In a serendipitous tribute to the legacy of the Seminole Tribe, over 3,500 square feet of Australian sandstone, quarried and fabricated by Gosford Quarries, was used to stylize the lounge area and panel walls within the resort. Natural sandstone has a history with the Seminole Indians, as the deserts in Colorado -- the birthplace of the Seminole Tribe -- are home to one of the largest sandstone landscapes.
Perhaps the most dramatic use of sandstone at the Tampa Hard Rock location is the â€œfirewallsâ€ within the lounge. This unique space called for a unique design, and designer Larry Lee of Laurence Lee Associates took his inspiration from the â€œRum Jungleâ€ bar and restaurant at the Mandalay Bay Casino in Las Vegas. â€œWe wanted movement,â€ said Lee. â€œI felt that water has been overdone and can seem redundant, and what is the direct opposite of thatâ€¦fire. It was a just a question of how to use it, and then I thought of the Rum Jungle.â€
There are two separate firewalls, and each is composed of 24 Australian sandstone shelves on each of which a bowl of flames seemingly free stands. However, the bowls and the flames are more complex than they seem. â€œIntricate gas lines and burners, similar to the ones you may find in a stove or grill, had to be built into every shelf, by a fire and water consultant and a crew of craftsmen,â€ said Lee. â€œBehind the wall is the main pipe system and the tank, which can be turned off and on with a switch behind the bar.â€
The Hard Rock's panel walls that dress the path to the conference rooms of the resort are also clad with the sandstone slabs. Using a rougher finish, these pieces add texture that appears soft to the eye. The glow of the sandstone is heightened by the strategic placement of track lighting and music memorabilia that provide a warm inviting feeling, and a textured finish was specified for the stone used in the corridors. â€œThe texture specified is a 'punch finish' created by our stonemasons using a chisel called a punch and hand working over the surface of the stone,â€ said Gary Hargreaves of Gosford Quarries.
Despite the unique nature of the design, no mock-up was required. â€œWe were able to [convey the look of the stonework] by working with the samples. We also gave them ideas with other projects done in Australia, and they looked at that.â€
â€œThe sandstone is from our Mt. White quarry near the City of Gosford, approximately 1 1â„2 hours drive north of Sydney,â€ explained Hargreaves. â€œThis stone is usually quarried a light brown with attractive irregular brown banding, but also can be found in a white range. The sandstones from the Gosford region are quite unique because of these decorative patterns and because the stone can be quarried in large blocks with very consistent quality. We have been exporting this type of sandstone for many years, and it is extensively used in Germany, Japan, China, Indonesia, and more recently we are supplying claddings in Kuwait."
The stone was installed using metal clips and 3â„4-inch stainless steel pins. The shelves were mounted on the pins, which were then bolted to the framing. Meanwhile, the wall itself was covered with Durock, and the vertical stone panels were adhered to the Durock with Mapei thinset.
Overall, Goosen said that setting the sandstone shelves was the most difficult aspect of the project. The shelves were mounted on the pins, which were then bolted to the framing. â€œWe had to fabricate the stone to encompass the pins and the burners. If the pins were out of level, then the shelf would be out of level. The stone is epoxied to the stainless steel pins, so once we had the stone in position, we would have to keep it in position until the epoxy set.â€
Greer Tile was responsible for installing all of the stone and tile work in the casino and hotel guest rooms, and they had 35 people on the job at its peak, including helpers and mechanics. Goosen was very involved in the work on the firewalls, and he worked with two other crew members on that aspect of the project. â€œThat was near the end of the project, and so there was a tremendous time push on this.â€
In fact, to meet the casino's opening date, the sandstone was actually flown in from Australia. â€œWe had the material ready at a port in Sydney, and it ended up on a plane. It seemed costly, but it was explained to me that the cost of keeping a casino closed would have been much more than the cost of flying the stone in,â€ Barnes said. â€œ[Gosford] packed the stone carefully with special packaging, and there was no problem with breakage.â€
The opening of the new Hard Rock Cafe in Tampa is another bold step for the organization, which also opened a hotel/casino on the opposite end of the state in Hollywood, FL. Since opening its doors to the public, the casino has been met with favorable reviews, and according to the architect, the stonework played a major role in the project's success. â€œThe single most outstanding element was the sandstone,â€ Lee said. â€œIt has the most dynamic texture, the most dynamic style, and it is the major material that stands out.â€