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When a ceiling is more than just a roof

View of the exquisite hand-blown glass flowers, created by famed artist Dale Chihuly, which cover the lobby ceiling at the Bellagio Resort in Las Vegas.
Photo by Richard Moreno |

Among the coolest aspects of visiting Las Vegas is finding those little things in the various resorts that aren’t immediately noticeable. It’s suddenly realizing that the ceiling at the Forum Shops at Caesars changes with the time of the day or viewing the floor-to-ceiling fountain of melted chocolate at the Jean Philippe Patisserie in the ARIA Resort.

But perhaps the most amazing of these impressive accents is the ceiling over the hotel lobby at the Bellagio. There, above your head, is the world’s largest glass sculpture.

This multi-colored collection of delicate glass flowers is called “Fiori di Como,” which means “Flowers of Como.” It is the work of renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly, who was commissioned to create it for the resort’s original owner, Steve Wynn.

The title reflects the fact that Wynn’s original inspiration for the Bellagio was a picturesque Lake Como hotel in Italy.

Chihuly incorporated more than 2,000 very delicate, hand-blown flowers into the sculpture. Standing beneath the work, one can’t help but feel overwhelmed by the sea of brightly colored blossoms, which come in various shapes and sizes.

Completed in 1998, the sculpture measures 65-feet, 7-inches by 29-feet, 6-inches (about 2,100 square feet) and weighs 40,000 pounds. Chihuly oversaw a team of more than 100 glassblowers, installers and fabricators to create the work.

Talking about it later, the Seattle-based artist said the biggest challenge was developing a plan for how to construct such a large piece. He said that nothing like it had ever been attempted before so all the elements — including fabricating the flowers and assembling and suspending the finished product — were developed during the process.

The massive glass masterpiece cost more than $1 million and today, according to at least one arts magazine it is worth at least eight times that amount.

Fortunately, there is no admission charge to look at the work — and plenty of people do. On nearly any day, dozens of visitors can be seen milling about the lobby, craning their necks upward to take in the gigantic glass creation.

For anyone who must take home a little Chihuly souvenir, the Bellagio is home to the Chihuly Gallery, where visitors can purchase original works as well as books and videos about the artist.

Not surprisingly, the Chihuly sculpture isn’t the only noteworthy free attraction found at Bellagio. Adjacent to the hotel lobby is the 13,500 square foot Bellagio Conservatory. Inside of the giant glass enclosure, which is free to tour, is a magnificent flower garden that is changed five times each year — once for each of the four seasons and for the Chinese New Year.

Each time the display is changed it involves planting completely different plants and trees as well as a completely new themed presentation. It is estimated that the hotel’s 140-member horticultural staff spend an average of seven days, working around the clock, to change each display.

The Bellagio is also home to one of the world’s largest water fountains. In the 8.5-acre man-made lake in front of the resort, some 1,200 spraying jets “perform” to music — usually Andrea Bocelli. The choreographed, dancing fountains, which perform several times per day, can fire streams of water up to 460 feet into the air in time to music and lights.

The fountains have been featured prominently in several films in recent years, including at the end of the 2001 version of “Ocean’s Eleven.” One of the best places to watch the fountains during their “performance” is from the 540-foot replica of the Eiffel Tower, located directly across Las Vegas Boulevard from the Bellagio.


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