Christopher Belknap – Architect
Design Earth Synergy – Design Consultant 2000 – 2015
1997-2000 Design Consultant & Senior Designer with WATG Architects
Destination/Entertainment Resorts- Master Planning
Destination/Entertainment Resort, Retail & Mixed Use Architecture
1996-1999 The Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, NV
Design Consultant and Senior Designer with WATG Architects -Newport Beach, CA:
WATG Lead Designer on THE VENETIAN – Las Vegas – Phase I – responsible for Concept Design through SD, DD, CD & CA with WATG Architects.
The Venetian Resort, completed in May of 1999, was a $1.5 Billion project involving a collaboration of two architectural design firms: WATG Architects (Newport Beach, CA)- Nevada Office (WATG Nevada Inc.) and The Stubbins Group (Boston, MA) Nevada Office (TSA Nevada Inc.) On an accelerated fast track, from initial concept to opening day, it took 3 years to design and complete construction.
DESIGN AWARD: WATG Architects and The Stubbins Group received the Las Vegas A.I.A. Chapter -1999 Design Merit Award for the Venetian Hotel.
The Venetian Resort, completed in May of 1999, was a $1.5 Billion project involving a collaboration of two architectural design firms: WATG’s Newport Office (WATG Nevada Inc.) and The Stubbins Group (out of Boston) Nevada Office (TSA Nevada Inc.) On an accelerated fast track, from initial concept to opening day, it took 3 years to design and complete construction.
Note: Click on any Project Illustration or Image to Expand – Best on a Large Screen:
Central features of the project included a 33 story, 3,000 all Suite, Hotel Tower which rises from a three story podium approximately 80’ high. The exterior composition of the podium is comprised of a series of replica palaces considered to be representative of the historic icons of St. Marks Square and the Grand Canal of Venice. The podium consists of approximately 1.5 million SF of historically replicated / themed space, including on the Ground Level approximately 500,000 SF of Palatial Lobby, Grand Dome and Entry Hall, Casino and renown Restaurants, Ballrooms.
On the Second Level, there is 500,000 SF of Grand Canal Shops beginning with a replication of the Grand Hall in the Doge’s Palace from Venice. The Retail Promenade continues to a Venetian Canal Scene with sky ceiling that moves along 300 ft. of canals to a replication of St. Marks Square. Finally, on the Third Level, is approximately 300,000 SF of Pool Deck. The result is a very ambitious complex layering of uses to create an ultimate entertainment environment. WATG’s role was overall exterior design of the 33 story hotel tower along with the concept development and documentation of all themed elements on the exterior podium and plazas that front Las Vegas Blvd. WATG was responsible for the the themed Retail Mall that begins with Great Hall, and the Interior Venice street and canal that ends at a replica of Saint Marks Square. WATG was also responsible for the documentation of the three main podium levels.
Christopher Belknap as the Senior Designer led the WATG effort in the development of the primary concept of the Venetian, led in the overall detailing, and was the primary client contact for most design presentations as well as extensive construction oversight of the esthetic design features.
Expand Original Concept Illustrations & Photos of The Venetian taken September 2015:
Expand the Original Detail Elevation of the Tres Pontes Bridge Connections from the Campanile
at The Venetian Las Vegas & Photos of the Tres Pontes and Campanile Base taken in September 2015
Expand Image to see images and illustrations of the Detailing required in the design and construction of The VENETIAN.
The Grand Canal Shops required meticulous replication of thousands of Venetian details that had to be adapted for The Venetian Grand Canal Shops in Las Vegas. Expand images of Original Design Sketches & Detail Drawings as well as photographs of the Grand Canal Shops in 2015.
