Puerto Rico, "the shining star of the Caribbean," is glowing quite a bit more brightly these days. One of its landmarks, the Capitol Building in San Juan, enjoys a beautiful windswept perch overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, and is a beacon for travelers arriving in the commonwealth via airplane or cruise ship. Since December, it has blazed with vivid new illumination, provided by a local firm, Switch Lighting Performance.

Previously, the white marble edifice, which was built in the 1920s, was lit by 1,000W fixtures with color gels. "But the gels burnt out quickly, and the Capitol supervisors were always coming here to buy more," says Willie Cortes, Switch Lighting's director of sales and marketing. The firm suggested that the Capitol switch its lighting to automated fixtures, and a demonstration with High End Systems' EC-1(TM) luminaires was arranged for Capitol architect Pablo Quinones and engineer/contractor Jose Kercado, who had been planning to upgrade the existing conventionals.

"We arranged a demo on one wall, and they were astonished," Cortes says. "The wall just filled up with color." Quinones and Kercado reported their findings to the appropriate officials, and shepherded the instruments through a government-mandated bid process. Cortes says the EC-1, which is in many ways a weatherized version of the High End Studio Color(R), made a strong case for itself.

"The EC-1 had twice as much light output and consumed about half the power of what they had been using, it had the beam-shaping capabilities we needed, and we could get it in a custom color to match the white marble, among other advantages," Cortes says. "Plus, it would be the first architectural project in the entire Caribbean lit permanently in this way, which was also appealing." Most important, he says, was the instrument's ability to withstand the shoreline climate--"you can see the salt in the sea breezes, and the EC-1 is rated IP-66, the highest grade for a waterproof architectural luminaire. It also has a superior anti-corrosion finish."

Once the bid was accepted, the design process began last October, for a December 1 debut that attracted a crowd of 1,000 and live TV coverage. The north side of the building was the first to receive illumination. Brad Schiller and Mitch Peebles flew in from High End headquarters in Austin, TX, to take photometric measurements and lay the groundwork for what is the biggest EC-1 installation to date.

Schiller, of High End's sales support services team, performed a site survey on MiniCAD and also used a rendering program called Light, from Lightscape Technology. The photometric properties of the EC-1 were part of this mix, which resulted in an accurate blueprint of what the lighting would look like. "This was the first time we had tried this sort of modeling in Puerto Rico, and it matched the final lighting perfectly," Cortes says.

Two shows were devised. Cortes designed, and Schiller programmed, a 15-minute-long Christmas season event that incorporated 40 festive, custom-designed gobos from Rosco, used with eight Cyberlights(R) mounted in High End Ecodomes(TM). This temporary spectacle has since been replaced by the 17-minute EC-1 show, which involves 72 of the instruments. "The main architectural show is a mix of slow and fast chases, solid color fading, and breakups," says Schiller, who designed it. "Several colors are incorporated, but maroon and dark green were particularly important, as these are the colors of the Puerto Rico Senate and House of Representatives, which occupy different wings in the Capitol."

The shows are all the more impressive in that they were installed just one week before December 1. Contractors and electricians worked 18-hour days to get the instruments up and running, not altogether an unpleasant task given the scenic locale, Schiller says. Henry Sandoval was the lighting crew leader; Stephen Betancourt, Hector "Jefesito" Calderon, Reymundo Calderon, Rafael Casanova, Roberto Cruz, and Omar Torres were the technical crew.

Schiller programmed the EC-1s on the High End Status Cue(R) lighting console, and left behind his own invention for High End, ACE(TM), to facilitate system control. ACE, or Architectural Control Environment, is a front for the Status Cue that lets non-lighting personnel change settings without having to enter the software. "With ACE, they can 'lock' the building into a specific look, run a show, or turn fixtures off and on," Schiller says.

The Capitol Building's illumination has been a hit, stopping traffic in the evening hours. The government has approved further lighting for the site, beginning with its south side, which was scheduled to be lit up by mid-February with another 36 EC-1s. "The south side cuts down sharply to some steep stairs; ground level there is about 60' (18m) below the north side, so we've had to mount the EC-1s on poles for even illumination on both sides," Schiller says. Statuary across the street from the Capitol is also being lit by the pole-mounted units, as Switch Lighting and High End continue to showcase Puerto Rico in a whole new light.