Photo of the Day: Optical illusion in Las Vegas

Las Vegas has a way of turning the ordinary into the extraordinary. Case in point: today’s Photo of the Day taken by Flickr user Gustavo at the City Center entertainment complex. In the photo, monochrome lines and angles look more like a work of minimalist modern art than what they really are: balconies at a hotel.

Do you have your own optical illusion photographs? Upload your favorite shots to the Gadling Group Pool and your image could be selected as our Photo of the Day.

Aria: Inside of City Center’s new luxury hotel

The hottest new development in Las Vegas, City Center, is in the midst of a rolling opening this year, a sprawling glass and steel complex in the heart of the south strip. Among the most recent additions is Aria, an MGM hotel and casino billed as chic luxury. Gadling stopped by for a look last month.

In 2010, we’re at the point in hotel design where oversight is just not made. Rooms, environments and features – especially at an MGM property — are all engineered to suit a target demographic, and any missing or superfluous facet is as such for a reason. Aria’s rooms and hotel strike me as perfectly engineered for my friend Bruce’s mom.

The rooms, to start, are gorgeous, well appointed (and stocked,) clean, wood and white, with very tasteful art, floor to ceiling windows, automatic curtains and enough digital gadgetry to make any technophile dance with glee. Perhaps the best part of the room is the digital control that rests on the nightstand between the beds, a touch screen from where lights, curtains, music and television can be coordinated.

It is a handy but clumsy and slow interface, with frequent delays in response, breaks in communication and the occasional curse word. One accustomed to the speed of an iPod touch or iPhone, for example, might feel frustrated at the speed of the interface, while those less familiar with the technology will likely be more patient. That said, its novelty is outstanding, and once calibrated to its idiosyncrasies, most users should be happy.

A connectivity panel further enhances the multimedia capability of the room, with space to plug in HDMI, RCA, mini-jacks and to also charge USB devices. Once connected, it’s reported that external devices can be controlled through the bedside touch panel, though we were unable to locate cables to connect our iPhone.

And speaking of iPhones, AT&T reception at City Center is atrocious. Whether this is by design or because there is too much bandwidth strain in the area is unclear, but it’s something to keep in mind in case you have an important call to make.

Inside of the sprawling first-floor casino, trademarks of the standard MGM properties are apparent, a semicircular floor with satellite drinking and entertainment establishments scattered about, clean, well integrated design and generally smooth flow. Pursuant to their apparent targeted demographic, a steady, mid volume stream of adult contemporary music is pumped through the public areas (of note, Sarah McLachlan, Shawn Colvin, Rob Thomas,) enough to get a mid-life pair of vacationers in the mood for white wine or maybe make a teenager cry. And though we were unable to participate in much of the food, drink and nightlife options, the $24 morning buffet was delicious, well attended and refreshing, with rays of sun reflecting in from an adjacent courtyard.

It is these glimpses of sunlight that are perhaps my favorite part of the Aria Hotel and City Center in general, a real contrast to much of the Las Vegas architecture of the 90’s. With numerous angles, glass and mirrors, the entire campus seems to glow with energy, from the luxury mall on one shoulder to the well appointed (free) art gallery on the other. For these reasons its at least worth walking through the complex to absorb the grandeur.

$8.5 billion Vegas resort bringing green features to the desert

One of the largest construction sites on the planet (short of some stuff going on in Dubai) is taking shape in Las Vegas.

The $8.5 billion City Center complex is big – really big. Even on a Vegas scale, the project is mind blowing. Three new towers, a brand new casino with over four thousand rooms, and a half-a-million square foot retail development, all on a 67 acre site.

From the ground up, the development is one of the most sustainable ever built on the strip.

Everything from construction waste to worker education has been incorporated in the plans.

The development even includes new technology like slot machines that house AC units and the first all natural gas powered limo fleet.

In its construction, the developers were even able to recycle over 80% of the waste generated by the implosion of the Boardwalk hotel.

The first part of the development will be opening later this year, hopefully just in time for Christmas.