Expand Images below to view Construction Photos of THE VENETIAN – Las Vegas:
THE VENETIAN – Reflections on the three years 1997-99 – Christopher Belknap:
Developing the theme and Renaissance historic icons of Venice, in the modern context of a Resort Hotel and Casino such as The Venetian in Las Vegas, was the result of a very extensive collaborative design and construction process. The exterior composition of The Venetian Podium is comprised a very elaborate set piece made up of a series of replica Venetian Palaces considered to be representative of the historic icons of St. Marks Square and the Grand Canal of Venice. The number of authentically replicated details is in the thousands at The Venetian including the Podium that consists of approximately 1.5 million square feet of historically replicated, themed space including the Palatial Lobby, Casino, Retail level Grand Hall and The Grand Canal Shops and Saint Marks Square all under a simulated sky ceiling.
This design process began with the vision expressed by Sheldon Adelson, the owner and it was developed and realized by two Architectural Firms, WATG Architects and Stubbins Architects, working in collaboration together and closely with The Las Vegas Sands Executive Team from initial concept design through construction. The concept process included extensive research and trips to Venice to prepare to the design team, to as authentically as possible, replicate the details of Venice within the context of a new Destination Resort Hotel in Las Vegas. Along with the Architects and Interior Designers working together the project progressed, including the complex design collaboration of all the many engineers (Structural, Mechanical, Electrical, Life Safety, etc.) and the executives from the contractor’s team that entered this design process to ultimately design and build The Venetian.
To accomplish the Art and Theming replication of authentic details required hundreds of artists, sculptors and technicians to deliver the many replica Renaissance Art Murals and elaborate Renaissance Historic Architectural details that can be found throughout The Venetian. Treadway Industries of Las Vegas, the main theming contractor in particular, was central to producing the art and sculptures for the set pieces from the details that were provided through hand drawn, and modern CAD documentation by the architectural team. Because of the highly compressed fast-track schedule, these details were being completed even as the massive steel frame of the project was being erected. The construction process was accomplished by construction management firm, the general contractor and numerous subcontractors all coordinated and working together. Well over a thousand construction workers would have been involved at various stages during this massive undertaking, all accomplished within the very tight schedule. The whole process required the collective team to be able to adjust to the daily challenges and stresses that would naturally arise during the design and construction of such a large and complex project of approximately 6- million square feet in total. THE VENETIAN – Las Vegas was completed within three years from initial concept design approval in the Spring of 1997 to opening day May 3, 1999 – a challenge and accomplishment for all who brought this project into reality and today run and operate THE VENETIAN.
It is interesting to reflect and note that THE VENETIAN – Las Vegas was completed in the last year of the 20th Century, a reflection of one of the most remarkable cities in history. Venice remains today preserved over the centuries much as it had developed with layers of historic architecture that people from around the world visit to witness and experience this great city that is a living record of The Renaissance. The initial settlement was established in a remote low coastal plain and on islands. The primary reason to settle there was to escape the destruction that was occurring during the Fall of The Roman Empire 450 AD. From that beginning the merchants who built what became the small Republics of Venice eventually organized to become one of the most powerful sea faring trading and military forces in the Mediterranean by the 1300’s when it was well established. From that time on into the mid 1500’s its peak, Venice has been a record of Post Roman Empire architectural periods and The Renaissance in particular.
When THE VENETIAN – Las Vegas was was completed in only three years, 1997 to May 1999, it was one of largest and most complex Resort Hotel Projects in the World. Time then and today, is now further compressed and continues to advance even more rapidly towards the changing and challenging future. Today, in 2015 there are more complex and larger Resorts than the original Phase 1 Venetian Las Vegas (The Venetian Las Vegas has continued to expand a number of times now including the addition of The Phase 2 – Palazzo). There is also The Venetian, Macau twice the size of the original Venetian. In parts of the Middle East, to which much of this project record is dedicated, completely new Major Cities have been designed and built in the first 15 Years of the 21st Century. These very ambitious Development Design and Planning Teams set out to design completely new urban centers. This was possible because a clear and ambitious vision of possibility set by leaders within the UAE in particular and their Development Companies, and because at this point in time we have learned from thousands of years of city development and history. In addition, and crucial to the success of these large endeavors, this was possible because of an extensive International Collaborative Team approach that came together with best Design – Architecture and Engineering / Planning Firms from the United States, Canada and Europe that engaged with professionals from around the World, assembled to collaboratively design and build these new visionary projects that were some of the largest projects the World has seen.
