Architect Frank Gehry shines with his designs for the Experience Music Project (EMP), which opened in July to a rolling drum beat in Seattle. The brainchild of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and his sister Jody Allen, this $240 million, 140,000-sq.-ft. (12,600 sq. m) interactive museum is dedicated to both rock music and technology. Designed as a sculpture, the walls curve up to the roof, and every metallic surface glows in colors used by manufacturers of electric guitars: red, purple, powder blue, silver, and gold.
San Francisco-based Willie Williams (LD for U2 and REM), designed Sky Church, a venue named after a song by Jimi Hendrix (a Seattle native and one of Mr. Allen's favorites). Bill Ellis of Candela Controls in Orlando, FL, supervised the installation and integration of the lighting systems. "Sky Church is the focal point of the museum," says Ellis. "This is a space where people can come together and listen to music."
The lighting rig for this 100'x50' (30x15m) space includes eight High End Systems Cyberlight[R] Turbo units with high-output lamps, 44 High End Systems Studio Spot[R] automated luminaires with CYM color-mixing, six High End Systems Color Pros[R] with HXI iris, 60 James Thomas PAR-64s, 18 ETC 26 Source Fours (no scrollers, just patterns), and 15 Lighting & Electronics striplights to uplight a 40'x70' (12x21m) video wall that has a perforated metal scrim that Ellis describes as "thin chain mail" fabric.
The fixtures are permanently hung on the walls and fence posts around the top of the video wall. A temporary stage for live performances uses a series of aluminum benches by Tomcat which segues into a stage by removing the seat pads. "Six towers in the room give it a Gothic cathedral look," says Ellis. These towers are made of truss 30' (9m) tall and curve out at the top at a height of 60' (18m) where a battery of Source Fours, PAR cans, and Studio Spots are mounted.
Control for Sky Church is by an MA Lighting GrandMA console, with three ETC Sensor dimmer racks and two Square D motorized breaker panels to power the moving lights. These work in combination with Gray Interfaces' Pathfinder MR unit for DMX distribution throughout the room. An ETC Unison system controls the breaker panels, work lights, and utility lights.
A secondary system incorporates 18 FineLite projectors from Angstrom in California that project a frieze onto 18 screens suspended from the ceiling atop a catwalk grid. "There are over 180 images of musicians, from jazz to rock to blues to R&B, soul, and country," notes Ellis. "They scroll and are DMX-driven via an ETC Express LPC." Once an hour there is a sound-and-light show, with ambient sound and light at all times.
In Artists Journey, a motion-based platform ride, Ellis worked with Dawn Hollingsworth and Jeff Ravitz of Moody Ravitz Hollingsworth in Los Angeles. The concept of the ride, which is called "Funk Blast," is to transport the audience to different musical eras. "This show is about funk music, with pre-show interviews with James Brown's first band," notes Ellis. The first act is a video presentation filmed backstage at a funk concert. Twelve Martin MiniMAC wash fixtures and four High End Systems Technobeams[TM] provide motion and animation in the room, and are controlled by a Strand 510i console, ETC Sensor dimmers, and two Square D power panels with Gray Interface DMX units. "The lighting reinforces the video and the music," says Ellis.
The motion ride features a New York City street party with a young James Brown and his band. Smaller-scale lighting instruments were used to avoid washing out the 70mm film projection, with a rig including 14 Martin MiniMAC 150 floods, two Clay Paky mini Golden Scan 300 HTIs, two Clay Paky mini Golden Scan 150 HTIs, and one High End Technobeam, four High End Dataflash[R] AF-1000 strobes, 14 ETC 26 Source Fours, 30 ETC Source Four PARs, and 10 Borealis FL750 LED fixtures from Avolites, with a Strand 510i console for control. "The LED fixtures provide an additional source of light on the audience," notes Ellis, who likes the rich, saturated colors, and sturdy build of these powerful units with self-contained DMX control. "We liked their durability."
An ETC Unison processor runs the lobby lighting for this attraction. The lobby has a glass ceiling and the Seattle monorail is visible above, as the building is in two sections and runs under the tracks.
Candela Controls was hired by Soundelux Showorks in Orlando to work on Sky Church, and hired directly by Lester Creative for Artists Journey. Exterior site lighting was designed by Seattle-based Sparling and its architectural design arm Candela (no relation to Candela Controls) who came onto the project in its early days to help create the "energy" of the project. They report that the power needed for this facility is 7,000A at 480V, three-phase, or enough electricity to power 800 homes.
The San Francisco office of Lightswitch designed the architectural lighting for Gehry's interiors and the glass roof sculpture on the exterior, with principal designer Norm Schwab and senior designers Tim Becker and Kelly Roberson heading up the team. Lobby areas, the Liquid Cafe, the Liquid Lounge, and retail areas were lit by Lightswitch.
"We used a hybrid of theatrical and architectural sources," says Becker, who mixed Source Fours with metal-halide lamps, compact fluorescents, and MR-16s. In the main lobby, Bega exterior floods were used as interior fixtures atop a utility space 10' high so they are hidden from view and create a nice, ambient light. "We couldn't put anything on the ceiling," says Becker. "The lobby ceiling has ribs like the inside of a whale and a large chrome sculpture. To light this we lit the things around it."
A series of glass billboards with graphic collages on scrims are suspended from the lobby walls (pictured) with chrome supports lit by Source Fours. "The billboards in the lobby are frontlit with L&E Mini-Strips during open hours," explains Becker. "As with a scrim, this makes the graphics appear semi-solid. During special events the frontlight fades and the billboards virtually disappear."
A glass sculpture sits on the metal exterior of the roof and cascades down the side of the building. "It looks like a broken roller coaster made of guitar frets, or a series of glass shingles," says Becker. The sculpture is lit with Hydrel outdoor fixtures with 1,000W metal-halide lamps. "It glows at night and really pops off the building," says Becker. "Though there is no automated lighting in our areas, as requested by the architect, we have used control to reveal the architecture in different ways, changing the mood and feel of the space during different uses and times of day. If the building were an electric guitar, we wanted to be the amplifier, or at least its pickups."