Mohegan Sun: Creative Placemaking that respects existing culture

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America has many cultures to celebrate as its own. The native peoples that inhabited and stewarded our continent prior to the arrival of the Europeans keep culture alive while allowing it to respond to new circumstances and new audiences. In our modern times, tribes have leveraged the resources at hand and now lead segments of our modern cultural experience, especially in the gaming Industry.

Mohegan Sun, the property built by the Mohegan Tribe Uncasville, Connecticut is an exception to what we may expect in a “casino.” It is an entertainment, dining, sporting, and gaming destination drawing visitors from across the globe. By commission, The Rockwell Group was to design the space with a level of storytelling and visual dazzle and I had the good fortune to participate in that project. The environment is immersive, educational, and fun. We were asked to address the reflecting pool in the main lobby and to come up with a temporary sculptural installation that would mark the winter holiday season and maintain the high design standards already in place.

We drew from the landscape as place. We added vibrancy and allure while complimenting the existing space. We chose the iconic silhouette of an evergreen tree. The Wolf and Bear were used as literal shapes but were made out of what appeared to be ice carvings. Water was pulled from the fountain and dropped over the entire outer surface of the evergreen shape. Internal programmable lighting allowed us to create depth and a fantasy glowing effect.

This design required positioning our sculptures just above water level in the reflecting pool. The technical challenges and the request for creative placemaking in a space that already has such a strong voice remain some of our best-solved riddles.