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Crystals at CityCenter in Las Vegas Wins National Architecture and Engineering Award

October 20, 2010 from American Institute of Steel Construction

(Chicago, IL) – The Crystals project at CityCenter in Las Vegas has earned national recognition in the 2010 Innovative Design in Engineering and Architecture with Structural Steel awards program (IDEAS2), and members of the project team will be presented with awards from the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) during a public ceremony at the facility at 11 am on Thursday, October 21. Conducted annually by AISC, the IDEAS2 awards recognize outstanding achievements in engineering and architecture on structural steel projects around the country.

Project team members include owner MGM Mirage, Las Vegas; architect Studio Daniel Libeskind, New York; architect of record – Crystals, Adamson Associates, Toronto; architect of record – CityCenter, Gensler, Las Vegas; structural engineer Halcrow Yolles (AISC Member), Las Vegas; steel detailer BDS Steel Detailers (AISC Member), Tempe, Ariz./South Brisbane, Australia; steel fabricator and erector Schuff Steel Co. (AISC, IMPACT, and SEAA Member), Phoenix; and general contractor Perini Building Co. (AISC Member), Henderson, Nev.

Crystals at CityCenter is a recipient of a Merit Award in the category of projects Greater than $75 Million, making it one of only five projects around the country to receive the Merit honor. Each year, the IDEAS2 awards honor National and Merit award winners in three categories, based on constructed value: projects less than $15 million; projects $15 million to $75 million; and projects greater than $75 million. Each project is judged on its use of structural steel, with an emphasis on creative solutions to project requirements; design innovation; aesthetic and visual impact of the project; innovative use of architecturally exposed structural steel; technical or architectural advances in the use of steel; the use of innovative design and construction methods; and sustainable design.

Crystals is the centerpiece of CityCenter, an $8.5-billion Las Vegas urban development retail and entertainment district designed by eight renowned architects. The 665,000-sq.-ft facility includes a below-grade parking garage, two levels of retail and a one-of-a-kind roof, which is the most complex and unique design within CityCenter.

“This design shows that, when using steel, the only limit to what can be created is the imagination,” commented Jennifer Richmond, vice president of project management, Novel Iron Works, Inc., Greenland, N.H., and a judge in the competition.

The roof actually consists of 19 separate pieces – 13 planar roofs and six dramatically sloped arcade roofs – each built with numerous leaning columns, curving trusses, and straight members that do not line up with any other piece of steel. The six arcade roofs were the most complex element of Crystals.

Crystals’ roof has no right angles, does not follow a pattern or have any repetitive placements of steel. All of the six arcade roofs are designed at different angles to connect with the 13 planar roofs. The six arcade roofs converge at the apex of the facility with the planar roofs on the side. The arcade roofs are covered in glass to create a massive skylight to illuminate the building’s interior, hence the name Crystals.

The challenge for the design-assist team was to figure out how to build this complex facility on schedule and budget. The design-assist portion of the project alone took 12 months of working through mathematical equations and strategic planning to devise a 3D model, which ended up including 16,455 pieces.

While the connections of the lower floors were standard, the roof system required distinctive solutions at almost every end point. More than 500 unique sketches were generated for the roof connections, each of which had to be manually modeled, as no single macro could accommodate these variations.

More than 90% of the 52,766 steel connections are bolted. Some trusses and columns have as many as 15 connections. When bolting was not an option, joints were welded on sight. The banana truss, which measures 6 ft deep and almost 200 ft long, slopes to the apex of the facility and was among the most critical welding tasks on the entire project. Crews hung the banana truss with two cranes while they welded it in three different places.

Three-dimensional modeling was paramount to the project, including creation of Building Information Modeling (BIM) models for various trades and consultants. Without the software, constructing crystals would not have been possible; manually drawing the extremely complex geometry would have been cost-prohibitive. Using a 3D system, however, there were almost no detailing-related errors.

CityCenter’s plan dictated that construction begin at the west side of the project and work toward Las Vegas Boulevard. That meant construction started at the highest point of the roof, but had to strategically “jump” around to ensure stability of all the leaning trusses and columns.

The team first determined where each of the 80 major trusses went and from there worked backward to resolve what each truss would support, and what would support it. With thousands of massive beams, 160 trusses and 69 pipe columns literally cutting through one another and leaning at extreme angles – as much as 40 degrees – every piece of steel required calculations to test for load capacity, fabrication, and constructability.

The fabricator used 14 fabrication shops to meet the Crystals’ accelerated deadline. Fabrication started in January 2006 and was completed in March 2008 for the base contract. Over that two-year period, 1,433 trucks were required to deliver the 13,900 tons of structural steel. The result is a stunning structure that is also environmentally sustainable, having received a Gold LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

The 12 IDEAS2 winners for 2010 were chosen from nearly 100 submissions received by architectural and engineering firms throughout the U.S. Each submission is reviewed and award winners are selected by a nationally recognized panel of design and construction industry professionals.

The IDEAS2 awards are the highest project-based awards bestowed by the structural steel industry, with the annual program dating back over 70 years to the earliest years of AISC’s existence. Roger E. Ferch, P.E. president of AISC, said, “The entire Crystals at CityCenter project team has shown how structural steel can be used to create structures that combine beauty and practicality. The result is a facility that serves its patrons and employees extremely well, while providing an example of what can be achieved when designing and constructing projects with steel.”

High-resolution photos of the Crystals at CityCenter project are available upon request. Please contact Tasha O’Berski at 312.670.5439 or [email protected].

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(Click on thumbnail to enlarge.)


For more information contact:

Tasha O'Berski
Communications Department
(312) 670-5439
[email protected]

American Institute of Steel Construction
The American Institute of Steel Construction, headquartered in Chicago, is a not-for-profit technical institute and trade association established in 1921 to serve the structural steel design community and construction industry. AISC’s mission is to make structural steel the material of choice by being the leader in structural steel-related technical and market-building activities, including: specification and code development, research, education, technical assistance, quality certification, standardization, and market development. AISC has a long tradition of service to the steel construction industry of providing timely and reliable information. 

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