December 8, 2016

Today, HKS celebrates the opening of MGM National Harbor, a new $1.4 billion entertainment destination located on the Potomac River in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Encompassing more than 1.7 million square feet, MGM National Harbor features a 24-story hotel; more than 125,000 square feet of gaming space; 15 dining options, including three celebrity chef restaurants; 18,000 square feet of high-end retail; a 3,000-seat theater; a 27,000 square-foot destination spa; and 50,000 square feet of meeting and convention space. HKS led the overall design and planning for the entire project.

"In addition to being a premier entertainment destination – visitors to the Capital Region and local residents now have a world-class gaming experience at their footsteps – MGM National Harbor is a striking landmark and gateway to Maryland,” said HKS Principal and Design Director Eddie Abeyta, AIA, LEED AP, who led the design team. “We were inspired by the site’s high-profile hilltop and waterfront location where Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia all come together, and we sought to design a monumental landmark that the community can be proud of.” 

MGM National Harbor also draws inspiration from the strength and timeless qualities of the capital’s architectural legacy. A preference for “white architecture” was established to respect the marble structures in the District, and the vision called for a landmark tower inspired by the Washington Monument. 

In addition, precedents established by the District’s historic urban plans – the 1791 L’Enfant Plan and the 1901 McMillan Plan – were interpreted as organizing devices that give meaning to the architecture. For example, MGM National Harbor is organized along a central spine – like the National Mall – connecting one sequence of guest experiences to the next. Guests enter the property through an oval conservatory – like many of D.C.’s circular parks – that is both a focal point and a means to access other parts of the building. 

“Due to MGM National Harbor’s high visibility and nearby proximity to the capital, our architectural vision embodies a modern, bold and progressive design, while respecting the traditions of the District’s architecture and sense of place,” Abeyta added. 

Other architectural features include: 

  • The Plinth: MGM National Harbor achieves its monumental scale through a single architectural gesture: a massive plinth, or base, which supports the primary program elements above. Visitors approach from a lower vantage point and ascend up a hill to arrive – a strongly symbolic journey of climbing a series of grand steps and arriving atop to experience a landmark. 
  • The Conservatory: Casino and hotel guests arrive through a glass-enclosed conservatory bathed in natural light. The 80-foot tall conservatory, lined with restaurants and high-end shopping, celebrates the moment of arrival and is the heart of the property. 
  • The Hotel: Rising 24-stories, the hotel tower is the project’s landmark. Its angled and knife-like edge recalls the strong vertical form of the Washington Monument. The tower is rotated 33 degrees from the project’s axis to be parallel with the National Mall, deepening the relationship between the site and the heart of the District. 
  • Potomac Plaza: A landscaped roof deck provides a gathering space and an expansive area for indoor-outdoor dining. A digital façade, cantilevered off the point of the plinth, adds visual energy and brand identity. A bold, sweeping roof bridges off the entire property to unify the discrete elements of the plan. The roof embraces the plaza to connect guests to unobstructed and panoramic views of the Potomac River and capital.

HKS is a team of more than 1,300 architects, interior designers, urban designers, scientists, artists, anthropologists and other professionals working together across industries and across the globe to create places that delight, heal and stimulate peak performance. The firm has nurtured a culture of extraordinary people with curious and creative minds who are passionate about delivering elegant solutions. HKS has a dedicated research team that digs deep to discover processes and ideas that improve outcomes for everyone. In everything HKS does, it is mindful of the fragility of all life and of the planet.  

HKS’ hospitality practice specializes in the design of sophisticated urban hotels, unique destination resorts and luxurious spas, entertainment, gaming and convention hotels, boutique properties and world-class golf clubhouses and is consistently ranked among the top in the world.

For more information, contact Julie Obiala at

Posted in Hospitality
Tagged Eddie Abeyta, MGM National Harbor