Illuminating Concepts sets the entertainment mood at Heron City Kungens Kurva

Residents of Stockholm, Sweden, can get a respite from the long, dark winter months at a stop just outside town, near one of the original Ikea stores on the expressway. Bearing the unlikely name of Heron City Kungens Kurva, this glittering four-story structure offers patrons a slightly different concept in consumerism. “It's a place to shop, to eat, to see all the latest fashions and trends, and find entertainment,” says project designer Kelly Stechschulte, of Illuminating Concepts.

Just don't call it a shopping center: “It's more enclosed,” Stechschulte says. “They've got unique boutiques and one-off shops, bars and restaurants, and unique architectural features.” There is also an hourly show in the central atrium, with interactive fountain, audio, and moving light effects; sometimes there are live musical performances. So, entertainment center is the proper term for the 400,000-sq.-ft. (36,000 sq. m) Heron City Kungens Kurva. Of course, retail is a big part of it, just as it is in any theme park.

So, what about that name? Heron City is the brand name of the London-based developer, Heron International, which has opened similar spaces in Madrid and Barcelona, and will soon bring its entertainment center brand to Valencia, Lisbon, and Lille. Kungens Kurva is the sector of Stockholm where the Heron City site opened in 2000. Illuminating Concepts, a Michigan-based lighting and entertainment design firm, has worked on all of the Heron City spaces, under creative director Ron Harwood, design director Kenneth Klemmer, and various project designers. The design architect for the site was Entertainment Services in London, and the local architect was Claes Dahlgren Arkitektkontor AB.

Each center has its own profile. “Heron was looking to create a destination point not for tourists but for local people,” says Stechschulte. “You have to get to know the locals and understand what they want. Madrid has a level of excitement like none other. The Stockholm project is more sedate, and Barcelona is somewhere in the middle.” And of course, there is that issue of Scandinavian light, and the deprivation thereof. “The winter hours in Stockholm actually work out well for us, being in the lighting business,” the designer says. “People are able to see the show a good portion of the day.”

Stechschulte breaks down Illuminating Concepts' contribution in this manner: “We wore two different hats on this project,” she says. “We did the architectural lighting, which had three layers, essentially — daytime, evening, and enhanced ambient lighting. And then we had the entertainment, or theatrical lighting.” She adds that Illuminating Concepts both designs and procures the lighting. “The reason we do that is to maintain the integrity of the design,” says Stechschulte. “We're not married to a specific brand; we use what's best and what's appropriate for each job.”

On the theatrical side, High End Systems in London supplied Heron City Kungens Kurva with 34 Studio Spot® 575s, and 338 1kW PAR-64 fixtures came from the London division of James Thomas Engineering. These instruments also come into play architecturally, along with 1,060 interior fixtures from such European manufacturers as Targetti in Italy, Thorn in the UK, and Erco and Bega in Germany, fitted with Philips or Osram lamps. “We go to a lot of the trade shows overseas to make sure that we're current in both markets,” says Stechschulte. “We have connections throughout the world.”

As for control, the designer says, “ETC dimming racks control the various light levels throughout the day and into the evening. We utilized various digital control components, customizing and programming them to interact with our installations.”

Though the interior is where it's at, Illuminating Concepts' design approach to Kungens Kurva starts outside, with 450 exterior fixtures, from DIL, Thorn, Exterieur Vert, and Bega, among other manufacturers. “We've got some great architectural and landscape lighting to lead you through the parking lot,” says Stechschulte. “Based on the look of the building, we chose a few icon-type fittings that would be part of Heron City's brand image. They reflect the architectural nature, but are kind of whimsical — very cool and modern. About 80% of the people go through the back parking garage. We've got some ambient music, and you start to hear cues and sounds, which pique your interest before you enter the center. As you pass through the first set of doors, you cross what feels like a bridge, and on the left side it's all glass. You're looking directly at a mountainside — it's very Mother Nature-y.” The view encompasses a ravine floodlit by fixtures from WE-EF, an Australian lighting company.

The main entrance opens onto the building's second level, which overlooks the 80'-high (24m) atrium and all-glass, daylight-admitting facade, which Stechschulte likens to that of an opera house. During daytime hours, she says, “We had to have a means to level the lighting from the front to the back. Between the 1,000W PAR-64 fixtures with lamps of various beam spreads, Thorn 150W CDMT lamps, Studio Spots, and our dimming system, we were able to create an even level, with no harsh shadows because of all the daylight streaming in from one side and not the other.

“As evening comes around, we're able to turn off some of the metal-halide fixtures to create more of a dramatic, soft, elegant look,” Stechschulte continues. “The escalators and stairwells go to the main level, and from there you're dropped into the central atrium area where the fountain is, and where the excitement is happening. That's where the majority of the Studio Spots are, and in the evening they come alive and paint the entire area. Over the 1,000W PAR-64s we have dichroic filters that brush color ever so lightly onto the architectural finishes.” Adding to this “enhanced ambient” lighting are ETC Source Fours.

“We've got slow-moving projections and gobos with various patterns — stars, fusion fire, Heron City gobos,” the designer explains. “They don't overpower the space; they're kind of ethereal. It's not flash-and-trash.” Though the atrium benefits most noticeably from this treatment, Stechschulte adds, “We try to get an element of excitement into most areas. They used a lot of natural finishes in the mall, and we have them bathed with warm and colored light, and leafy or abstract pattern projections just to give it a three-dimensionality you might not otherwise have.”

The atrium fountain, co-designed by Illuminating Concepts and Ghesa, a Spanish company, is actually a series of four fountains, uplit by PAR-38s with color filters. At showtime the fountain becomes the centerpiece for a flashy multimedia presentation in which water, light, and sound all act in concert. “The general ambient music changes to a more booming sound, and we've got some subwoofers and show speakers [from Meyer Sound, Tannoy, and Atlas/Soundolier] that fill the atrium with sound. The lights are going, and the fountain is going. People migrate towards the balcony edges, and that's one of the unique aspects of the building, that there are so many balcony edges to see over. The first mezzanine level is only on the north side, and that's very small, and the second level has a multitude of bridges and catwalk connections over the atrium space but not covering it. When you're standing on ground level, you can see all the way up to the ceiling, and on the third level, you can see all the way down to ground level, so you have a view of the show from pretty much anywhere in the building.”

With a custom covering, the fountain also has the ability to convert into a stage. During the Heron City Kungens Kurva opening, the atrium served as a venue for a Swedish music awards program with performances by various bands. “They brought in additional lighting trusses and moving lights,” says Stechschulte, “but it can all be programmed to work with our system. Performers can also use ours — we have a series of ballyhoos programmed into the system, and they can just hit the button and it will go.”

At one point, visitors to the center who had seen the atrium show, were tired of playing with the pugel ball on the main level's east corridor, and didn't want to go to the movies or shop had another option: They could watch a TV show being filmed near the food court on the second level. “It was a Swedish reality show, similar to Big Brother,” Stechschulte says. “They leased out four of the spaces, and built apartments for these people; you could view them 24 hours a day. It drew interesting crowds.”

Contact the author at jcalhoun@primediabusiness.com.