Project Profile: Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts

October 22, 2012 / no comments

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The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts houses a state-of-the-art concert hall and
performing arts theater, wrapped by a soaring glass-enclosed lobby.

A striking new addition to the Kansas City skyline, the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts houses a state-of-the-art concert hall and performing arts theater, wrapped by a soaring glass-enclosed lobby. Safdie Architects worked with BNIM Architects to design the approximately 285,000 square-foot structure. In addition to beautiful performance spaces, the Kauffman Center also contains offices, rehearsal space, warm-up rooms, and dressing rooms.

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Project Profile: United States Institute of Peace

August 6, 2012 / no comments

Recognized with the following Awards:
2011 GE Edison Award
2012 IALD Award of Excellence
2012 IES Illumination Award of Merit

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The wing-like roofs of the United States Institute of Peace
glow softly both inside and outside
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Prominently located near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., the United States Institute of Peace (designed by Safdie Architects) contains offices, an international conference center, education center, research facilities, and public exhibition and event spaces. The wing-like roofs connect the 300,000-square-foot building’s three curving sections, enclosing two atria below. These multi-layer translucent structures presented the most challenging lighting problem – to light the roofs with no visible sources, so they glow softly both inside and outside. Lam Partners designed the pervasive lighting theme that is present throughout: light sources are fully concealed or designed to disappear, revealing and animating, but never competing with the architecture. The result is a visual representation of peace that takes its place in the D.C. skyline.

The translucent steel-frame roofs are comprised of outer diffusing glass and an inner white membrane, with structure sandwiched in between. Extensive computer modeling, material sample testing, and a full-scale mockup in Germany were required to determine the roofs’ transmissive and diffusing characteristics, and to validate the lighting solution.

Perimeter offices are fully daylighted. Clerestories bring daylight into corridors so that they often do not need to be lighted electrically. Inexpensive T5 strips integrated continuously into the curving clerestories’ base keep the ceiling surfaces pristine and provide dual function, indirectly lighting both offices and corridors.

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Each office has a custom T5 linear fluorescent pendant downlight with shielding
designed to block views into fixtures from outside or in the atria.

Supplementing the indirect lighting at the clerestories, each office has a custom T5 linear fluorescent pendant downlight with shielding designed to block views into fixtures from outside or in the atria. Lighting is controlled with manual-on occupancy sensors.

One atrium is devoted mainly to research activities, while the other contains mostly conferences and public events. In both atriums, the sense of serenity and the purity of the architecture are preserved, despite the presence of busy offices. The eye is drawn upward to the gracefully arching roof, and glowing daylit ceilings, allowing the atrium roof to remain the focal point.

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Clerestories bring daylight into corridors so that they often
do not need to be lighted electrically.

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Echoing the curving white roof of the atrium,
the amphitheater ceiling itself is the light fixture.

In the amphitheater, the ceiling itself is the light fixture. Echoing the curving white roof of the atrium, the amphitheater is an ideal venue for conferences. Comfortable levels of illumination for both presenters and audience members were a focus. Concealed dimmable T5HO fluorescent strips in a carefully designed ceiling profile provide high levels of glare-free illumination for videoconferencing, minimizing spill on projection screens. MR16 HIR adjustable accents provide targeted lighting of the presenter and markerboard. Lighting is controlled via an audio-visual touchscreen for seamless selection of lighting scenes for various room configurations.

Integrated into the curving auditorium ceiling, dimmable T5HO forward-throw cove fixtures provide general lighting without recessed fixtures blemishing the dramatic forms. Halogen PAR38 track lighting for the stage is hidden but accessible from the floor below. Recessed PAR38 HIR adjustable accents downlight the stage and wash the stage wall. Slatted walls glow magically with hidden xenon strips lighting the cavity behind, creating a sense of openness. A preset scene dimming system controls all lighting. The result is a unique, yet peaceful, auditorium space that perfectly reflects both the architecture of the building and the Institute itself.

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Careful lighting design reveals the architecture and provides sufficient light levels,
yet avoids the clutter of visible fixtures.

