Located in the former B.C. Pavilion for EXPO 86 — a fully glassed-in legacy building that was the centerpiece of the 1986 World’s Fair — the Edgewater Casino is a high profile gaming and entertainment destination located in downtown Vancouver.
Overlooking the city’s False Creek sea inlet that borders the vibrant southern edge of downtown, the casino offers slot machines, gaming tables and bingo terminals. Edgewater is a high-visibility project on the city’s skyline and shoreline that attracted the attention and close involvement of city planners in this award-winning city. Part of the rejuvenation process for the building involved a tribute to its glass structure, with magnificent glass sculptures by renowned Vancouver artist Joel Berman.
In fact, Edgewater comprises the largest glass art project in Canada. In addition, the building hosts an enormous glass façade overlooking False Creek to the south and east. It was this architectural design challenge — illuminating the glass façade that would comprise the casino’s exterior lighting in a way that would address the needs of all stakeholders — that led to TIR System's award-winning Destiny CW luminaire being selected and installed in this project.
The legacy glass walls of the pavilion provided a significant creative challenge for the architectural team — for instance, how to make the inside dark enough for the casino to have total control over its interior lighting without affecting the exterior appeal of a glass building. Solving this challenge was especially important given the casino’s prominent high-visibility position with respect to traffic entering Vancouver’s bustling downtown, not to mention the thousands of permanent residents living along or near False Creek. Nighttime light pollution by the casino lighting was a concern for city officials.
The answer was to create a second interior envelope out of white material inside the glass that would not only shield the interior from exterior daylight, it would also prevent the escape of internal casino light into the surrounding community. This interior envelope would meet the casino’s operational requirements while enabling the exterior to be illuminated in such a way as to develop impressive visual interest from the outside. Architect Patrick Cotter’s vision for the structure was to use projected light on the surface of the new interior envelope to place the building superstructure in silhouette, visible from the exterior through the glass walls. "One of the major challenges with this glass structure is that the City of Vancouver considers this to be a legacy building from EXPO 86," Cotter explains. "That meant we could not change the exterior and were afforded limited ability to alter the building. Lighting was one of the key material technologies we used to overcome this challenge."
Part of this design scheme involved having light on the outward-facing surface change colors and show movement, thereby enhancing the silhouette and providing a visually interesting and tasteful addition to the Vancouver skyline. Another goal was to use color-changing light to draw potential visitors to the site in an eye-catching way.
From the City of Vancouver’s perspective, there were plenty of questions and concerns from city staff about this project’s potential impact on the evening skyline and the possible negative reaction of Vancouver residents. To alleviate these concerns, a policy was created that gave the city significant influence over what the lightshow would eventually look like and how the lighting program could be changed once it was up and running.
"We developed a lighting management policy for the casino that enabled the city to have input into modifying, changing or controlling the lighting programming as needed after the project was completed," Cotter says. "This is a rare occurrence but we were confident everything would be fine. To date, however, there have been no requests from the city to adjust or alter the lighting in any way. As the lighting system is digitally controlled, the lighting program can be modified by changes to the frequency, brightness and colors, to meet the changing needs of owners and city planners as they arise in the future."
In addition, Cotter produced a computer-generated model and simulation to demonstrate beforehand how the building would appear after the project was completed. It was clear the City of Vancouver and its residents were important stakeholder partners in this architectural project.
Destiny® CW luminaires were positioned between the glass exterior and the new interior façade. This interior façade structure was created from a white material that was used as a blank canvas on which the CW luminaires would create the desired colored light effects. The TIR fixtures were placed at the bottom, approximately 8' apart and positioned 4' away from the inner white surface. The fixtures were installed using a remote power supply base, allowing the designer to position the product as far away from the target surface as possible. This extra setback distance enabled by the CW fixture — and the impressive “throw” provided by CW — was vital due to the significant height of the interior surface.
"The lighting wasn’t going to be offensive as we could tailor the programmable system to change the frequency, brightness and colors in any way. We organized the entire lighting system and developed the light as an architectural material component for the space," Cotter explains. "We repeated the use of LED uplighting on the interior side of the interior walls, and used the light as a mechanism to break down the effect of being enclosed. In this case, we used light and the lighting system as major design elements that were integrated completely within the architectural design."
The entire color system is digitally controlled and programmable, enabling the lighting program to be changed as needed to deliver colored lighting effects to accompany the seasons or special events, and to complement the watery surroundings. This exterior illumination glows along a palette of blues and greens which, when reflected off False Creek, have a calm yet truly mesmerizing effect. The end result of the project is an impressive façade that has fulfilled the vision of the architect and addressed the city’s requirements for its downtown views.
It has also enabled this legacy glass structure and its new inner façade to become fully functional as a top-end casino while also becoming a key architectural element for the surrounding downtown landscape. Most importantly, the combined efforts of the architect and city staff resulted in a project that is fully integrated with the city’s future vision for the nighttime skyline and was quickly accepted and enjoyed as visual public art by city residents.