harmon hotel foster + partners
Photo © Bill Hughes
Demolition will begin this summer of Foster + Partners' unfinished Harmon Hotel in Las Vegas.

Foster + Partners’ Harmon Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip is being razed without ever opening. Owner MGM Resorts International received court approval on April 22 to demolish the unfinished 27-floor, oval-shaped tower following a protracted legal battle with its contractor, Tutor Perini Corp., over building defects. The Harmon once figured prominently in the $8.5 billion CityCenter hotel-casino-entertainment complex that opened in December 2009. Today, it stands empty and half-built, its facade serving as a makeshift billboard.

"CityCenter consulted with experts about the fastest and safest way to resolve public safety concerns created by the structural defect issues at the Harmon,'' said MGM spokesman Gordon Absher in a statement. "Based on their expert advice, CityCenter is recommending that the structure be demolished."

The Harmon will be dismantled piecemeal, floor-by-floor, over the next year. Demolition will cost $11.5 million, with work starting this summer. A Foster + Partners spokeswoman declined to comment for this article. And the Harmon has been removed from the firm's list of projects on its website. (New York-based AAI Architects Inc. was architect-of-record, with the Las Vegas office of Halcrow as structural engineer.)

Yet, the 47-story mixed-use tower broke ground in 2006 amid fanfare and great expectations. Plans had called for 207 luxury residences perched above a 400-room hotel, with a Mr. Chow’s restaurant and Frederick Fekkai salon, among other amenities. But, trouble surfaced in July 2008 when it was discovered that reinforcing steel was improperly installed on 15 building floors during construction. A third-party inspector, Monrovia, California-based Converse Consultants, had falsified 62 daily reports between March and July of 2008 stating that things were okay when they were not. The findings prompted a temporary project shut-down and eventual building redesign.

MGM, as a result, lopped the building in half in January 2009, shedding the condominiums, of which less than half had sold. The move saved $600 million in construction costs, while deferring another $200 million in fit-out expenses, aiding the cash-strapped project that finished during a deep recession.

The blue glass building, whose incomplete construction cost $279 million, has since become an untoward symbol of real estate boom excess gone bust. Its removal leaves a large gap in CityCenter’s 76-acre master-plan scheme, conceived by New York-based Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects. MGM has not announced any replacement plans for the soon to be vacant space.