From below, the roof’s pure form and texture is inspiring and calming. Careful lighting design reveals the architecture and provides sufficient light levels, yet avoids the clutter of visible fixtures. T5HO forward-throw cove fixtures in the tops of walls light the atria roofs. Digital addressable ballasts allow light output to be tuned along the roof perimeter and dimmed overall, effectively accentuating the roofs’ curvature. This single source simultaneously provides the interior ambient lighting and the exterior surface glow. Above the uppermost windows, necklaces of matching MR16 HIR halogen and PAR20 CMH adjustable monopoints provide supplemental downlighting – dimmable halogen for banquets and special events, and CMH for energy-efficient punch during winter afternoons and gloomy days.

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Integrated into the curving auditorium ceiling, dimmable T5HO forward-throw cove fixtures
provide general lighting without recessed fixtures blemishing the dramatic forms.

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In-grade CMH adjustable accents illuminate the overhang, seamlessly
extending the glow outside to the roof’s lowest point.

The roof’s overhang is essential to create the dramatic form of the roof, visible from both the National Mall and from the west of the city. In-grade CMH adjustable accents illuminate the overhang, seamlessly extending the glow outside to the roof’s lowest point.

A central lighting control system employs occupancy sensing, daylight sensing, scheduling, and local preset scene control techniques for maximum energy savings and occupant satisfaction.

The project achieved LEED Gold certification.

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A central lighting control system provides maximum
energy savings and occupant satisfaction.

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Stairs are illuminated solely by compact fluorescent sources
hidden in plaster niches at the stair sidewalls.

Building details and the exterior are also pristine. Stairs are illuminated solely by compact fluorescent sources hidden in plaster niches at the stair sidewalls, eliminating visible hardware in hard-to-reach overhead locations.

No conventional façade lighting is used, minimizing spill light into the sky. The glow from within the building provides most of the site illumination, allowing the remarkable building to speak for itself and allowing views into the soaring atrium. Site lighting consists solely of an LED strip in the curving bench, a soft wash on the inscription, and a few shielded bollards, without any superfluous fixtures to detract from the building’s monumental impact.

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The glow from within the building provides most of the site illumination,
allowing the remarkable building to speak for itself.

Photo Credits: Glenn Heinmiller/Lam Partners (1, 3-10), Bill Fitz-Patrick/United States Institute of Peace (2)

Cholera Treatment Center in Haiti

July 9, 2012 / no comments

Recently we were asked by MASS Design Group to do a daylighting study for their new Cholera Treatment Center (CTC) in Port-au-Prince Haiti. This is the second time that we have had the opportunity to work with them. Since the earthquake on January 12, 2010, Haiti has suffered enormous economic, structural and environmental distress. Cholera, which previously did not exist in Haiti, broke out shortly after the earthquake and according to the World Health Organization, as of November 30, 2011, there were 515,699 reported cases of cholera and 6,942 deaths.i The new CTC will be a year-round center for the care and treatment of patients suffering from the illness. This project presents an unusual opportunity to engage lighting on such fundamental levels, and to think about basic human needs as they relate to light. It’s even more unusual to be facing these issues in a country like Haiti. As designers in the United States, our typical projects include commercial, residential and institutional projects in major developed cities. While many basic principles of good lighting remain universal, working on a project like this exposes us to significant cultural, financial and climatic differences.

What we learned

MASS Design Group is a non-profit architecture and design firm dedicated to helping improve the health and overall well-being of communities through design. Their most well-known and highly-praised projects include the Butaro Hospital and the Girubuntu School, both in Rwanda.

During our design conversations, members of the MASS team shared with us examples of the kinds of design and technology challenges that they have encountered in their work. One team member, Elizabeth Timme, shared a few experiences from Butaro Hospital. The hospital is tailored for the treatment of tuberculosis, so enormous fans are suspended from the ceiling and UV lights shine from the walls. The fans keep air moving (a critical element in tuberculosis treatment), and the UV lights kill airborne bacteria. Patients however, worried that the fans were “stealing their air” and that the lights were “burning their skin”. To some extent both comments are true, but negotiating the relationship between the function of the space and the occupant use and comfort highlights a fundamental mission of design.

For decades Western hospitals were built to enhance efficiency and hygiene, and only recently has there been more evidence that daylight, views and good design are equally critical factors to providing the best health care. In fact, Timme is now starting her own firm, Más, in order to bring a similar design approach as used at MASS to the issues facing the American health care system.

