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From Functional to Spectacular

(Originally published in Architectural SSL, August 2010)
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Buildings, city streets, malls and entertainment districts no longer have to bathe patrons in orange or stark white light, as advances in controls and SSL technology are allowing designers to be limited only by their own creativity.

By Barbra Horwitz-Bennett, contributing writer

Whether it's color-changing columns decorating the entrance square of the Phoenix Civic Center, an exciting fountain light show in West Florida mixed-use center, or dynamic color-changing street lights in Barcelona, Spain, solid-state lighting is taking center stage in allowing designers to create eye-catching streetscape spectacles.

Why? Because the tiny light sources are so energy efficient, long-lasting and can be installed on unique surfaces or hard-to-reach locations, they are ideal for such applications.

LED, contributes to the festive atmosphere at the Can Drago mall in Barcelona, designed by Farmington Hills, Mich.-based Illuminating Concepts. "In this application we changed the colors of the facades to a musical presentation that also synchronizes to water features," relates Ron Harwood, LC, IES, Illuminating Concepts' principal and creative director.

In London, at the Wembley Arena, the consultants designed kinetic LED light towers and water fountain lighting that's integrated with an intelligent lighting system, including a concealed audio system, to create an entertaining water, light and audio show.

Harwood points out the potential for LED street, façade, landscape, signage, and yet to be discovered uses, is vast. "As solid state lighting gets more powerful with more wireless applications, the uses of LEDs will expand exponentially. Today, not even 5% of all lighting is LED. In five years, I expect that figure to rise to 15%, and within 10 years, close to 40%.

While there is certainly room to grow, technology-wise, the LED tools that currently exist are quite exciting, flexible and robust, as Israel concludes, tongue in cheek, "the designer's imagination is the limit, or so might the budget."

Fiesta of Light

A little but of Motown know how is helping a high-end shopping mall in Barcelona, Spain glow in a fantastic array of changing colors. Designed by Farmington Hills, Mich.-based Illuminating Concepts, the consultants created a unique SSL facade and streetscape lighting scheme for the pavilion of the Heron City Dan Drago entertainment center, which is also synchronized to the mall's water features.

Situated near the city's Sagrata Familia, this large mixed-use retail and hotel property is actually one of the first in Europe to use LEDs on such a large scale. In this Disneyland of colors, tourist and locals can experience sophisticated, integrated theatrical and architectural lighting scene with the sea, mountains and foothills of Barcelona as a beautiful backdrop to this open-air scheme.

Along the void space between the first and second floors of two of the three main buildings, color-mixing LED spotlights emit light onto an acrylic panel. This panel is covered with an expanded metal to assure tension and prohibit any breakage. In addition, as an assembly, the system is a linear graphic display. Sometimes moving to music, sometimes softly changing color and other times a static white, the entire open air mall comes to life with a sophisticated media system.

To further enhance the immersion experience, the large water jet feature has color changing light that dances to music and is synchronized to the illuminated void edges. In addition, several exotic-looking stair cases tout sweeping lines and illuminated treads made possible by LEDs.

Street Smarts

Not only are today's SSL products flexible, colorful and energy-efficient, they're becoming smarter. Take the Intellistreets system from Illuminating Concepts. Here light poles are used as a platform for different intelligent lighting, security and multimedia applications. Designed with a wired or wireless mesh network, controlled by a user interface, SSL is utilized to provide standard or themed lighting with its own energy management system. "Instead of just turning street lights on and off, the processor allows for 'use-case scenarios' where only the light that is needed is delivered when it is needed," explains Ron Harwood, LC, IES, principal and creative director of Illuminating Concepts. "Further, the system manages the thermal issues within the luminarie, which will dramatically extend the life of the power supply and LED light engine."

Already running in a number of cities, including Branson, MO., and the Wembley Stadium District in London, more multimedia and security type applications are anticipated to branch out of current and future projects. For example, "for security, emergency strobing can assist with evacuation, and smoke, fire and water detection can be integrated as well," notes Harwood. "Entertainment-wise, the system can supply video signals to signage, and sound files to an internal speaker system."

With such capabilities, municipalities can potentially capitalize on revenue-generating opportunities such as sponsorship, advertising and branding via targeted audio and digital signs offering site-specific information about retail sales and special events.

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