By Lex Gerts
The Netherlands Consulate General in San Francisco

Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval and Jim Murren, CEO of MGM Resorts International, opened “The Park” on the Las Vegas Strip on April 5, 2016.

Dutchman Jerry van Eyck, owner of the landscape architecture and urban design firm !melk in New York, designed The Park, so the Netherlands Consulate-General in San Francisco was invited to participate in the opening ceremony.

What is The Park and what makes it unique? It is a new pedestrian area in the heart of the hustle and bustle of the Las Vegas Strip, located in front of the New York New York and Monte Carlo hotels. Car roads and plain curbs have been transformed into spacious, open, and green pedestrian-friendly spaces. The facades of both hotels have opened up to the outside world, and consist of many small, new restaurants and cafes, all equipped with large, open windows and terraces in front.

Shade structures and native plants

The Park, Las Vegas shadeThe heart of The Park is a large area in between the two hotels. The space contains drought-resistant trees and desert plants that are native to Las Vegas, not imported palm trees to attract tourists but that require lots of irrigation. In addition, several water features, such as innovative water walls, provide beautiful sights and serve as cooling elements in the hot Las Vegas climate.

The Park’s eye-catcher is 12 “shade structures” in the form of trees. These steel trees provide shade, but are also pieces of art. In the evening the trees are spectacularly lighted. The structures were created by the famous Dutch shipmakers IHC from Kinderdijk. For several years, IHC Studio has used the steel machines that normally construct ships to build steel structures for a wide range of other purposes.

The invitation to the Consulate to speak at the opening ceremony provided a welcome opportunity to highlight the Dutch involvement of !melk and IHC in The Park, and more generally the Dutch expertise and experience in sustainable urban planning.

Second nature

As one of the most densely populated countries in the world, and with two-thirds of the country at or below sea level, the Netherlands has to manage water and find innovative, pragmatic and resilient ways to use every bit of land just to survive.

The Pak, Las Vegas, Jerry van Eyck

Jerry van Eyck talks with the media at the opening of The Park.

In other words, sustainable urban planning is second nature to the Netherlands.

And that second nature has brought us some great landscape architects, including Jerry van Eyck. Jerry and many of his colleagues have found their way to the US, and are working with American partners to innovate urban planning and rethink the design of public places.

In addition to The Park, there is Dutch influence in a wide number of important landscape projects in the US, including the Summer Seasonal Walk in New York, the Burnham Pavillion at the Millennium Park in Chicago, Governor’s Island in New York, and the Houston Botanical Garden.

But for now The Park tops it all. It has succesfully combined architecture, urban planning and landscape design. But most of all, it is a fantastic place to walk around and take in the beauty. Be sure to check it out on your next visit to Las Vegas!