MASS has encountered other issues that have to do with climate and resources. In one case, they told us that in Rwanda, surface brightness was a serious design consideration. The sun at that latitude can cause surfaces to be so bright that they create visual discomfort. An article by Martin Schwartz about Louis Kahn’s proposal for a U.S. Consulate in Luanda illustrates this issue. In it Schwartz quotes Kahn:

“I …noticed that when people worked in the sun-and many of them did-the native population …usually faced the wall and not the open country or the open street. Indoors, they would turn their chair toward the wall and do whatever they were doing by getting the light indirectly from the wall.” ii

Not only do these types of realizations help us to understand better how to work in under-served countries, but they help to inform our approach to design for our typical projects. Working on a cholera treatment center can help us to recognize and consider factors in our day-to-day work that we may not have previously considered to be important or necessary.

What we did

The center is 7,700 square feet and consists of a general ward, an intensive care ward, as well as an administration office. The roof consists of 15 roof modules, each 23′ x 23′ oriented in different directions. Four central modules serve as the top of a cistern designed to collect water, while the remaining 11 are pitched, both to allow for light and ventilation as well as to direct water towards the cisterns. The building is primarily open on all sides, although there are fixed screens on the North and East sides and sliding screens hung on the West side.

Since construction had already begun when we joined the team, the project manager, David Saladik, emphasized that we needed to quickly and efficiently produce a series of clear and useful daylighting studies. There was no possibility for bells or whistles. We had to make simple and effective recommendations that could be executed within the time and resources available. It was important to set our criteria immediately, and use tools that would help us achieve our goals. For all of the simulations we used the daylighting program DIVA-for-Rhino.

Our analysis focused on three key issues: sufficient light levels, glare, and heat gain. To test for adequate light levels, we ran a daylight autonomy test using a horizontal calculation grid at the height of the beds, and vertical grids at the headboards. We used a threshold of 500 lux because light levels need to be relatively high, since nurses and doctors will be conducting procedures and treating patients at their bedside. We were pleased to see that the daylight autonomy results for the existing design showed that we can expect 500 lux over the majority of the ward space for 50% of the year.

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Daylight Autonomy calculation (500 lux threshold)

Having established a general sense for annual daylight levels, we wanted to look more closely at the lighting conditions during specific points in time when we could estimate there might be problems. The East side is most vulnerable to overlighting and heat gain because there are no structures directly to the East of the center. We wanted to test a variety of material options for a proposed set of panels, which would serve as shading. We chose three materials to test: opaque panel with 50% reflectance, a translucent panel with 40% transmission, and 40% open screen.

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Evalglare Glare Analysis

Summer Solstice 9am Glare Analysis 40% Open Screen (top right)

Winter Solstice 9am Glare Analysis of (3) different panel options (bottom)

Our results show that only the opaque panels will have a significant effect on minimizing the overlighting on the East-side ward. The translucent and 40% open screen still allow a significant amount of light and, by extension, heat into the building. In addition, when we ran the glare tests for the three material options, the 40% open screen performs the worst in terms of glare for the patients in East-facing beds. This only gets worse during the rest of the year when the sun is lower in the sky; on the Winter Solstice at 9am, the Evalglare Daylight Glare. iii Probability result showed there would be intolerable glare . Since the preferred solution is to use the screens, we recommended modifying the open percentage of the screen to be less than 40%.

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Glare experienced from hospital bed on Summer Solstice at Noon (bottom left)

Roof module and assembly (bottom right)

Cholera outbreaks in Haiti are the most frequent during the rainy season, which happens in the summer. Knowing that, we were particularly interested in the summer conditions since those are the times the wards will likely be most full. In particular, we looked for problems with glare and overlighting. The orientation of the roof modules on the East side allowed, rather than prevented, direct early morning and noontime sun to stream into the building. We confirmed this by running several glare simulations, and made the recommendation that two of the roof modules be rotated 90 degrees in either direction to eliminate the problem.

