Sometime next summer the new facade of the Utah Opera Production Studios in Salt Lake City will light up like an electrified patchwork quilt, with fiber optics, color-changing luminaires, and rear-projected images defining the various squares (rendering, above). Designed by Pace Pollard Architects in Salt Lake City, the dramatic curved facade is part of a 30,000-sq.-ft. (2,700 sq. m) addition that transforms the look of the existing studio building.
The addition gives the company a new space with clear height and span to erect full-size opera sets, a 100-seat rehearsal space, a music resource library, practice rooms, coaching studios, meeting rooms, and storage for costumes and sets. Founded in 1978, the Utah Opera performs at the Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City, and tours to neighboring states.
The building is located in a once all-industrial urban area that is on the upswing thanks to retail and residential development. “The Utah Opera company wants to make a presence in the neighborhood,” says lighting designer Bill Kader, project manager for The Lighting Practice, the Philadelphia firm responsible for the architectural lighting.
Kader went for color in a major way, saying, “It's the theatrical nature of the building, which is also a gathering place that will be used for outdoor parties in the entrance courtyard after performances.” Much of the color will be provided by four High End Systems exterior EC-2™ fixtures, placed on the ground to graze the surface of a large curved wall that defines the new facade.
“The idea is to be able to customize the color scheme of the exterior lighting around each of the Opera's productions, or in keeping with the seasons,” says Kader. “The colors will change slowly over the course of the evening. You will see the building painted one way when you arrive and another way when you leave.”
Control is provided via distributed DMX and an Entertainment Technology Horizon Playback Controller front end with Horizon Gold software. A second option for programming will be the theatre's ETC console that can be plugged into the DMX loop for the exterior lighting. “Shows can be written on the console then downloaded into the Horizon Playback Controller,” explains Kader.
Fiber-optic pendants hanging in the trees in the entrance courtyard will create a color-changing twinkle, using Martin Professional CMY 150 illuminators. Fiber optics will also edge-light a frosted acrylic band (30' long by 4' high, or 9×1.2m) that runs horizontally across the lower portion of the curved wall. “You can see into the greenroom from the outside,” explains Kader. “The idea is to provide privacy while at the same time tie this portion of the facade into the overall theme.” The name of the company is etched into the acrylic, creating color-changing signage.
Five Altman outdoor Star Par™ fixtures will add horizontal bands of light on another section of the gray split-block wall, adding accents to the architecture. Winona floodlights serve as wall washers, while BK Lighting in-ground uplights with MR-16 lamps illuminate the names on a donor wall in the courtyard.
Genlyte MR-16 outdoor accent lights illuminate two sculptures of human forms that decorate corners of the facade. The entry to the lobby is lit with Sistemalux Blitz wall sconces with 35W T6 metal-halide lamps that graze the wall with tight beams of light, while NeoRay downlights shine along the perimeter walls inside the lobby.
Adding to the theatrical theme of the lighting are “posters” that will be rear-projected in a series of square windows that punctuate the facade, using Rosco ImagePro™ units. The posters will serve as window cards, announcing upcoming productions or special events, and adding additional color to the facade.
“We are also modifying the lighting on the existing building,” says Kader, who is happily replacing large flood fixtures with Hydrel in-ground 70W metal-halide fixtures along the front of the building. Hydrel 100W metal-halide uplights are installed on the parking lot side, where an indent in the building will be covered in reflective stainless steel mesh that will serve as a trellis for climbing vines.
“The lighting for the exterior is designed in different layers, like a theatrical production, where the light defines the depth of the set with warm and cool colors,” says Kader. “It's fun, and the community is really rallying around the project.”