The glass facade and rotunda of the Goodman Theatre Center in Chicago's North Loop district now shimmers with bands of LED units from Color Kinetics, creating a colorful and playful light show. “The owner, Friedman Properties Ltd, really went out on a limb to do something special,” says Richard Locklin, a lighting designer in the Chicago office of Lightswitch, Inc. Locklin worked as associate designer on this project, collaborating with Lightswitch principal John Featherstone and programmer Brett Gardner.

Designed by DLK Architects, the three-story glass facade decorates an office building that is part of the new complex housing the Goodman Theatre. To find an interesting way to light the 96 glass panels of the facade, the Lightswitch team spent a year researching various techniques and doing mock-ups with a range of different fixtures. “We decided to go with Color Kinetics for the impact of the changing colors,” explains Locklin.

Each panel has two Color Kinetics ColorBlast fixtures on the inside of the glass to light a rolldown screen that remains in place. The screen lets diffused sunlight come into the offices during the day, while serving as a canvas for six rows of color-changing LED fixtures at night as they create patterns and waves of color on the facade. “The fixtures are installed at each mullion line of the glass facade,” notes Locklin, who points out that the low-wattage, low-voltage, long-life quality of the LEDs was also a selling point. “We didn't want heat buildup or condensation between the glass and the screen,” he adds.

Extra sparkle on the building comes from a total of 240 Color Kinetics iColor fixtures running a full 360° in two rows behind glass bands that encircle the rotunda. All of the fixtures were supplied by Topshelf Distributors in Chicago, and are controlled via High End Systems Hog PC on a Dell desktop computer. The lighting cues are triggered via SMPTE time code generated by a time clock tied to the synchronized audio portion of the show. “We can do programming on a laptop or a Wholehog console, and download the programs to the Hog PC,” says Locklin, who explains that they often create different looks, such as a Christmas tree for the holidays or Chicago-specific images for special occasions. The control system and interface was supplied by Dave Daugherty of Barbizon Chicago.

“I really enjoyed the growth process we went through to develop this lighting solution and bring it to reality,” he notes. “The end result is something whimsical for the building, yet it had to be tasteful.” Seen from blocks away, the colorful facade and rotunda are now a must-see on architectural tours of the city and fit nicely into a neighborhood already adorned with a large Picasso sculpture. This is one show in Chicago's theatre district that won't be closing anytime soon.