Macau Meta Realities


This research studio aims to study, explore and analyse the internal fantasy landscapes of the largest and most ambitious entertainment spaces in the world. The Casino’s and entertainment complexes  of Macau, China. 

Like cities, these single, endless, seamless and sealed buildings grows at ever increasing speed, reaching beyond our comprehension. Limitless, disorienting, glittering, desirable, revolting, impossible to ignore, yet impossible to understand, they are indisputably a new species of building, nameless and wild. These spaces and buildings are a new frontier in architecture, and we will be its explorers.  

Inside one single building one can travel through time as medieval Venice blends with modern sport stadiums, stroll across continents as the port of Amsterdam merges with the beaches of the Italian Riviera, and defy gravity as you  play golf on the rooftop of the largest casino floor in the world. Turned inwards, these buildings are pure guts. The exterior is no more than a sign, a wallpapered advertisement of what can be found inside. A container to keep the daylight out. And once inside, you will find no connections with the outside world. The spaces are pure language, references to known atmospheres. Abstraction has very little place in the semiotic environments of the casinos of Macau. The light, the materials, the colours, everything has been carefully selected to bring the occupant to a meta-reality, a reality of a reality. Be it Medieval Venice or the Tang Dynasty.   

Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, say about their book Learning from Las Vegas1  that it  is a “treatise on symbolism in architecture.” In the book Las Vegas is analyzed as a phenomenon of architectural communication. The ‘Strip’ is architecture of communication over space, achieved through style and signs. Venturi and Scott Brown read Las Vegas from the outside, we will read Macau from 

the inside. The communication of spaces, over the communication of architecture. We will learn from Learning from Las Vegas, and from the theory of semiotics and iconography to gain cerebral powers to be able to read the spaces of language, the meta-realities of Macau.       

Few eras of architecture has caused so much confusion and lack of self confidence in architecture as the conditioned entertainment spaces of malls and casinos. As the world is colonized by consumer complexes such as the casinos of Macau, architects gaze with apathy. 

In Rem Koolhaas’ text, JunkSpace2  he openly blames architects lack of understanding space for the “punishment of conditioned spaces”. He argues that architects have only been looking at the containers of space. “As if space itself is invisible, all theory for the production of space is based on an obsessive preoccupation with its opposites: substance and objects i.e. architecture”. While the programs of malls and casinos is purely internal. The content is space, not structure. The negative space created by the windowless walls, the ornamental ceilings, and the edgeless floor becomes the positive, and the structure the negative.

We will focus our ambitious task on three cases. The City of Dreams casino and hotel complex opened in 2009. Home of the world’s largest water theatre, three major hotels in four towers, a three-floor podium including a mega-casino, over 200 shopping facilities and hotel guest facilities.  Fisherman’s Wharf Theme Park opened in 2006. The complex includes over 150 stores and restaurants in buildings built in the style of different world seaports such as Cape Town, Amsterdam and Venice, six rides, a slots hall, a 72-room hotel, and a casino themed on coastal towns including Miami, Cape Town, New Orleans, Amsterdam, Venice, Spain, Portugal and the Italian Riviera. Last but not least, the immense Venetian Macau Casino and Hotel opened in 2007. The Venetian, modelled on its sister complex in Las Vegas, USA (in its turn modelled on Venice, Italy) is the largest single structure hotel building in Asia, the sixth-largest building in the world, the Venetian covers an area of 980,000 m2, more than 3000 suites, 110,000 m2 of convention space, 150,000 m2 of retail, 51,000 m2 of casino space – with 3400 slot machines, 800 gambling tables and a 15,000 seat arena for entertainment/sports events. 

Through conversations, interviews, observations and measuring these limitless spaces will become tangible, readable, so that we can, after our return to Bangkok, produce drawings, 3D models, texts, diagrams etc. and gain understanding into the marvel of meta-realities and reach conclusions concerning their meaning, their influence, and their future.  

Meta-realities. Studio in Macau. TEAM
Final list of students from Chulalongkorn University Bangkok

PRANG Lapassanan Buranapatpakorn
TANGMO Nalinnipha Yala
JEEN Phittawat  Chittapraneerat
JANNY Pimchanok  Kimsawat
BOMB Thanawat  Phituksithkasem
KIK Nattakan  Thiamkeerakul
BOMBAY Chinnapat  Wattanasombat
MEW Jirachaya  Kerdpanya
ICE Supavit  Kerivananukul
TAT Kittitat  Jiranapapan
PLUG Pisut  Phumchaosuan
KLA Phakthana Preedawiphat
PON Bunyawat  Thannipha
JAY Verasu Saetae
BUNG  Nichakamol Horungruang
NOTT Nott Varis
JOM Chakkraphob Sermphasit
KAM Onchanok Nawapruek
BOSS Nitiwath Thipakkarayod
K  Chayothorn Songtirapunya
SAAN  Wish Vitayathanagorn
CHACHA Chanya Niyomsith
NAT  Nathakit Sae-Tan