—By: Lighting Design + Application – Article for LD+A—
The one thing lacking at the beautiful urban campus of Milwaukee’s Marquette University was a place that students could call their own, an informal space to get away from the pressures of collegiate life at the conservative Jesuit school, known for its high academic standards.
The University, in collaboration with local business leaders and developers, had just completed an ambitious project to reshape the nearby community An area of dilapidated housing and establishments near the campus that was frequented by students was replaced by several square blocks of new apartment complexes and retail spaces that were consistent with the neighborhood’s historic charm and urban character. But something else was still needed: a hang-out that would attract students while also providing a secure environment.
Winner of NCAA and NIT basketball championships, the school has a long-standing and strong focus on sports. University administrators saw the opportunity [or students to celebrate their grand sports history. A design collaboration was formed, including T. J. Morley, ALA, or Eppstein Uhen Architects, and Creative Lighting Design SI Engineering, to develop an appealing, escapist environment for students to relax in, as well as display extensive sports memorabilia. Not only did we achieve our goal, but this project received the Edwin E Guth Memorial Award of Excellence for Interior Lighting Design at the 1995 International Illumination Design Awards in New York City.
The Marquette Sports Annex recreation complex needed to include a bowling alley and an indoor sports court, as well as a comfortable restaurant with a Marquette sports theme—all without suggesting a university facility. During the day, the atmosphere needed to be more restrained to appeal to a lunch crowd and frequent leagues of roller hockey, volleyball, and basketball teams. At night, a wilder party atmosphere was needed to enhance other activities, including dances, concerts, and watching major sporting events on dozens of monitors. Especially on weekend nights, the sports court had to transform into a high-energy dance club, cool enough to attract students away from off-campus establishments.
After classes the students needed an escape from the university environment, and the design team decided to enhance the space with an urban industrial style that had a decidedly underground feel; a “found” space that was well-worn and slightly flawed. The sports complex was to be placed below grade in one of the newly constructed buildings, adding to the ‘underground” feel with additional design opportunities.
At the entrance, a natural light well allows a glimpse of the restaurant below, with a winding stairway offering a progressively “darker” feel as students descend. The stairs enter into the main hall, a common space between the 12-lane bowling alley, the restaurant, and the sports court. This hall includes sports displays and a ticket booth, with an industrial emphasis from columns of spiral drain culverts. The daytime lighting look comprises “jelly-jar” industrial sconces and RLM “billboard” fixtures with warm amber R30 lamps, and a few fluorescent striplights in wire guards.
At night, the entrance stairway leading down to the complex has progressively darker layers of lighting effects suggesting that the architecture has degenerated. The main hall comes alive with swirl patterns, “cracks,” and other patterns created with protectant images that slowly fade up and dissolve. Even the warm-colored industrial fixtures have an occasional brighter pulse to add animation and give the feeling that the architecture has a vitality of its own.
The restaurant decor suggests a found space under a gymnasium. An overhead balcony is accented with a curve of jelly-jar fixtures and fluorescent strips behind chain link fencing to give a glow of white “gymnasium” light from above. The wood-trim walls near the booths were purposely covered with graffiti to add a used look (much to the shock of some administrators). Inexpensive RLM shades house PAR-lamps that highlight game tables and menu boards, and additional track fixtures highlight the sports memorabilia.
The heart of the urban playground is the sports court area. The 40 by 80 ft court has a strong industrial decor that simultaneously suggests an indoor and outdoor factory environment. In a classic design solution, industrial housings and cages and a huge catwalk added structure to this industrial theme, and were also needed to easily maintain and protect delicate lighting equipment from sports activities. In addition, the court is partially enclosed in chain link fencing, adding to the decor and keeping the balls in the court while providing a perfect way to protect other lighting positions. Three billboards (which are actually rented out) confirm the outdoor feel, with the DJ and light booth enclosed in an industrial house that resembles a guard shack.
The lighting design had to consider the various activities, integrating and combining the sports, theatrical, dance, and architectural lighting equipment into this single space. Because these needs are typically at the opposite ends of the design spectrum, at first it appeared that some compromise was necessary. In particular, the nighttime dancing required special attention, since the typical black-wall environment of most dance clubs would not work well for sports use. While indirect ambient lighting would be better for sports, the light-colored walls and ceilings required for high reflectivity would have been too light for the dance club lighting and effects. Besides, the design direction was for an outdoor atmosphere for the court.
The solution was to illuminate the daytime use of the space as an outdoor sports complex, with a modest contribution from reflection off the gradually shaded walls. The highest illumination requirements for league play were then considered as a design goal. The resulting tournament-level sports lighting is provided by exterior tennis luminaires on simulated poles, both the illumination style and equipment accenting the out-door industrial theme. These relatively unprotected luminaires required additional lamp restraints to resist volleyball hits.
