Bryan Berg - Cardstacking for Casinos
Bryan 'Cardstacker' Berg
Bryan Berg would surely be a certainty for any architecture job that happened to take his fancy. He holds a Professional Degree in Architecture and a Design Achievement Award from Iowa State University and a Masters in Design Studies from Harvard.
But where Berg really stands out is when it comes to his previous experience. He has built the Times Square skyline, Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World and the Beijing Olympic Village – with the latter taking him just three weeks from start to finish.
However this speed comes at a cost as the majority of his creations have to be knocked down within weeks. Fortunately the cost of such drama isn’t as high as you might expect – primarily because all of his projects are made from freestanding playing cards, with no tricks, no tape, and no glue.
Berg is in fact a Guinness World Record holder with two different records to his name. In 1992 at the age of just 17 Berg captured the first of these records - the Tallest House of Freestanding Playing Cards – and has held it ever since.
In 2004 a new category was created in order to recognise his cardstacking achievements. As a result Berg is now also the holder of the record for The World's Largest House of Freestanding Playing Cards.
Twenty years on from his first world record achievement and Berg has been in London working on his first ever project to be based anywhere in the UK.
Working in London
The setting for his latest creation was Aspers Casino Westfield Stratford – an appropriate location given its status as the largest casino in the UK. Here Berg was tasked by Sky Poker with creating a UK landmark – which one in particular was a decision which he left up to the voting public on the Sky Poker Facebook page, as part of their Play the Nation campaign.
The Cardstacker Hard at Work
After the votes were counted Berg was left with the challenge of re-creating The Houses of Parliament from cards – a project he was more than happy to take on.
He says: "I've wanted to build the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben for many years, so I was really excited about the Sky Poker project.
"Seven days was enough time for me to do the building justice, and re-create it at an impressive scale: 7 feet high and 15 feet long, using more than 45,000 cards. I think the voters chose a great landmark for me to build; it's what I would have chosen myself."
But Berg explains that just because it would have been his first choice it doesn't mean that it's an easy project. As well as the fact that - as with most of his projects - this creation was done without the use of anything other than cards and gravity, there are a number of complicating factors.
"The footprint of the building is so big, it was hard to decide where to start without boxing myself in and being able to still reach all the parts that I hadn't finished yet.
"Big Ben is also more than just a square tower. It has a lot of gentle proportioning and detail about it that make it identifiable, which is challenging to achieve as well."
The World Tour of Casinos
While being Berg's first project in London, his most recent effort certainly isn't his first in a casino. The nature of his work is such that he's commissioned to create landmarks and break his own world records. Quite often, those he's commissioned by happen to be casinos.
He explains: "I go to Las Vegas a lot for my work, and have also worked in casinos in Macau, South Africa, and Europe. I guess you can say I've had the 'world tour'!
"I do enjoy checking out The Strip from year to year, and always seeing what's bigger and better and new and different. The gaming industry is really a fascinating world."
One casino client that stands out in particular is the Venetian Macao. Berg was commissioned during Chinese New Year of 2010 to break his own record of The Largest House of Freestanding Playing Cards by re-creating the world's largest casino. In just 44 days he did so and used an incredible 219,000 cards in the process.
Aside from the fact that Berg's building material is principally found in casinos, he explains that his work and gambling often clash. This is primarily due to the outlandish architecture used in order to stand out from the crowd.
Berg says: "Many casinos have very unique, fantastical designs that have been a lot of fun to build: The Paris, The Luxor and my Venetian Macau world record project to name a few."
While he appreciates the designs of many casinos, Berg reveals that if he were given the chance to create his own casino he'd make it considerably different to those around now.
"My approach might be opposite to the usual, and create a sort of relaxing outdoor feel with a lot of large windows and natural light. I guess I spend so many hours at work inside casinos that I would love for one to feel like a beach house on vacation."
Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas
But it's not just the creation of casinos that brings Berg into the gambling world. In 2009 Berg re-created the famous 'Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas' sign for the World Series of Poker. This project was a rare one for Berg as it allowed him to not only use glue but also chips and dice as well as the usual playing cards.
Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Project
However, Berg explains that this didn't necessarily make it any easier to create. He says: "It is always a little troubling to someone like me to add more materials; I can be kind of a purist about using 100% cards and gravity and no other tricks or extra touches. That said, I love the concept of this project and I love how it turned out."
With regards to building with cards it's clear to see that Berg is up for any challenge and isn't afraid to think outside of the box. However, when it comes to playing at casinos rather than building them he's less adventurous.
When asked about his favourite casino games, Berg says: "I like blackjack and old fashioned slots with wheels."
Fortunately Berg prefers to build with cards rather than play with them and will continue to mix the worlds of architecture and casinos. Of the many casinos out there, he's able to pinpoint one as his biggest challenge.
He says: "The two curving towers of the Wynn Las Vegas would be really beautiful, and that is a project I have not yet had the chance to build."
Hopefully he soon gets the chance as it's a project that we'd all like to see.