START-TO-FINISH WITH THE LIGHTING PRACTICE AT AN OHIO MALL If you ever wondered how other lighting designers get their ideas implemented for a tough commercial project, Al Borden and Helen Diemer of The Lighting Practice in Philadelphia will assure you that it's not only how well you've thought out the solution, it's how you communicate your ideas in the listener's style.
The Lighting Practice (TLP) is a busy 12-person office with current projects for clients in education, urban redevelopment, entertainment, corporate, and retail. "Decision makers in each category want to be assured from the outset that the lighting design component of their team is not only a good fit technically and aesthetically, but understands the language of their industry," said Borden. Their quest to obtain the contract to illuminate the renovated Richmond Town Square, Richmond Heights, OH (near Cleveland), began when Borden and Diemer first greeted Simon Property Group's representative in their office as part of his initial research to select the key players that would transform the dowdy and dated mall into a traffic-attracting shopping centerpiece for the area.
"We understood early on that architects and mall owners are much more visual than clients in other fields we work in," Diemer points out. "We undertook some self-critiquing of our typical presentation style, and realized that we had to change the way we present the firm. Now, we put more emphasis on our creative design talents and the derived benefits of retaining us as their lighting consultants for this and future jobs. Shopping center construction and renovation is a big market now, and once you prove yourself to a major operator, chances are they will continue to use you. But first, you have to convince them that you have the skills and working style to blend with their team."
TLP had been recommended to the developers, Simon Property Group of Indianapolis, by KA Architects, Cleveland, a firm with which they had collaborated in the past. The scope of the project was the renovation of a single-level, 35-year-old mall containing approximately 265,000 gross sq. ft. (24,645 sq. m) with 60,000 sq. ft. (5,580 sq. m) of common area. TLP responded to the RFP for the lighting design for the interior circulation areas within the mall, three exterior mall entrances, and a new food court.
GETTING THE JOB TLP was one of three lighting consultants on Simon's short list. The Simon representative who came to Philadelphia to interview Borden and Diemer wanted to meet them and find out how they planned to get the job done and their methods for documenting. Simon was interested in the practicality of their approach, including the logic of their analysis methodology, problem-solving techniques, and budget-tracking.
"Because the owner can't see lighting the way they can examine the work of other design professionals, they have to make their decision based on more than their intuition and justify for themselves that the lighting designer can deliver," Borden indicates. Borden and Diemer took him through the process of how they presented ideas from conceptual sketches to CAD documentation.
"When we work in retail, we have to look beneath the physical surface to capture the intent and flavor of each mall or shopping center," Diemer said. "The lighting plan we propose has to convince management that we know how to enhance the architecture and, indirectly, the tenant's merchandise presentation: That's what will improve profitability by giving the project a recognizable competitive edge," she emphasized. Their presentation included sample diagrams from previous jobs, and collages of images of interesting lighting effects clipped from magazines, plus photos of various lighting products that could be considered for specification.
The Simon representative then visited Concord Mall, Wilmington, DE, one of TLP's recently completed retail mall projects. While the representative carried his positive impressions back to headquarters, Borden and Diemer calculated their fee estimate. "We have to think through the lineup of tasks and come up with a realistic dollar figure that covers all of our people who will be involved," Diemer explained. Simon accepted the fee proposal, and TLP was advised that they had been selected to create the lighting for Richmond Town Square.
BEFORE AND AFTER The "before" view (above left) shows the center as it looked when it opened without benefit of any subsequent renovation or expansion. The flat ceiling was covered with white lay-in panels that had a geometric concave pattern. General lighting was provided by fluorescent lay-in fixtures and pendant-mounted incandescent cylinders for accent in the center court. The overall feeling was dull and lifeless.
The new lighting design for Richmond Town Square was developed by Diemer and TLP associate Julie Panassow. At the kickoff meeting with KA, Darryl Pattison, vice president of design, Chris Garrison, senior designer, and Craig Wasserman, project manager showed Panassow and Diemer their concept to give the bowling alley-like space new dimension and an overall contemporary ambience. "We look for opportunities in the architecture to introduce visual excitement and add a nighttime character," said Diemer.
To announce the Square's new image on the outside, compact fluorescent wall sconces flank the entrance while 70W metal-halide downlights are directed onto the floor's surface. Above the entryway is a decorative graphic panel accented with colored neon behind the curved dimensional "Richmond Town Square" sign.