In the 21st Century the very real challenges ahead are truly daunting. Human creativity cannot be stopped, in my view. It can be be both very positive and unfortunately very destructive as we have seen throughout history and in particular the 20th and 21st Century. The question to ask is – as the complexity of challenges we face increase exponentially, will we engage our collective and collaborative wisdom to address and meet The Global Challenge in this Century now before us, and with so many conflicts, in the most positive and balanced way? Will we address The Five Critical Challenges of the 21st Century that can be found in the first menu item of this website? Along with addressing the multiple challenges of our time, will we then direct our creative potential with wisdom, balance and consciously envision, align, design and build truly exciting, healthy, creative living environments and Sustainable 21st Century Cities and Communities Worldwide by 2050?
It is to this purpose that the Design Earth Synergy Website is dedicated – to communicate a series of visionary ideas and Initiatives and to assist in bringing forth the design and communication network and structure capable of creating the vision and alignment necessary to create Worldwide a Sustainable 21st Century. Though it might be a stretch to understand how THE VENETIAN experience can inspire the design and building of Sustainable 21st Century Cites and Communities by 2050, the process of collaborative design should be examined. In the case of The Venetian, the Vision and goal was to combine the complexity and elegant Renaissance Art and Details of Venice into a very modern and complex Destination Resort Hotel, and this required a diverse team of professional designers to collaborate, agree and align on solutions and a design that met many more requirements than a more typical Hotel Resort of the period. The key is both vision of purpose and the design process when it comes to more complex projects. I am certain collaboration in design, development and construction at levels not yet achieved will be the path to a Sustainable 21st Century. This will occur when our individual, and collective National Vision Aligns and commits to adding the complexity and parameters that would create healthy, near Net-Zero / Carbon Neutral / Smart Tech Cities, along with Sustainable Clean Energy and Transportation Infrastructure. With the key alignment of vision we should realize, and have confidence, that we already have more than enough knowledge, resources and human creativity to collaboratively design and build Sustainable 21st Century Cities and Communities Worldwide.
The rise of The City of Venice out of the destruction and ashes of the Dark Ages became a symbol of the rise of the Renaissance, an expansion of the Arts and Science and a period of expanding Enlightenment and Global Exploration. World History has continued with creative expressions of great beauty and organization in the growth of Civilization, and on a parallel path also caused greater violence and destruction with each passing Century. Today in 2015 there immense challenges, that if not met could greatly and adversely effect the quality of all life on Earth. At the same time, there is a great opportunity for our Nation and the World Community to rise and align on vision and action plan, working together towards a Sustainable 21st Century by 2050. This in my view is our essential mandatory evolutionary mandate.
Well before working on The Venetian my personal commitment from my 16 years living in Hawaii was to work towards a Sustainable World Community, and yet due to a number of circumstances, I accepted the roll that came to me on this project, that appeared to be off track of that primary commitment. The next three years were very challenging, there were many differing personalities and opinions, as is true in life in general, that all had to come together to succeed. The connecting link was that we all had an understanding of what our objective was that aligned us through the vision of The Venetian that was made clear, and that we each then worked towards that goal for our own reasons and through our own profession and responsibility. The whole endeavor for myself professionally built on my past experience, but at the same time the project was much more complex, on many levels, than anything that I had done before. I would say this was probably true for the majority of the team at some level. The diversity of different people and professionals did come together, aligned by that vision and in collaboration as a team, and as a result the project was completed in the time frame requested. By now 16 years since opening day millions of visitors have come to and enjoyed their experience at The Venetian – Las Vegas. Many of these visitors I am sure then went on to visit and experience the real Venice in Italy. I went on in my career to work on a number of the largest urban planning projects in the World from 1999 to 2008 in The Middle East, that built on the knowledge I gained from my previous experience in Hawaii, and The Venetian project and professionals that I worked with.
