T his is the time of year when the field of architectural lighting finds itself in the spotlight. With Lightfair bringing this sector of the industry together, it's the moment for outstanding people and projects to be honored by the International Association of Lighting Designers, GE/Edison, and the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America for professional excellence.

One of this year's contenders is Lighting Design Alliance, a firm based in Long Beach, CA. Its entry for the GE/Edison Awards is for the architectural lighting at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas (the winners will be announced at a black tie dinner held May 8 in New York City in conjunction with Lightfair). "We went for an integrated lighting solution to make the facade glow softly," says Chip Israel, principal designer of the firm, in reference to the exterior lighting at the Venetian, one of the newest urban fantasies to spring up on the Vegas Strip.

The exterior lighting at the Venetian is divided into three scales. First is long-distance visibility of the hotel tower, which has floodlights on the higher levels to make it compete with the Las Vegas skyline. At the bottom of the tower are 1,000W GE metal-halide lamps in sports lighting-style floods to add an evenly illuminated base wash. There are also two tiers of lighting on the cornices of the building, with 4' fluorescent T8 tubes in extruded aluminum Columbia billboard fixtures, and metal-halide PAR lamps in Lumiere bullets to highlight the columns under the cornices.

Exterior themed elements reminiscent of Venice include a 200'-tall (61m) campanile, or bell tower, based on the original in St. Mark's Square (the Vegas version supports hotel signage), and the Doge's Palace. To light the campanile, 500W quartz GE PAR flood lamps in Altman exterior units are integrated into the base as uplight, with accent bullets on each stepped-back cornice.

"With the exception of the hotel tower, all the facade lighting is incandescent with individual circuits," Israel explains. "The fixture size is small and has dimming capability in case they decide to do an outside show." Manufacturers include Lumiere, Focus, and Kim.

Six racks of ETC Sensor dimmers provide control via an astronomical clock. "What we wanted was a system where all the dimmer racks can be tied together with a theatrical interface for ultimate flexibility," says Israel. "Each architectural feature is controlled separately in its own dimming zone so they can turn things on and off, as well as chase or flash the lights."

At the pedestrian level, the lighting emits the soft glow of a flickering candle. To achieve this look, there are two light sources: flicker lamps that you see through the glass in decorative pole lamps and hanging lanterns, and incandescent PAR lamps tucked into the top or bottom of the same fixtures to provide downlight. Pendants centered in arcades utilize the same technology by adding concealed uplights that wash the ceiling with a warm glow. "The idea is to make it look as if the decorative fixtures are doing all the work, since you don't see the lamps that are hidden," explains Israel. "We wanted to compete with the glitter of Las Vegas by making the project as real-looking as possible."

Another example of this is the exterior canal and Rialto Bridge area where the lights are tucked underneath the bridge to define the architecture of the structure. "We let the water stay dark so you can see the reflections of the facades on the water," Israel notes. There are also 500W quartz floodlights under the handrail at the edge of the canal to add additional soft light on the facades.

Back at its home, the recent revitalization of the city and area surrounding Long Beach has given the team at Lighting Design Alliance the chance to work on some challenging projects. One of these is Queensway Bay, a major waterfront restoration project. "The goal was to combine the historic past of Rainbow Harbor with a vision for the future, as well as maximize the visual effects of the lighting system," says Israel. "All equipment had to be vandal-proof as well as weatherproof."

The Queen Mary, a classic luxury liner-turned-hotel, is docked permanently in this harbor. The ship's stylish Art Deco design provided inspiration for the look of the lighting, including a dramatic light show in 52 pole lights manufactured by Imperial Poles in Los Angeles, CA--each with an approximate cost of $25,000.

These are topped with cobalt blue jelly jar fixtures with clear metal-halide lamps manufactured by Pauluhn, while the interior shaft of each pole is lit with a Martin Professional Color Pro 600 fixture with a metal-halide flood. These are recessed in the base of the poles with the light shooting upward, and visible through three 10'-tall vertical translucent slots in the poles. "I know it's weird to cut giant slots in a structural pole, but the effect was worth the effort," comments Israel.

The poles run along the water's edge. "The intense cobalt blue lights are visible from miles away, and provide a long-distance outline of the harbor," says Israel. The Martin fixtures are programmed on an ETC Unison control system (located in a mechanical room/ticket booth adjacent to the site) and provide kinetic light shows on the hour after dark, with extra shows on holidays.

Halfway up the poles are pedestrian-level Lumec fixtures, made in Canada. These are nautical-style units with warm metal-halide lamps for normal use and quartz lamps that can be used for "instant on" during the light shows and special fireworks presentations.