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Illuminance Calculations Summer Solstice 12pm

Existing Glazing Design (left). Glazing replaced with 80% Opaque Panels (right)

The last issue we wanted to tackle was the glazed portions of the roof that would direct water into the cisterns. Those sections would be glazed in order to let light into the center of the building, and be directly above a small, planted garden. We ran several tests on the Summer Solstice, which showed that there would be dramatic overlighting, glare and potentially great heat gain. While we understood the design intent to create a small lush area in the middle of the ward, we suggested some simple louvers to mitigate the quantities of incoming daylight.

While absent of high-technology or complicated details, our solutions answered the key daylighting questions and will contribute to providing the patients and staff with the most functional and comfortable space possible. Even with the demanding constraints of a project like this, in the end, we’ve shown that with targeted thinking and the right tools, we can come to useful conclusions and make effective recommendations, which is definitely a lesson we can bring back to our everyday work.

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i World Health Organization, “Health Cluster Bulletin: Cholera and Post-Earthquake Response in Haiti”, 21 December 2011.

ii Louis I. Kahn Writings, Lectures, Interviews, page 123, quoted by Martin Schwartz in “Louis I. Kahn: Finding Daylight in Luanda”, February 7, 2011.

iii Evalglare calculates glare according to several factors such as brightness and size of glare source, and gives a result called the Daylight Glare Probability, which was calibrated by user-assessments. The categories of glare perception from least severe to most are: Imperceptible, Perceptible, Disturbing and Intolerable. For more information see: Evalglare.

Image Credits: Kera Lagios/Lam Partners

Avid Technology Corporate Headquarters

February 28, 2011 / no comments

It has been said that you cannot get through a single day without interacting with something that has been influenced by Avid. Since its inception in the late 1980s, Avid Technology has revolutionized the way films and moving images are put together, to become the world leaders in digital video and audio editing tools on both professional and consumer levels.

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When Avid decided to move their headquarters to Burlington, Massachusetts, a 200,000-square-foot office space was re-designed with a high-tech polish and bold visuals to reflect the work and accomplishments of this innovative media firm.

The public/client experience begins at the entry lobby, where visitors can watch video feeds projected onto two-story glass vitrines.

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The main event is supplied by high-powered projectors; it was necessary to downplay the ambient light in the space in order to avoid conflicting with and washing out the images. A spare array of recessed linear downlights beneath the bridge indicate the beginnings of a recurring visual motif, without overpowering the displays. Incandescent furniture lighting adds warmth and creates a more intimate scale within the tall volume.

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Recessed linear fluorescent fixtures define intensely colored portals connecting public areas with semi-private ones. The diffuse acrylic lenses create a crisp, flangeless outline. The corner detail was carefully coordinated, with overlapping fixture configurations ensuring that the glow would wrap uninterrupted into the corners.

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The primary program for the project is open offices along the perimeter, with private offices at the core. Product training and conference rooms are designed around the latest in A/V equipment, with a focus on web-based video communication. Low partition walls and nine-foot ceilings allowed the use of a fully indirect, glare-free lighting scheme, with target light levels kept to a minimum to accommodate the high volume of work done on computer screens instead of paper.

Furniture-mounted fixtures relate to team meeting nodes. Wallwashers along the core walls highlight graphics and displays, and help balance the brightness against vast perimeter windows. The unusually wide spacing of the indirect pendant fixtures is due to high-efficiency fixture design with very wide lateral distribution; the minimalist arrangement, combined with concealed furniture-integrated lighting in core offices, puts the emphasis on illuminated surfaces rather than visible hardware.

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The main conference room has a broad range of functional requirements, including video-conferencing, large rear-projection video, diverse meetings, and the occasional after-hours cocktail parties. An undulating ceiling was developed to break up the monotonous ceiling plane, and to provide functional lighting from an eye-catching structure. Efficient and economical fluorescent strips provide an ambient glow throughout the room from above stretch fabric panels.

The custom spines crossing the ceiling organize and conceal linear fluorescent downlights interspersed with adjustable halogen downlights, allowing for varying levels of illumination to enable presentations, note-taking, or special events when a little sparkle is needed.

Photo Credits: Nathanael Doak / Lam Partners (1), Andrew Bordwin (2-5)

Hermann Park Lake Plaza: A Light Night Music

January 11, 2010 / no comments

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Integrated LED steplights create a processional approach to the plaza and reinforce the bridge’s architectural rhythm.

