Nevada architects are breaking new ground in designing the state’s commercial real estate, taking their cut from area on the cutting edge of commercial design – such as Southern California – and unveiling a whole new look. With this new look high in demand, old-fashioned builders may be left out in the cold. Here, architects and brokers share their opinions on what’s hot and what’s not in Nevada’s commercial architecture.
The king of Class A office projects in Las Vegas is, of course, the state-of-the-art Hughes Center on Paradise Road and Flamingo. The designers opt for real stone rather than conventional stucco and wrap buildings in impressive landscaping. The center is laid out in a campus environment that houses numerous offices and restaurants. The Hughes Center has become the benchmark in commercial real estate, spawning a number of imitators.
“The buildings are laid out in a somewhat irregular fashion, which breaks up some of the rigidity of the project,” said Ron McMenemy, broker/general manager of NAI Americana Commercial in Las Vegas. “In the past, a lot of office projects in town were laid out in very harsh grids, buildings squared off to one another. The new wave is to make all projects, whether retail, industrial or office, more free-flowing and irregular.”
A more recent standout example of Las Vegas office architecture is the Peak Plaza, designed by Swisher & Hall AlA, Ltd. The spec building won a 1999 National Association of Industrial and Office Parks (NMOP) award for its stylish and practical features, including its contemporary Southwestern retro deco style, exterior walkways, impressive siting with views of the mountains, L-shaped buildings and deep-set windows for solar control.
As far as back office product is concerned, McMenemy thinks Flynn-Gallagher Corporate Centre, located on the corner of Buffalo and Cheyenne in northwest Las Vegas, is a good example of a building suited for high-tech clientele, with appropriate computer-compatible infrastructure. McMenemy likes the architect’s use of curved lines, glass areas and distinct glass fronts, along with the center’s campus-like atmosphere.
Other eye-catching Las Vegas office architecture is found in the Hughes Airport Center and the American Nevada’s Corporate Center in Green Valley. The buildings used a successful masterplan as a springboard to cohesive design elements. Although the two parks are predominantly tilt-up construction, the buildings are well-detailed and complemented by trellises and other devices that add pedestrian scale, a style that appeals to Thomas Schoeman, AlA, president of JMA Architecture Studios in Las Vegas.
Schoeman also likes the Las Vegas Technology Center. Although the park features uniform landscape, each building takes on its own personality. For example, the Sierra Health Services building, two five-story towers fronting US 95, is a contemporary Southwestern style. On the other end of the scale, the Steinberg Medical Center, an award-winning medical imaging facility designed by Schoeman’s finn, is a combination of tile, stainless steel and masonry with strong architectural forms and a color palette mirroring the surrounding desert, from sky-blue to gray-beige.
In southwest Reno, Jim Mickey, vice president of Reno-based Worth Group Architects, has noticed that small office parks have eliminated the strip mall approach, including a number of separate buildings within a single park. Architecturally, customers may see everything from Mediterranean stucco boxes to more contemporary offices with curves and arches to old wooden houses.
Gary Baker, senior vice president and managing partner at Lee & Associates in Reno, sees some of the most impressive office buildings in the mixed-use South Meadows Business Park. Baker has worked extensively in the Orange County, Irvine and Newport Beach areas of California, leaders in contemporary office and industrial design. The South Meadows Park is the closest Baker’s seen to the architectural quality found in Southern California.
“The buildings are timeless — the facilities don’t get dated because they’re not trendy,” Baker said of South Meadows. “They have a generous use of dark, tinted glass. Twenty years from now those buildings are still going to look very clean because of their architectural treatment.” Baker expects to see the high quality architecture found in South Meadows to catch on across the city as builders attempt to meet the demands for well-designed product. Currently, the buildings that have the most outstanding designs are leasing up rapidly, Baker said.
According to McMenemy, the key to good interior design in industrial architecture is not so much the look of the building, but rather the flexibility in positioning loading docks, interior walls and other practical elements. The best industrial buildings combine this interior flexibility with a cleaner exterior style that resembles more of an office than a warehouse. An example, McMenemy said, is Warm Springs Crossing Industrial Park on the corner of Industrial Road and Warm Springs in Las Vegas, adjacent to 1-15.
Although big box industrial design above 100,000 square feet typically sports a straightforward style, Schoeman noticed the Security Capital Industrial Park in North Las Vegas defies that stereotype. “It’s not totally a dumb box,” described Schoeman. “The architect has provided some entrance canopies that clearly identify where the customers need to come and added some pedestrian scale to it so that you’re not standing against a 30-foot tall edge. You walk through an arcade and an entrance canopy before you get into the interior space of the building and that adds some scale.”
