like the city has seen before.

What I find inspiring about Revel is the maturity it adds to the Boardwalk in Atlantic City. Our cultural desire for entertainment is time-honored. What we see here is a sense that people accept that they are going to Atlantic City to visit a casino. I know that seems obvious but consider the design of the other casinos along the boards as well as many in Vegas and elsewhere. When we design and decorate our home we do so to feel that we are home so why would a casino design attempt to make you feel you are in India, or New Orleans, or The Old West? Do not all these facades make it seem that otherwise Atlantic City wouldn’t be worth visiting all by itself? The message is “you might just be going to AC but when you get here we’ll take you someplace better. You’ll forget that you’re in South Jersey” My hope is that Revel will give Atlantic City a real sense of identity. The billions of dollars that businesses feel confident enough to invest in casinos show that our culture values entertainment and excitement. The majesty of these structures are one of our major contributions to cultural history. Therefore, Atlantic City stands as an opportunity to emerge as a positive cultural center. You can check out more photos from this gallery here. Also, be sure to look at some of my other events. Here is a link to my portfolio.

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