The tall, sleek, curving Vdara Hotel at CityCenter on the Strip is a thing of beauty.
But the south-facing tower is also a collector and bouncer of sun rays, which -- if you're at the hotel's swimming pool at the wrong time of day and season -- can singe your hair and melt your plastic drink cups and shopping bags.
Hotel pool employees call the phenomenon the "Vdara death ray."
A spokesman for MGM Resorts International, which owns Vdara, said he prefers the term "hot spot" or "solar convergence" to describe it.
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Chicago visitor Bill Pintas experienced Vdara's "death ray" recently. A lawyer, he was here on business for Preferred Capital Lending, which he co-owns. He also co-owns a Vdara condo.
Pintas told the Review-Journal that at midday Sept. 16, after a brief dip in the hotel pool, he was sunning on a recliner. He was on his stomach, relaxed, eyes closed.
But suddenly, the lawyer became so uncomfortably hot that he leaped up to move. He tried to put on his flip-flop sandals but, inexplicably, they were too hot to touch. So he ran barefoot to the shade.
"I was effectively being cooked," Pintas said. "I started running as fast as I could without looking like a lunatic."
Then he smelled an odor, and realized it was coming from his head, where a bit of hair had been scorched. It was about 12:20 p.m., as best Pintas can recall.
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Viewed from above, the Vdara tower resembles a crescent. The crescent's southern-facing side is concave. There is no tall building farther south to block the sun's hot afternoon rays, so Vdara receives the full brunt. Its pool lies at the center of this southern-facing wall, on top of a low-rise building that is three stories tall.
A concave reflective surface can act "as a lens," according to Kerry Haglund at the Center for Sustainable Building Research, which is at the University of Minnesota. But she declined to speculate on whether the Vdara's wall is acting as one. Sophisticated computer modeling can determine whether its "facade configuration" and "reflective surface" interact in a way that creates a hazard for pool users, Haglund said via e-mail.
The Vdara -- and five other CityCenter buildings -- are LEED-certified, a prestigious designation that means the buildings are designed, built and operated to conserve resources and to reduce impacts on the environment. Rafael Vinoly Architects designed Vdara.
Yeah, I'm sure the building was "accidentally" designed to fire a death ray at hotel guests as they lay by the pool. The giveaway is the LEED-certfication--the hotel was "designed, built and operated to conserve resources and to reduce impacts on the environment." Right. And what's bad for the environment? People, especially people who fly and drive cars.
Will the death ray scare off tourists, or is the sleazy lure of Vegas sufficient to overcome fear of being fried alive? Only time will tell.