What happens when a heavily worn piece of an urban park gets a little well-deserved attention? And what role does lighting play in all of this?

Newly renovated Lake Plaza is the crown jewel in Houston’s popular Hermann Park. Run by the Hermann Park Conservancy, a non-profit citizens’ organization, in partnership with the City, this project has attained LEED certification through energy efficiency and sensitive restoration of landscape, as well as comprehensive site water management.

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New train, new station, open for business.

A new main station for the park’s miniature train railroad, a gift shop, pedestrian bridge, pedal-boat rental, café, and service buildings all support recreation and rejuvenation in the heart of the city. While the plaza is used often during the day as a staging area for school groups attending the zoo, until the renovation, it had languished at night, despite the plaza’s proximity to the Miller Outdoor Theatre and its quarter of a million annual visitors.

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The existing train pavilion prior to renovation.

Lighting guides and invites movement, making visual and architectural connections. Existing pathway lighting in Hermann Park relied upon historic “acorn” metal halide post-top lanterns. While well-designed historic lanterns can work well, many of the park’s fixtures had been installed in a piecemeal fashion, and they’d been over-lamped in a well-intended attempt to increase the sense of security. The layout of the lanterns did not provide the necessary visual connection from the Miller Theatre to the plaza, and existing lanterns in the plaza were overly bright, dominating the landscape (the eye always goes to the brightest thing in the line of view). It actually created the perception of less light because distracting glare constricted visitors’ pupils.

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The gift shop by day: an airy structure that relates nicely with the wooded surroundings.

The design team chose to rework the plaza without the existing lanterns, and relocated them along the winding paths, where trees could mitigate their brightness, restoring the visual connection of the pathways to the rest of the park.

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At night, the illuminated pavilions take on a different character and anchor the park’s destination points.

Illuminated, not by lanterns, but by the landscape and buildings surrounding it, the plaza beckons. Transformed at night into a composition of glowing pavilions, these structures create a welcoming destination and backdrop for evening strolls. Exactingly integrated compact fluorescent uplight sconces give the structures a fixtureless appearance, revealing finely crafted architectural details that are shaded during the day.

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Tree uplights highlight rhythm and textures, while LED steplights reinforce the stepped form of the water’s edge.

Photo Credits: Overland Partners, except #3 by Lam Partners

Brown University Joukowsky Institute

November 23, 2009 / no comments

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Rhode Island Hall, the fourth-oldest building on the main green at Brown University, was built in 1840 and is now the new home for the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World. Its massive granite block construction features a basement level, first floor, and double-height second floor with substantial skylights. A large connecting stair links each floor, with display cases, lighted with concealed linear LED fixtures, presenting interesting artifacts.

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The basement contains several offices and a classroom, all with large windows so that daylight-harvesting linear fluorescent pendants were used. LED task lights at each desk can boost light levels per each person’s preferences.

The first floor is where full-time faculty and administration offices are located. Fully automatic daylight harvesting fixtures respond to sunlight that streams in through the nearly eight-foot-tall windows. The main lobby has more artifact exhibit space incorporated into the stair as well as two separate display rooms on either side of the entry vestibule. Low-wattage ceramic metal halide recessed adjustables provide crisp illumination without major heat or energy concerns.

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The second floor is dominated by the double-height library space/reading room and graduate student studios. Centered in the middle of the library is a freestanding object containing six faculty offices topped with a study mezzanine. It’s accessed by a decorative stair accented with LED button fixtures just above the risers.

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Above the mezzanine is a large barrel-vaulted ceiling that cleverly baffles a series of skylights that would have otherwise made the space too hot and bright.

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Automatically dimming linear fluorescent cove uplights tucked into large sculptural openings in the ceiling supplement natural light on overcast days and replicate it at night, creating a spacious and ethereal quality of light.

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The perimeter walls are almost completely covered with twelve-foot-tall bookcases, illuminated by elegant linear fluorescent wallwashers that cantilever from the upper fascia. In keeping with the theme, these fixtures also dim automatically based on ambient daylight.

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An interior core wall was stripped back to expose the original stone construction and provided an opportunity to fit in a linear fluorescent strip, grazing the coarse material for a striking effect.

