The Brightest New Hotel on the Block

If you want to go to Las Vegas but aren’t all that interested in gambling, the Vdara, above, may be a good destination — it’s one of two hotels in the area which is both non-smoking and doesn’t have a casino. (The Four Seasons is the other.) The condo-hotel hybrid opened its doors in December of 2009 and today, not only can you book a room for a night, but you can also buy one — if you have the cash. You find them from $500,000 and up, with a 2-bedroom place selling for more than $1 million. That’s a pretty high price tag for a condo inside a hotel, but it comes with a ton of amenities — access to the spa, the fitness center, and the Vdara’s pool.

The Vdara’s pool is probably the hotel’s main attraction — it’s the centerpiece of a 40,000 square foot (3,900 m2) rooftop deck. The word “rooftop” is a bit misleading, though, as it doesn’t sit on the root of the towers. It’s a few stories above ground, hanging over the roadways below; the hotel/condo towers sit behind it, stretching upward. That makes for a unique experience. As the hotel’s website exclaims, the pool deck is “surrounded by cutting-edge design” and in “an interactive space provides phenomenal views.”

Unfortunately, those surroundings can be problematic. Those glass towers aren’t just hotel rooms — they also act as a mirror, one which turns the sun into what some call a “death ray,” focusing sunlight onto the deck below. As ABC News explains: “intense heat is created by the curved glass surface of the hotel, which acts as a parabolic dish. The glass bounces the rays from the sun and concentrates the light in 10-by-15-foot hot zone on a portion of the pool deck.” Temperatures in the 150-square-foot hot zone, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, increased as much as 20 degrees, and Reuters reported singed hair and melted plastic bags. The Vdara had a problem.

The solution: well, there wasn’t much of one. Structural changes to the towers themselves weren’t an option; the cost was prohibitive. Similarly, redoing the roof deck wasn’t an option; because the sun changes positions as the seasons’ change, the hot spot drifted across the deck day after day. Hotel ownership thought they had a solution when they coated the windows in a film which muted the sun’s effects, but subsequent reports suggest that wasn’t as effective as management hoped.

Today, the pool deck remains open and the hot spots keep coming back. The most effective solution was a low-tech one: management added more umbrellas to the roof deck, covering as much as possible. But if vacationers reposition the umbrellas, they’re potentially rendered ineffective. So if you want to know what an ant feels like under the guise of a magnifying glass, you still can, if you visit the hotel above.

Bonus fact: The Vdara is on the famed Las Vegas Strip, but if you look at its address, you’ll see that it’s not actually in Las Vegas. It, and the rest of the Strip, are in an unincorporated community called Paradise, Nevada. Paradise is adjacent to the city of Las Vegas but not governed by the city.

From the Archives: Let There Be Light: The Italian village that bends the sun.