Next the challenge was to transform this space from a sports complex by clay into an underground dance club by night. The lighting design developed into a concept to use projected images to build the theme of a nighttime outdoor urban factory space (see sidebar). Additional projected images would then be used to create other entirely different themes. The projections surround the inhabitants with unique background scenes for the moving robotic dance lights, as well as provide an unusual environment for special events and parties.
This nighttime outdoor urban factory look begins with warm pools of illumination from the classic industrial RLM and jelly-jar fixtures, using inexpensive amber R30 lamps. The billboards in the sports court are illuminated with classic asymmetrical RLM billboard fixtures on custom arms and PAR lamps, giving an old-fashioned scalloped style to the lighting.
These were purposely aimed clown [rom above to keep them out of the play area and not give away the outdoor effect. Windows and other openings have an eerie inclustlial glow from inside. A large industrial vent “exhausts” dense stage fog into the dance area, adding shape and definition to the beams of light. Even a used cobra-head streetlight, equipped with an incandescent PAR lamp to create a classic pool of warm light below, hangs overhead to add to the outdoor theme.
To complete the basic nighttime urban theme, the warm pools of light are contrasted with textural deep blue shadows and streaks. These shadows are from projected images using theatrical ellipsoidal fixtures, Source 4s from ETC, equipped with textural breakup patterns (gobos), adding nighttime depth to the industrial architecture. Walls, ceiling, and floors all have separately controlled groupings or shadow patterns to add movement.
Outdoor depth and dimension come from several projected scenes of industrial buildings, using the large end-wall surface. Factory windows appear in diminishing perspective, causing the wall 10 extend into the night. Distant factory smokestacks complete the stylized effect, or a set of city windows provide an alternative scene. Simple clouds can also be added to the walls and ceiling to complete the midnight sky effect.
This industrial complex can be completely dissolved into other background scenes using theatrical lighting techniques. When the streetlights and industrial fixtures fade to dark, the remaining deep blue shadows leave an aura of mystery, hiding the industrial architecture in shadowy texture. Another background scene can be faded up using projected tree and branch patterns in a blue-green color, suggesting a midnight forest scene. Another group or projected images creates abstract geo- metric patterns and shapes in various colors for more background choices.
The heavy dance beat is animated using computerized robotic luminaires, providing moving color and projected graphics that add dynamic energy and rhythm on the dance [loon Four large 1200 W HMI Golden Scan Ills from Clay Paky are located in the overhead catwalk, providing strong shafts of light and color from above. Six small 250 W robots located in wall recesses around the dance floor add color and movement on vertical surfaces.
Moving sequences are programmed in individual steps on a theatrical console from ETC, with separate channels (in DMX protocol) for each robot, controlling X and Y mirror aiming, color filters, focus, gobo selections and rotation, and other parameters. Sequence routines and effects are preprogrammed, with a few effects echoing the environment such as a spinning tornado storm (“Auntie Em! Auntie Em!”) or the industrial emergency “toxic discharge.” The robots double as special event spotlights.
A “centerpiece” lighting effect climaxes the evening of high- energy dance. This unique luminaire resembles a flying saucer, using a 1200 W HMI source with eight panning mirrors that split the beam into shafts that bounce in sequence to the music and also hit the variety of built-in rotating mirror balls. The effect is enhanced as the centerpiece slowly lowers out of the catwalk, using a motorized scissors lift, to stop just above the heads of the dancing students.
These different scenes and effects are easily programmed and operated by the use of a computerized dimming and control system. The urban industrial look can dissolve into the mid- night jungle look, and then into a variety of abstract escapist scenes, and so on. All architectural and theatrical luminaires throughout the entrance, restaurant, and sports-dance court are controlled by one 96-dimmer rack through a unique “hard patch” terminal strip panel to provide rare circuit changes. Two control consoles located in the DJ booth simplify robotic programming and provide backup. Another small console is located in the restaurant for concerts there, The DMX control protocol and “highest takes precedence” hierarchy make operation possible from all three consoles.
The design team put together a stylized urban atmosphere that’ focused on sports and recreation. Using extraordinary architectural ideas and visually intense theatrical and dance lighting techniques, patrons are surrounded by an ambience of colorful thematic images and dynamic movement. The students of Marquette University now have a place to celebrate their long sports heritage, and to escape from academic drudgery to a safe, yet wild and fun environment.
Marty Pecks passion for light can be found in innovative lighting designs for museums and art galleries, retail centers, industrial and commercial spaces, sophisticated homes and Landscapes, historic renovations and churches, night clubs, restaurants, and performance theaters, as well as dramatic special events and thematic environments. He is an IESNA member, holding an electrical engineering degree with previous experience in lighting manufacturing as engineering manager. He has received numerous top lighting design awards and holds several innovative lighting fixture patents. Mr. Peck is principal or Creative Lighting Design & Engineering, Germantown, WI.