Life, I believe will prepare you a path to learn from – that at the time may not be always what you or I expect – but upon reflection we may come to understand was perfect at that time for each of us to experience. From our life’s experience eventually accomplish what we set out to do on your own personal path – that is directed by one’s personal vision of life’s purpose – and that we each can choose. I am, therefore grateful for my experience as a member of the WATG Architects Team that I worked with directly, and the Stubbins Architects Collaborative Team that we joint ventured with on the project, – and to all those I encountered, learned from and worked collaboratively with, in the design and construction of THE VENETIAN.
Christopher Belknap – Architect
1999 – 2000 The Palazzo Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, NV
Design Consultant and Senior Designer for WATG Architects -Newport Beach, CA:
Senior Designer responsible for Concept Design through Schematic Design.
The Palazzo had much the same program as the Venetian. The primary difference is that the detailing on the exterior was intended to be from a later time period, that of the Grand Hotels at the turn of the century. Much of the schematic design was completed with a high level of detailing. WATG’s role and the Senior Designer Consultant role were much the same as on the Venetian. The first Palazzo Concept only went through Concept Design with WATG. The project continued with another concept and architect.
Expand Illustrations – The Palazzo Details
2000- 2001 – Garden Villas and South Tower – Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, NV
Senior Designer for WATG Architects, Newport Beach CA:
Senior Designer responsible for Concept Design through Schematic Design.
The Caesars Palace Luxury Garden Villas consisted of 10 villas ranging in size from 3,500 SF to 11,000 SF and totaling approx. 60,000 SF. Conceived to be a Grand Roman Villa, the Garden Villas were elaborately detailed focused on a formal renaissance center garden and cascading fountains. The South Tower was 27 floors, with 1,000 Suites, 8 Grand Villas and a Gourmet Restaurant in the top three floors; there was also 72,000 SF of Convention and Meeting, as well as 65,000 SF of Retail in the Podium. The Senior Designer’s role involved development of the initial concept and coordination of the design development of the Garden Villas through Schematic Design.
Expand Ceasars Palace Garden Villas & South Tower Presentation Panels:
2007 – Riviera Palace Retail Mall – Concept Elevations – Moscow, Russia
Design Consultant to Kling-Stubbins Architects & Engineers:
Design Consultant responsible for development of Concept Plan, Canal, Ceiling Refinement and Renaissance based Retail Elevations.
Expand Images to view Detail Renaissance Themed Fascades followed be The Riviera Shopping Mall Plan and Main Cross Sections:
1998 – Battersea Power Station, London, England
Desgin Consultant with WATG Architects – Newport Beach, CA:
Design Consultant and Senior Designer responsible for Concept Design of an 800 Room Conference Center Hotel with 8,000 SF of Retail and Restaurants, 75,000 SF of Conference Facilities adjacent to the historic Battersea Power Station.
2003 – The Virgin Spa at Natirar, NJ
Design Consultation for WATG Architects – Irvine, CA
As a Design Consultant with WATG Architects Christopher Belknap was responsible for lead design in the initial Conceptual Master Plan effort for the Virgin Spa at Natirar, which included developing the concept design for the Mansion Expansion, Virgin Spa, Carriage House / Culinary Center, Executive Club and Events Center.
2009 – Natirar Resort, Spa and Culinary Center, NJ
Design Consultation for Bob Wojtowicz – Natirar Resort
As a Design Consultant Christopher Belknap was responsible for developing an updated Conceptual Master Plan that included Concept Design for the Function Center, the Social Pavilion and Pool Terrace, Resort Cottages, and a Yoga Studio.
Initial Concept for the Function Center next to the Natirar Mansion.
Ninety Acres at Natirar – Culinary Center – Initial Concept Illustration
& Photos – Natirar http://www.Natirar.com