An Italian movement sparks a Vegas design
For LAGO at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, a new concept by James Beard Award-winning Spanish chef Julian Serrano that marries traditional Italian food with tapas-style portions, Toronto-based Studio Munge wanted to make sure it was anything but typical. “Does Las Vegas need another Italian restaurant? Not really,” says firm principal Alessandro Munge, who has designed a number of MGM venues over the last decade. “What else can you do to elevate the experience for that type of eating?”
He turned to Futurism, the artistic and social movement popularized by a group of artists and writers in early 20th-century Italy that celebrated industrial progress and modernization. To embody that aesthetic, he and his team started by looking at the narrative of the Bellagio itself. “It is very Italian, very thematically Tuscan-like with neoclassical architecture,” Munge explains. To contrast, the facade features an abstract interpretation of a map of Milan made from colorful backlit glass Panels behind powder coated metal screen that symbolizes the city’s roads. “The color gradation is directly related to the movement of Futurism,” says Munge. “We wanted people to know there’s a story behind this restaurant.”
Inside, the 7,300-square-foot venue’s main bar stretches from a front lounge area – complete with custom large-scale abstract prints on Plexiglas or Baltic birch that hover just away from the wall – through to the dining room. The bar’s Statuario marble top and front is highlighted by a back bar with a playful blue geometric pattern, nodding to Pucci and Italian fashion history. A sculptural pizza oven tiled in glass mosaic with silver grout sits at one corner, while lamps are suspended from the cloud-like ceiling panels for a “design of shade and shadow and light,” Munge says. “In Futurism, there was a lot of speed and this drive for acceleration, so with that came strong lines to be able to push your mindset from one place to another.”
To that end, white oak-finished walls, devoid of artwork for a clean look, instead feature an inlay of mirrored stainless steel strips. A private dining space is enclosed by screens of red pleated leather, suede, and velvet (a departure from the blue hues of the bar area and lavender and purple tones in the dining room) and topped by a custom chandelier inspired by antique wine vessels.
"I want to break the formality of what goes on in these restaurants"
But as any Vegas visitor knows, the fountains outside the Bellagio are as important as what’s inside the hotel, and maximizing the views of the water show from LAGO’s dining room was paramount. “We wanted to crack open the whole space,” Munge points out, so its large arched windows open up to the building’s original balustrades. Another addition is the 650-square-foot outdoor patio that cantilevers “almost right over the top of the fountains,” Munge says. From its canopy hands an outer space-informed chandelier 12 feet in diameter that feature glass globes in three shades of blue secured by aircraft cables and suspended above a floor of kaleidoscope-inspired cement tiles in cream, grey, black, and blue.
“I want to break the formality of what goes on in these restaurants in the Bellagio,” Munge explains. “In Lago, it’s a lot of high design. Little moments create a journey through the restaurant, much life the narrative itself.”
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