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Casino Windsor

Harmonious Streetscape in Ontario

by Michelle d''Hulst

Nothing is quite as important as first impressions. This is especially true of a Streetscape project that offers visitors a glimpse of the lifestyle and ambience of a city. Much like a conductor who coordinates numerous musicians to play in tempo, a Landscape Architect integrates all the diverse elements into a cohesive streetscape project. In an orchestra, if one person isn't in harmony with the group then the resulting music is unbalanced. Likewise, in a streetscape waste receptacles, lighting fixtures, benches and paving materials all have a specific purpose but they must work together to produce a dynamic project.

The Toronto-based Landscape Architectural firm of Hough, Woodland, Naylor, Dance and Leinster (HWNDL) put this philosophy into practice when they designed the streetscape surrounding Casino Windsor and the adjacent streets. The casino, located along the Detroit River, opened in September 1996 to become Ontario's first permanent casino facility. The casino-hotel features a unique, contemporary design that places special emphasis on landscaping, as it appears to "float" in a surrounding sea of trees, sculptured gardens and water fountains. The architectural signature of the building is a Mediterranean style water feature that cascades three stories and ends in a pool of dancing water on the lower level. It also offers tree covered promenades that meander through a diverse collection of themed gardens. Reflecting its spectacular setting, river imagery is woven into the interior and exterior landscapes of the Casino, expressed in dancing fountains, terraced waterfalls, and quiet reflecting pools.

Custom Lighting

The design of the light fixtures was an evolutionary process that was altered numerous times to include specifications that the Casino or City of Windsor indicated. To complement the contemporary streetscape surrounding Casino Windsor, the Landscape Architectural team at HWNDL decided to develop customized light poles. Neno Kovacevic, a staff designer, explained that the custom fixtures were meant to give visitors an impression that Canada is a safe place to stay. "We wanted to have an abundance of light on Park Street that spilled onto the street and sidewalks," he said. "We also wanted to portray Canada's concern about environmental issues while providing a quality urban environment."

As is the case with most custom designed amenities, numerous hours were spent in consultation with the client and many design options were presented. In order to minimize the cost of each individual light fixture, the firm specified a basic concrete spun pole from StressCrete Ltd./King Luminaire Co., Inc, based in Burlington, Ontario, and tear-drop luminaires from Ohio-based Holophane for the pedestrian lights. Though the concept design was primarily driven by the Casino, the City of Windsor was actively involved in decisions surrounding the streetscape project. Actually, the city opted to use the custom designed light fixtures for other streetscape projects in the city, including Park and McDougall streets.

Though the light fixtures on the auxiliary City streetscapes were very similar to those surrounding the Casino, some design changes were made to minimize maintenance. Eha Naylor, a Principal at HWNDL, explained that there was some concern about the lighting because, "The cobra heads use high pressure sodium, which gives off a yellowish light and the tear-drop pedestrian fixtures from Holophane have a metal halide luminaire." To compensate for the different light values, Naylor said that the Metal Halide lights were adjusted to the warmer end of the spectrum. Since the light spacing was further apart due to the lower footcandle requirement, a decorative three-tiered base was added to each light pole.

To conserve sidewalk space, the 175 Watt pedestrian luminaires were also mounted on the same pole as the street luminaire. The teardrop shaped luminaire is a member of Holophane's Grand Ledge family. Designed for light control and ease of installation and maintenance, the Grand Ledge has a precision optical system for true street lighting performance.

When visitors first cross the threshold into Canada, they are greeted by Park Street. This street is known as the Gateway to Canada and HWNDL was asked by Windsor to develop a streetscape plan that would tie into the newly developed casino. Since the casino is visible from Detroit, Michigan, City officials were anticipating an influx of tourists and gamblers. Park Street represents their first impression of Windsor, so the firm opted to incorporate many of the same design elements that were used at the casino. The customized street lights were specified in warmer hues than the stark white that surrounded the Casino. For the concrete poles, a dusty-rose color was selected and the armature was specified in taupe/grey. Some poles also included 175 Watt uplights that were used to illuminate street trees and buildings with interesting architecture. In addition to the fixtures, the city purchased trash receptacles and benches from Ontario-based Maglin. Red Maple trees, Canada's national tree, were installed in specially designed tree pits (see sidebar). In order to integrate all the diverse components of the Gateway project, the paving material was specified to match the color of the light fixtures. Unilock series 3000 Dusty Rose pavers were installed with a Lafarge paver known as Timberwood Blend. This created a streetscape design based on a holistic approach that relied on a number of elements to build a unique yet cohesive space.

At the City Hall, which is an intermediary zone between Park Street and Casino Windsor, a combination of design techniques were employed. While the pole was white like the Casino, the arm holding the luminaire echoed the Park Street design. This was an ideal way to create continuity between the two projects. Pole spacing on Park Street and at the City Hall building is farther apart than at the casino. If a visitor exits the casino after a big win, the client wanted to ensure their safety by increasing visibility. By spacing the poles closer together, the footcandles range from 3 to 5 around the casino.

The light poles went through many evolutionary stages before all parties were satisfied. Most of the alterations in the design were made to overcome engineering challenges. For example, after the pole design was decided upon, the client wanted to include 400 Watt, Metal-Halide uplights on the pole to illuminate the facade of the casino. Not only were the rectangular lights heavy, but they conflicted with the clean lines of the contemporary fixture. The firm decided to play off the industrial look of the uplights and used punched steel to mask the visual impact from the ground. Another example of the pole's evolution happened with the brackets designed to hold banners. At first, the firm wanted them to be lightweight, but when the wind load was taken into consideration it was obvious that heavier construction was necessary.

As the distinctive element of the Windsor streetscape project, the custom designed light fixtures create a memorable experience for visitors. The contemporary streetscape speaks volumes about the safety of Windsor and the local charm of the city that borders the Detroit River.

Landscape Features

As visitors approach Casino Windsor, they travel along Riverside Drive, which runs parallel to the Detroit River. In order to highlight the casino and entryway, HWNDL specified Honey Locust trees to augment without overshadowing. "We wanted to maintain transparency so that Americans could see the casino from across the river, encouraging them to visit," Kovacevic explained. Along the entrance drive, a custom-designed charcoal colored paver from Unilock's 3000 Series was installed at the curb. At the entrance to the casino, a waterfall cascades down a natural limestone installation that features a prominent fountain, designed with the assistance of Crystal Fountains. The fountain is illuminated at night by 200 lights and boasts 100 jets, jumping columns of water and a sequenced water show. The water feature can run year-round due to a heater system that is hidden in a subterranean pump room.

The outdoor landscape of the casino features spring, perennial and annual gardens that are offset by intensive ground covering, planted in lieu of a lawn. A promenade with a double row of trees including linden, ash, red maple, locust and oak, will provide a canopy over the pedestrian walkways. Bountiful color will be evident in each season. The spring will be characterized by flowering trees and shrubs, while the summer months will witness intense annual and perennial flowers, flowering shrubs and ground cover plants of various colors. Finally, red maples and low shrubs will dominate in the fall. The landscape was primarily themed to mirror the natural plant-life of Northern Ontario. Some of the species that were specified include: Fir, Picea, and Serviceberry.

The harmony of the Windsor Streetscape Project intertwines numerous elements into a cohesive and fluid downtown project. The conductor, Hough, Woodland, Naylor, Dance and Leinster, used Casino Windsor as their inspiration to develop custom designed light fixtures that were integrated into the streetscape with matching pavers, complimentary site furnishings and tree lined promenades. LASN

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June 18, 2019, 9:01 pm PDT

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