Combining history, native philosophy and high design, JCJ Architecture has created a landmark.
Crystal Achievement Award for Most Innovative Glass Curtain Wall Application
Background and Context
Just a few blocks from Niagara Falls State Park, the Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino towers over the heart of downtown Niagara Falls, offering stunning panoramic views of the region and the natural wonder that has made this place an international destination. This flagship property launched the Seneca Nation into class III gaming for the first time, and is one of two Las Vegas-style destination casino resorts for the tribe, offering gaming combined with a world-class hotel, spa and other amenities. The ultimate objectives for this project were to help restore the former glory of the Niagara Falls community, to create thousands of new jobs and to promote economic independence for the Seneca Nation. The JCJ team worked tirelessly to have the first phase of this project designed and fully operational within an unimaginable 100 days.
JCJ Architecture worked closely with the Seneca Nation to develop a master plan for this site entitled “Vision for the Future.”
The initial phase of the multi-year development began with the fast track conversion of a 1974, Philip Johnson designed, under-utilized 400,000+ square foot convention center, into a class III casino. This first phase included an 82,000 sf gaming floor with 2,595 slot machines and 91 table games, a center bar, 350-seat “Thunderfalls Buffet,” casual dining, the “Bear’s Den” 440-seat showroom theater and back of house space. The entire project was designed and constructed within a lighting-fast timeframe of just 100 days, and came in at 12% under budget.
With the success of the initial project, the JCJ team was immediately tasked to design subsequent phases of the development. Phase 2 included additional operational support facilities and structured parking for 2,164 cars attached to the casino via a connecting bridge. The JCJ team also dove right in to the Phase 3 expansion including a 26-story, 604-room hotel with a 15,000 square foot world-class spa, a pool and terrace, and a 2,000+ seat multi-purpose events center designed to accommodate all forms of entertainment from concerts to sporting events to banquets. With the expansion, the casino offers 110,000 sf of gaming, more than 3,300 reel and video slot machines, 95 table games and a poker room with 23 tables. Additional restaurants include the 24/7 casual dining “Three Sisters Cafe,” “La Cascata” fine Italian dining, “Western Door” steakhouse, “Koi” fine Asian dining, and multiple lounges, bars and grab and go options.
The architecture and interior design present a reflection of the Seneca Nation’s culture as well as the natural surroundings of the Niagara Falls region. The falls themselves inspired a simple, linear motif, which can be found not only as a prominent feature on both the east and west facades of the building, but also as a consistent theme throughout the resort and casino, adorning hardware, door panels, shower glass, and across the Seneca Niagara Resort Casino’s printed materials.
A single feather stands prominently at the top of each façade of the Seneca Niagara Hotel Tower. To the Seneca, a single feather standing up represents a leader standing over chaos.
References to the region’s rich woodlands are found throughout the property, and are most visible within the main gaming floor at the old convention center. JCJ’s team collaborated with theming design firm Adirondack Studios to develop creative, brightly colored silhouettes representing the woodlands at sunset at the dramatic, arched windows at both ends of the building. This vibrant accent is reminiscent of stained glass, but could be installed very quickly and at a fraction of the cost.
The Seneca Nation’s 8 Clans are represented with direct iconography, and also more subtly throughout the property. Guests are greeted by sculptures of the animal or bird representing each clan at the main entry and again at the elevator lobby. An abstract sculpture by a Seneca artist combines features of each of the 8 Clans birds and animals and serves as a focal point at the heart of the hotel.
There are references to the “Three Sisters,” corn, beans and squash throughout the property, but most prominently in the Three Sisters restaurant.
The hotel expansion sits just above an old hydraulic canal that had been abandoned and filled. Wendel’s team of structural engineers came up with an innovative solution which required drilling down 40’ to the rock base beneath the old canal and developing an extensive bracing system to provide a solid foundation for the massive structure. The old canal sits directly beneath the central elevator core of the hotel.
Since the Seneca Niagara Resort Casino opened in 2002, the Seneca Nation has contributed more than $1 billion to the State of New York in gaming revenues. The success of the Seneca Nations multiple casino operations contributes nearly $110 million per year to the State of New York, which is invested in the communities that host each property, Niagara Falls, Salamanca and Buffalo.
Seneca Niagara has received the AAA Four Diamond designation annually since 2006.
2007 American Gaming Association Casino Design Awards: Best Architectural Design for Tribal Casino/Resort
Winner of “Best Casino Interior” and “Best Tribal Resort Casino” by G2E Institute and the American Gaming Association.
2013 Casino Player Magazine Awards: One of the top three "Native Northeast" casinos in 21 categories - First Place: Best Hotel