The Grand Lisboa Hotel and Casino: Flamboyant Addition to Macau’s Skyline Divides Opinion

January 8, 2006

The Grand Lisboa is the epitome of bling. Inspired by the lotus – Macau’s national flower – and the long feathers of carnival costumes, its distinctive lines can be seen from most parts of the city. Seated atop an egg-shaped structure derived from the shape of Russian Imperial Faberge eggs, the Grand Lisboa stands out from the crowd, in all its glittering, gaudy glory.

Grand Lisboa Casino Opens

The flagship of gambling tycoon Stanley Ho’s Sociedade de Jogos de Macau, the Grand Lisboa casino opened in February 2007, followed by the hotel in December 2008. Standing opposite the Lisboa Casino, Macau’s grande dame of casinos, the Grand Lisboa is one more in a long line of flashy venues in what has been termed the Las Vegas of the East.

The entrance is full of chandeliers, gleaming marble and museum quality artwork, including the Qing Dynasty bronze horse head bought by Stanley Ho for US$8.84 million in 2007 which takes pride of place.

At 258 metres, the Grand Lisboa is the second tallest building in the city after the Macau Tower. The hotel boasts 430 rooms complete with flat screen televisions and jacuzzis, the Lisboa Spa and a ballroom, while the Grand Lisboa’s Cantonese restaurant The Eight was awarded one star in the Michelin Guide Hong Kong Macau.

Macau’s Gaudy Casino Architecture

Spurred on by the arrival of Las Vegas-style casinos such as the Sands Macau, chief architect Dennis Lau wanted to create a place full of flamboyance and excitement. His inspiration for the project came from a picture of Brazilian carnival dancers wearing headdresses of long colourful feathers. “These feathers were the perfect symbol of the expression I had been looking for,” he told Macau Closer magazine.

Conception to completion was a lengthy process, with design work commencing in 2002, and construction in 2004. The complexities of the architectural design posed a number of challenges, but also provided an opportunity to enhance the hotel experience. The structure arches out by up to 21 metres from the waist of the tower to the tip of the feather, with the result that each room is slightly different.

It is probably inevitable that such a striking building should evoke strong opinions. A number of posts on the internet have labeled it tacky, and an “eyesore”. The Business Traveler said “The entire project is bathed in ostentation, with the lobby alone featuring several thousand Swarovski crystals.”

Macau’s casinos are a monument to conspicuous consumption and, financial crisis permitting, are set to become even more gaudy. Gambling in Macau has never been about good taste.