Jeffrey Beers does Las Vegas to the max at the MGM Grand's Tabú Ultra Lounge
Aric Chen -- Interior Design, 7/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
"Fashionable Attire Required," announces a sign outside the Tabú Ultra Lounge at Las Vegas's sprawling MGM Grand Hotel and Casino. Of course, "fashionable" is a relative concept. And it's especially so in Las Vegas, where high-profile art collections, luxury lodgings, and four-star restaurants have sprung up on territory dominated by creatively coiffed, fanny-packed tourists since Wayne Newton belted out his first tune.
Tabú, however, is neither incongruously trendy nor intended for the blue-hair crowd. "The project is fashion-conscious," says its designer, Jeffrey Beers. "Its saturated sensuality constantly engages and stimulates." True to Vegas style, Tabú packs it all in—Jeffrey Beers International has filled 7,000 square feet with everything from mutating murals to kaleidoscopic lighting and a vodka bar of solid ice. "I created separate environments, with probably over a hundred different types of lighting and materials," the architect continues.
After passing through the bronze-paneled entry in Tabú's facade of wengé, walnut, and flagstone, the "fashionably attired" encounter the first of three environments. It's the lounge, where custom pyramid pendant fixtures in titanium cast an architectural light on custom sofas and ottomans upholstered in iridescent faux leather.
Behind the bar itself, cylindrical glass towers holding bottles of liquor rotate and change color as a result of holographic coating. The bar's concrete top acts as a screen for a projected cycle of photographic images: nudes, natural landscapes, and fashion shots. Projection is also involved in what is perhaps the lounge's most novel feature. Cast on two of four concrete tables—weighing in at 700 pounds apiece—are motion-sensitive images that respond to the wave of a drinker's hand. An image of water, for example, will ripple; a black-on-white nude will change to white-on-black. Beers points out that the visuals respond to feet, too: "As the night progresses and energy levels increase, the tables become platforms for dancing."
To define the perimeter of the lounge, Beers built partitions of amber-colored resin panels, and one of them partially screens a phantasmagoric double mural beyond. Former Cirque du Soleil design director Roger Parent helped execute the murals in a specialized iridescent paint that responds to changes in lighting. Red light activates a desert scene, blue a multicultural group portrait—and the two alternate at 20-second intervals. "The desert refers to Nevada. The portrait represents how Vegas attracts people from around the world," says Beers.
Another resin partition screens the VIP champagne bar, raised on a walnut platform. White Calcutta marble gleams on the bar face; walls are plush in purple velour. Beers calls a second VIP space, the Tantra Room, "more secretive, for further exploration of the world of Tabú." Paneled in bronze moiré mesh, the hive-shape chamber ascends to a 16-foot apex—from which hangs a stainless-steel custom chandelier. "Further exploration" leads to an adjacent refrigerated room, where blocks of illuminated ice encase bottles of vodka.
Literally, figuratively, and certainly intentionally, Tabú is intoxicating, designed to reflect Las Vegas while not being totally of it. Nowhere is this more apparent than back in the lounge, where frosted-glass windows line the wall separating the bar from the hotel lobby. In the niche formed by each window, draped in bronze moiré, Beers arranged a custom red velour-upholstered sofa and lounge chairs, a custom cocktail table, and African carved-teak stools. "From inside Tabú, you can perceive the buzz of the casino but be separate from it," he says. "And from the casino, you can see activity inside Tabú, but nothing and no one is entirely discernable."