PHOTOGRAPHY BY STÉPHANE BRUGGER, COURTESY OF SID LEE ARCHITECTURE
When the Casino du Lac-Leamy opened in 1996, it virtually owned the casino gaming market in its region. Located in Gatineau, Québec, 18 miles over the MacDonald-Cartier Bridge from the capital Ottawa in Ontario province, casino management is cashing in on its bet that investing in a $47-million renovation project will pay off in increased revenues.
“For us, being so close to Ontario and to the U.S. border, the number of casinos has increased substantially in the years since Casino du Lac-Leamy opened,” says the casino’s spokesperson Catherine Schellenberg. “We had no competition back in the day. The reality of the casino business is that competition is fierce. There are almost 20 casinos within a day’s drive of ours and almost half of these are casino-hotels, similar to ours,” she remarks. Online gambling sites have also eaten into the bottom line of traditional gaming establishments throughout the industry, she pointed out in an interview when the three-yearlong renovation was completed.
Casino du Lac-Leamy is operated by Loto-Québec, Casiloc, and is a major contributor to the province’s coffers. A key strategy to encourage more visits from current customers and attract a new, younger crowd was conceived by offering popular crowd-attracting events and amenities, plus undergoing a total new visual identity. The last major renovation to the facility occurred in 2001.
“Casinos, like many other businesses, need to reinvent themselves to stay relevant in a digital world,” Schellenberg comments. “Our goal is to become a great entertainment experience, and more importantly, to look like one.”
Selected to reinvent the casino aesthetically were FCSD Architecture + Design Consortium; Sid Lee Architecture for interiors; and Lightemotion for lighting design.
“Our challenge was to create a direct symbiosis between the architectural elements and light,” explains François Roupinian, Lightemotion’s design director. “There is sense of sophistication at Lac-Leamy. From the onset of the design process, our three firms worked closely to develop a common theme that balances spatial qualities, materials, and lighting to make this facility a standout that is both elegant and welcoming,” he states.
OUR CHALLENGE WAS TO CREATE A DIRECT SYMBIOSIS BETWEEN THE ARCHITECTURAL ELEMENTS AND LIGHT.”
MAINTAINING THE THEME
The transformation begins at the threshold of the casino and continues through the hotel’s different sections that include a top-rated restaurant; the Theatre du Casino; an ultra-modern convention center, a marina on adjacent Lac Leamy; 60 gaming tables, and 1,800 slot machines. The upgrades focus on multimedia experiences and lots of color.
Highlights of the facility-wide renovations include the construction of a central casino floor hub, a sports a bar, a lounge, and a nightclub. To energize the casino’s overall ambiance, a lively custom-produced multi-media environment entices visitors from age groups across the board. According to Roupinian, light and projection let the visitors be aware that there is always something going on somewhere in the casino complex that would be of interest to them to check out.
Together Roupinian, with architect Martin Leblanc of Sid Lee Architecture and Sylvie Corriveau and her colleagues at FCSD Architecture+Design, concentrated on treating lighting and architecture as partners in the project’s visual esthetic approach.
A logistical challenge was the casino’s business hours. “The casino is open 24 hours a day, every day,” says Roupinian, “and remained open all during the renovations.”
ARCHITECTURE SETS THE AMBIANCE
Textured surfaces of materials selected by the architects lend additional emphasis by reflecting the lighting beamed from the various integrated sources. In the middle of the expanse of tables and machines in the central gaming space, a curving staircase connects to restaurants and discotheques on the upper floors. Beneath is a bar and lounge.
“The effect is like that of a tall beacon, surrounded by a double enclosure and visible from all around the casino,” Roupinian recounts. The internal covering is a cone of 595 connected backlit, textured, half diamond-shape elements that create a filigree. A drape of smooth red metal tassels is a partial glistening overlay that reflects the hidden lighting installed within the black-painted ceiling cove.
Extensive use of a semi-transparent metallic mesh system in the open layout of the casino floor becomes a “multi-media ribbon” on which different images can be projected around the outer rim of the gaming area. They are hung at various lengths to form wide curves that soften the outlines of the casino and lower the sight lines.
In open lounge areas, a “multi-media chandelier” boasts more than 4,000 individually programmable LED lights.
Trizart-Alliance was responsible for developing the multimedia presentation. Sources for the fixtures installed at the casino include: ETC, Focal Point, Dasal, LED Linear, Lumenpulse, Heico, iGuzzini, and DLC.
Widely promoted special events contribute to the casino’s increased patronage since the renovation has been completed. Singles, families, and groups can be accommodated at the Hilton Lac-Leamy and other nearby facilities.
For example, “The Sound of Light” is a five-night pyro-musical presentation of fireworks synchronized to an original soundtrack. “The Rendez-vous des Saveurs Casino du Lac-Leamy” also brings together top-ranked chefs and professionals from the culinary industry.
At the end of last year, the casino reported a total of 2.7 million visitors, generating nearly $230 million in revenue, an increase in four percent from the year preceding the renovation’s completion.