An unusual feature of the lighting is a series of swimming pool lights with blue lenses. Placed in the tidal zone of a sea wall, these have to withstand a hostile, corrosive environment. They use General Electric 2D compact fluorescent lamps selected for their low heat and high output. The custom fixtures were provided by Hydrel.

At the T2-3D attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles, CA, Andy Powell of Lighting Design Alliance chose cool 4000K fluorescents and metal-halide sources for a futuristic look. Concealed Lithonia Hi-Tek metal-halide floodlights accent the curved roof lines, while cantilever-mount fluorescent sign lighters by Columbia provide an even wash on flat, perforated walls.

Contrasting with this cool exterior lighting is a warmer ceramic Constant Color metal-halide source used in Bega high bay luminaires at the covered queue area. "These create an inviting atmosphere in the people spaces," notes Israel, pointing out the energy-efficient and long-life qualities of these lamps. The fixtures are mounted in such a way as to avoid casting direct light onto videoscreens.

Posters are accented with Constant Color MR-16 lamps in Ruud Lighting wet-label low-voltage track lighting that runs vertically on the back of support columns. "We had to avoid glare and light trespass onto nearby hillside houses," says Israel. As a result, the fixtures are all carefully placed, some with angled snoots or custom shields to prevent glare from all viewing angles.

Inside, the lighting follows the futuristic theme of the attraction with concealed cold cathode casting blue light into a ceiling cavity in the pre-show area. There are also adjustable MR-16 pinhole downlights as accents, as well as larger-diameter compact fluorescent downlights (both by Lithonia Gotham) that can be used as work lights for cleaning crews or as illumination in an emergency situation.

Omegalux Fluorescent luminaires with 32W T8 SPX lamps and indigo gel add a soft glow to the theatre exit that leads into the gift shop, where concealed T5 fluorescent strips run vertically in display cases to light merchandise with accurate color rendering. HIR PAR-30 50W lamps in Lithonia recessedadjustable downlights and RSA suspended track lights add a sparkling accent to merchandise displays.

"These produce the light output and punch of standard 75W PAR-30 halogen lamps at two-thirds the energy consumption," Israel notes. In addition, the retail space is lit with satin-finish aluminum dual-cone compact fluorescent pendants by Delray which provide energy-efficient white light that reinforces the futuristic decor. In areas where the curved soffit appears blown-out by the Terminator's laser, suspended track lighting takes the place of the recessed downlights.

A little further from home is the Moody Gardens Aquarium in Galveston, TX, where a central daylit atrium is transformed into an aquatic wonderland at night. Tall 80' (24m) walls are lit with "bubbles" which house 150W metal-halide PAR lamps with blue filters in graduated shades. Additional metal-halide PARs serve to accent the floor and fish sculptures. "The Philips MasterColor technology PAR lamps made the project possible," notes Israel.

Neon accents a wave-shaped cove, and serves to outline the entrance to each of the exhibits, which are lit with deeply recessed MR-16 lamps to allow glare-free viewing. Above one of three giant fish tanks, special effects created by the lighting include the illusion of a storm, created with powerful High End Systems Dataflash(R) xenon strobes, and a rain effect with real water.

Above the second tank, 400W metal-halide lamps provide general lighting with seven Philips 1,000W CSI lamps adding faux shafts of daylight. "These create slashes of light coming down through the water and create additional drama within the tank," says Israel. "The idea is that every tank does not look the same."

At the Spirit of Ford museum in Dearborn, MI, the lighting serves to accent the prototypical next-generation Ford motor cars on display, and showcase them as if they were works of art. "Even washes of light on various surfaces provide a deep reflected glow in the automotive finishes and highlight the curves of the cars," says Israel. "Metal-halides with color-balanced filters and quartz accent lights emphasize the chrome and leather."

The lighting was designed in concert with the oval shape of the ceiling (in tribute to Ford's logo). Deep ceiling slots conceal track lighting, while asymmetric Rambusch biax floodlights uplight the ceiling and eliminate the reflection in the polished floor. These also provide a soft wash on the upper part of the walls. Twin bands of 3000K neon wash the soffit, once again reinforcing the oval design of the room.

"These recent projects are more entertainment-oriented, but our firm is still balanced with corporate and commercial projects," says Israel. "In Los Angeles, entertainment has been a growing market segment that started with us working for Disney in the mid-to-late 80s. Now there are a lot of entertainment-based mixed-use projects that rely on architectural lighting with more color and more dynamic movement. In the past you never had that. Today, architects are more open to use the building as a canvas for both color and texture."