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The adjacent reading room employs a dramatic sculptural wood slat wall that undulates across it’s length to creatively baffle the massive skylight above.

At the other end of this floor is the equally tall grad studio with its own skylight. A similar wood slat element snakes and twists its way up from the floor and on into the deep skylight opening to provide an innovative and interesting means of controlling daylight.

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The building shows an interesting contrast between inside and outside; it clearly reflects the actual renovation process of completely stripping the interior down to the stone blocks and constructing something new inside. The architect’s keen understanding of materials and detailing provides wonderful opportunities to integrate lighting into the building language, so that light sources and fixture hardware are largely hidden.

Location: Providence, Rhode Island

Architect: Anmahian Winton Architects

Photo credits: John Abromowski (1) Justin T. Brown / Lam Partners Inc (2-9)

Lighting Concept: Video Cascades

September 14, 2009 / no comments

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Lam Partners was asked to submit a concept for an upcoming Boston Globe article seeking creative, temporary lighting installations to spruce up four stalled construction sites throughout Boston. We chose to undertake the former Filene’s site, located right in the middle of Downtown Crossing.

To celebrate the urban basin that has been created by the construction process, we proposed draping a series of super-sized LED video screens over the exposed steel.

Using rental equipment often used on concert tours, we would create a dramatic digital canvas of large fabric drapes with integrated LED video pixels, which can be quickly hung off the steel structure. Color-changing LED floodlights would accent the remaining structure.

A variety of stunning digital compositions could be shown, including massive ten-story-high waterfalls. Local artists could be commissioned to produce animations reflecting the spirit of Downtown Crossing.

Our concept is based on LED curtains from a company called Main Light. Main Light takes LED strings from Color Kinetics (which actually used to be located right in Downtown Crossing) and integrates them into the “fabric” curtains for rock concerts and events. They could be quickly hung from the steel frame of the building. So, surprisingly given the dramatic effect, the concept is actually quite realistic to accomplish.

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Our proposal suggests installation-specific advertising, which could be readily sold to compensate for the cost of the project. Macy’s, DSW, and H&M all run major national advertising campaigns, and each has a location flanking the site. It is easy to imagine the creative possibilities – each company could use the screens for really unique advertising. How about the waterfalls turn into a cascade of shoes for DSW? Or maybe Macy’s or H&M engage with an artist like Julian Opie for ten-story-tall “walking people” animations?

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We estimate that the cost of a four-week-long installation could range from $350,000 to $650,000, depending on the quantity and the resolution of the screens used.

Image Credits: Brad Koerner / Lam Partners Inc (1), Main Light Industries Inc. (2-4)

Custom House Tower: Relighting a Boston Landmark

July 27, 2009 / no comments

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Custom House after lighting restoration

In the Fall of 2008, Boston’s oldest skyscraper was showing its age. Originally completed in 1849, the twenty-year-old façade lighting on the 1915 tower addition was in disrepair. The building maintenance budget could not keep up with the required frequency of re-lamping in such precarious locations, and only a few of the lights were still operating, as seen below.

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Lighting in disrepair before restoration

Motivated by the lighting festival, IlluminaleBoston 08, and the promise of reduced building maintenance costs, the design team and building ownership endeavored to restore the landmark’s night image to prominence in the Boston skyline – but more than a few obstacles stood in our way, and chief among them were budget and time. Though planning for the event began in February 2008, design for the Custom House site did not begin until May. This left less than five months to complete the site analysis, design documentation, and installation. The majority of project funding would come from donations and sponsorship, so the budget was both modest and unpredictable.

To maximize the impact of the project, the team focused available resources on the top of the tower, which is visible all over the city. The main shaft of the tower, up through the 16th floor, was softly illuminated from below with ceramic metal halide floodlights to keep the tower grounded. Narrow-beam LED spotlights with clear lenses uplight the colonnade above from the sides of each column, spilling light onto the entablature above and revealing the granite dentils that confirm its precedent in classical architecture. Two additional fixtures highlight each corner to complete the tower’s form.

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Custom House after completed renovation

Linear LED wall-grazers are concealed to wash the balcony-level façade below the clock, and adjustable LED spotlights extended on rotating outriggers light the sculpted eagles and highlight the corners of the clock tower. The outriggers swing over to the accessible balcony for maintenance.