Hughes Airport Center also stands out as an example of expert planning. Like the Security Capital (ProLogis) park, the center features outstanding detail that sets it above the rest and provides an efficient master plan.
In Sparks, near Reno, warehousing companies have started developing corporate identities, and have designed buildings to suit their personalities. One example is B&J Machine with its concrete tilt-up, metal roof, steel columns and aluminum storefront. Directly adjacent to Interstate SO, the building provides an attractive face seen from the highway. Subtle detailing at the top of the concrete tilt-up walls adds an attractive rhythm and uniqueness to the design. “The design of the main entrance and office area is based upon the operation of the facility, which manufactures products with sheet metal,” said Angela Bigotti, AlA, vice president of Sheehan Van Woert Bigotti Architects in Reno.
Mickey is starting to see the construction industry take more chances in the industrial arena In the Double Diamond area, he’s noticed high-tech companies sporting modern styles, using many colors, shapes and curves. According to Mickey, the construction industry has finally realized that imagination is allowed, that it’s okay to include textures and innovative framing.
“The Lockheed facility was probably the first building done in the Southwest area and it set a precedent as to styles. Very contemporary,” Mickey said. “It started out as a huge box that was tilt-up concrete and! they went in and did some score joints to where they could come in and do different patterns with colors. They took the office areas and did a lot of full-height glass walls and exposed concrete.”
Baker also touts the former Lockheed Mountain Gate facility as one of the shining stars of Reno commercial architecture, partially due to its open spaces and pleasing color scheme. Baker doesn’t think it was an accident that the South Meadows developers placed the building in full sight of the freeway. “It represents the best of what architecture can do because the building is both functional and award-winning in its design,” noted Baker.
Dermody Properties’ industrial multi-tenant buildings on Longley Lane can give the Lockheed building a run for its money, according to Baker The clean design hides trucking between the two buildings, out of view of the street, without interfering with truck access. Heavy landscaping, offices built on the mezzanine, plenty of glass and a recessed front entrance to break up the flat wail all add to the building’s appeal.
“That building was built about nine years ago and it’s still one of the more outstanding-looking industrial multi-tenant buildings,” Baker said. “It’s a very hard thing to do with industrial buildings that are built for lease because there’s a tradeoff between the amount of money you have in the project and the rent that you’re actually able to obtain because of market conditions. But this one got it right the first time out. And it stays substantially leased in part because of the way it looks and its functional design.”
Despite some shining examples, Baker is disappointed that Reno’s slipped behind architectural innovation. He’d like to see the rest of the city meet the level of South Meadows. “It’s been very disappointing to see the mediocre type of buildings that we generally have in comparison to what could have been done,” he lamented. “But these things cost money and from an industrial standpoint our market so far has been primarily warehousing, where you don’t get a lot of extra rent just because the buildings look dynamite.”
Along with many other architects, Steve Swisher of Swisher & Hail, AlA, Ltd. in Las Vegas, has watched a new trend emerge in retail: urban village-type environments clumping together housing, office, retail and entertainment on one large site. “You can live, work and play in an architecturally integrated environment,” Swisher said. “I think the real news here is not as much stylistic as it is the trend in development and urban planning toward mixed use. The idea is that you’re creating these more holistic environments.”
Ron McMenemy sees another trend in the standout styles of many Las Vegas retail shops. Textures, varying heights, individualistic looks and different architectural styles have replaced the flat, stark store faces that once greeted customers. In many cases, each storefront of a building may have a completely different style, giving the ifiusion of different buildings sitting side by side. Many retail shops also have left behind the standard Southwestern look for a California feel, with more courtyards and curves.
From a power center standpoint, Thomas Schoeman said the attractive detailing, graphics with an art deco feel and a richer, deeper color palette stand out in the partially finished Boca Park Center at West Charleston and Fort Apache. The center has striking architectural forms and a unique color palette.
“It’s a light gray and black, which you would think would not work, but this works very well,” Schoeman said. “Also, they’re attaching to the building some elements that look structural in nature but that really articulate the building very nicely. For example, in lieu of a conventional arcade they have industrial structural attachments to the building, which are very striking in appearance.”
According to Mickey, Reno’s retail offerings include one remarkable example, a shopping center on the corner of McCarran and Pyramid in Sparks. The facility is built to resemble a country-western town at the turn of the last century, with exposed wood, rocks and beams. The layout, Mickey said, is a refreshing change of pace from the standard Meditermnean-style retail centers with their stucco, foam shapes and clay roofs. “I think that new look is even leading to the success of the shopping center, because there are no empty stores,” Mickey said. “The place is always packed.”