The mall's concourses took on new life under vaulted ceilings extending from the existing clerestory windows up to the roofline. The new Kaufman's concourse is a dramatic two-story space with a single level of retail shops. Ribbed arches dramatically span the concourse below. New clerestory windows animate the space with daylight from above. A band of faux clerestories simulates the effect at night. Throughout the mall, new skylights were added to bring natural light onto the walkway with its kiosks and carts below. Neon coves animate these skylights at night.
OUTLINING THE OBJECTIVES Diemer, Panassow, and KA's architects agreed that the lighting plan for Richmond Town Square should emphasize the new spatial articulation and contemporary architectural structures to produce a dynamic retail environment. They established a time schedule with critical benchmarks and went to work to meet these objectives.
Drawings of preliminary ideas were examined and color renderings were developed from the selected group. "The architects bought into the program, and then it was presented to Simon with calculations to give the footcandle level," Diemer said. "Simon is very strict about maintaining a uniform 20 to 30fc level in all of the common areas within their budget parameters. They are also very concerned about maintenance of the lighting system, so we specify primarily fluorescent and metal-halide for their projects," she added.
A CAD plan was produced and the calculations placed on top to ascertain if there would be any deficient areas in the built space. The approved plan was translated into working drawings. Location and type of fixtures were keyed into the plan by CAD. Specifications detailed the electrical load, fixture product number, and lamp type. [Equipment manufacturers were Cornelius Architectural Products, Indy Lighting, Winona Lighting, and Louis Poulsen Lighting.]
"Simon is very clear about holding us to the budget," Diemer says. "We're reminded that we are responsible for a beautiful job completed within the established financial parameters." TLP prepared a spreadsheet listing all fixtures and lamps - not including wiring and labor - to determine the lighting cost per square foot for Simon's final approval.
The lighting plans were forwarded to KA and its engineers for use in completing the reflected ceiling plans and electrical lighting plans for the bid documents. Once successful bidders were identified, TLP reviewed shop and field drawings. A lamping guide defines cleaning and replacement cycles for use by the mall's maintenance personnel.
LIVELIER LIGHTING KA's sweeping vaulted ceiling effect over the interior concourses and the skylit circular dome in the food court give Richmond Town Square its lively new personality. "We wanted to use lighting to accentuate the volume and curvature of the renovated space," Diemer points out. "At the perimeter above the clerestory windows is a concealed cove which we lit by T8 3500K fluorescent lamps which illuminate the window pockets at night. This provides an edge to the space and is very similar to the effect of natural light during the day," Diemer explains.
The center portion of the vaulted space is lit by a series of custom-designed metal and frosted glass pendant-hung fixtures above the main walkways that measure 8' long by 5' wide. Pairs of indirect fluorescent fixtures flank panels of frosted glass to provide indirect light for the ceiling above. Along the fixture's edges to beam upward are 32W T8 3500K fluorescent lamps that cast a soft glow on the activities below. "We wanted the fixtures to appear to float above the patterned white floor," says Diemer.
Recessed 35W PAR-20 metal-halide downlights accent the frosted glass panels and make them sparkle. Additional recessed 70W and 100W PAR-38 Philips MasterColor metal-halide lamps provide ambient illumination for the concourses.
In the Food Court, the circular central decorative fixture echoes the contours of the dome that frames a pyramid-shaped skylight. Resembling a flower, pink and green neon delineates the shapes of petals.
The various planes in the food court's architecture are accented by white neon in concealed coves above the stepped circular ceiling bands around the edge of the center skylight. The stepped ceiling planes have recessed metal-halide downlights for functional light within the space. A track with fixtures fitted with 100W PAR-38 metal-halide floods adds downlight and accent lighting for tables and plantings beneath the skylight.
Around the edge of the food court's dining area there are conical pendant uplights that resemble a residential dining room chandelier. "They define the space and make it feel more comfortable," Diemer says. A soft ambient light is the result of utilizing 24W and 36W compact fluorescent lamps and etched opal acrylic diffusers. TLP matched the style and materials of the pendants with decorative column-mounted fluorescent sconces.
At the perimeter of the space above the food court vendors are decorative graphic panels showing a grass pattern against a blue background. To highlight the frieze and draw visitors to the vendors' stations, the cove below beams light upward with 32W 3500K two-lamp fluorescents.
Diemer accomplished aiming the fixtures and checking other final installation details over a two-night period. Richmond Town Square's refurbished public spaces opened in late 1999; the food court opened in the spring of 2000.
With its debut project for Simon Property Group successfully completed, TLP was retained by this developer for the renovation of Northeast Mall in Hurst, TX, and the Town Center at Boca Raton, FL. TLP is currently creating the lighting for Simon's proposed Penn's Landing retail/entertainment project in Philadelphia on the Delaware River.