The clock face retained its original lighting. A low pressure sodium lamp in each number provides an orange glow, and blue compact fluorescent backlights the minute marks. At the observation deck above, the columns are silhouetted with LED spotlights behind the base of each column to add depth to the façade and hide the fixtures from visitors’ view. Additional outriggers are located at the corners to accentuate entablature ornaments.

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Lighting at the peak was restricted by FAA requirements, but LED floodlights with frosted lenses were concealed at the base of the crown to graze the towers’ cap and expose the pyramid of dormer windows. These fixtures are accessible from the windows at the base of the pyramid.

The completed project has successfully restored the Custom House Tower to its rightful place as one of the crown jewels of the Boston skyline, while drastically reducing the lighting energy consumption and maintenance costs. The building is expected to save 19,000 kWh annually, and to use only 30% of the energy consumed by the previous design over its expected 20-year lifespan.

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Location: Boston, Massachusetts

Project size: 496 feet, overall height of tower

Project cost: $75,000 labor and installation / $160,000 donated lighting equipment

Photo Credits: Brad Koerner / Lam Partners Inc (1, 4, 5), Lam Partners (2), Brandon Miller (3)

The Taubman Museum of Art

June 14, 2009 / no comments

In Roanoke, Virginia, a luminous river of layered translucent polycarbonate panels runs through the new Taubman Museum’s central circulation space, tipping and turning as it surges among the galleries. It is indirectly lit with pendant indirect fixtures, carefully coordinated for even illumination, and aligned with the panels to provide access from below.


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Can translucent polycarbonate panels be transformed to become a glowing, iconographic element in a metaphorical landscape? Certainly, the challenge was there from the start, when the early physical model straddled the architect’s office and the architect’s desire to evoke the rushing rivers of nearby foothills was our mandate. But how does one move forward from concept to execution?

Exterior Model Image

Planned for the Central Gallery circulation zone serving the second floor galleries, the luminous ceiling spans between the Atrium entry and a terminal skylight, with a branch entering the soaring Contemporary Gallery. For the central spaces, pendant uplight fixtures would be used to indirectly backlight the suspended panels, activated in effect by daylight at the Atrium and skylight ends.
A clerestory window above the panels in the Contemporary Gallery was to provide a diffuse ambient glow. Physical daylight model testing was employed to verify that the daylight from above would light the sloping translucent panels in the gallery, while still meeting artwork conservation standards of no direct sunlight on surfaces displaying artwork.

Interior Model image

A scale model of the gallery was mounted to a heliodon outside in sunlight, adjusted to correct for latitude and season, and tested for perceived visual brightness of the translucent panels as well as absolute illumination levels within the gallery.
The luminous ceiling system not only provides the ambient lighting for Central Gallery circulation, but supports its use as exhibition space as well. Strategically integrated into the panel layout, sparely used surface-mounted track can light sculptural displays; optimum track placement was coordinated with the accessible panel system’s design. Small-profile tapered T5 pendant indirect fixtures above with symmetrical reflectors are used to minimize shadows and contrast of lit fixture housings.


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Before the construction documents were completed, it became apparent that cost-saving strategies would need to be pursued. The panelized ceiling had been planned to temper daylight from clerestories, but budget constraints eliminated all gallery skylights, elevating the importance of the luminous ceiling system as a source of energy-efficient ambient light. A selection of translucent multi-cellular polycarbonate panel products were evaluated for their luminous appearance and their ability to minimize the appearance of supports, light fixtures, pipes and beams from below.

Diffuser Mockup

The mock-up clearly underscored the importance of painting out all surfaces above the panels with white paint to improve lighting uniformity.

Construction photo


Four years of thoughtful teamwork and disciplined coordination result in a architectural element and ambient lighting system that transcends materiality and function, to animate a modern museum.


Gallery



Location: Roanoke, Virginia
Architect: Randall Stout Architect, Inc., with RRMM Architects
Project size: 81,000 square feet
Project cost: $66 million
Photo credits: Timothy Hursley (1), Randall Stout Architects, Inc. (2-3, 5, 7), Lam Partners Inc (4, 6)