In October 1997, Lighting Dimensions examined the innovative specialty illumination created by Granada Hills, CA-based JK Design Group for the Ontario Mills mall in California ("Shoppers' paradise," page 102). Jay Winters and Edward Kaye, Group partners and LDs, have worked with The Mills Corporation and its in-house design department since 1995, and recently took LD on a trip through its two latest "shoppertainment" projects for the company, Concord Mills in North Carolina, and Katy Mills in Texas.
Both opened last fall, with some of the latest lighting techniques decorating their themed spaces; a product JK needed to create for a specific task is also in use. Low cost and maintenance, plus energy efficiency and long lamp life, were primary considerations. "Flexibility is our middle name," says Kaye, as the company has continued to work with The Mills Corporation on projects in Arizona, Texas, and California.
"Green design" was a key consideration at Katy. JK specified Altman Architectural Products' (AAP) Outdoor Par CDMs, fitted with long-life (9,000-hour minimum), low-wattage Philips MasterColor lamps, to help. "With additional strides in color temperature and rendering, the whole MasterColor line in every envelope is a breakthrough," says Kaye. "That's what drew us to AAP [distributed by Long Beach, CA-based Katie Group]; its fixtures, flexibly configured for color filtering, use those as a lamp source. We do hope their cost comes down as more reach the market." Each of the three entryways to Katy's entertainment area has a different color signature, to promote way-finding. "We have dichroic filters, Rosco 67 Light Sky Blue, in the AAP units here. We mounted them to custom-fabricated poles. Scheduling determined that the poles and the fixtures would be powder-coated in separate cities, not our preferred approach, but it came out cleanly."
Funhouse fixturing--a drop in budgets inspired JK to be creative in generating theatrical looks. "At Mills, we've been brought in to design themed show lighting with dimming and color-changing equipment, but that was not the case at Katy," says Winters. "So we used our long-life, low-maintenance Philips metal-halides again; this time, CDM PAR-38s in Indy Lighting downlights, and CDM 150Ws in Colortran Arc Mini Ellipses. They provide color pools throughout the area, which has a game theme, with pick-up sticks, checkers pieces, and puzzleboard elements. It's a moderate color saturation level that guests can feel comfortable walking through. Overhead, we provided the animation--rhythmic zings of neon, on individual random flashing circuits, that can be adjusted manually but basically represent a one-time set-and-forget installation. Concord Mills had a different budget structure that allowed for more dynamic control and show sequencing--the kind of energetic lighting that inspires kids to interact with the colored pools of light as they appear and disappear on the floor--but this still approaches that effect at a much lower cost."
The Ocean Courtyard at Katy Mills ripples with waves, a combination of the base building lighting and water effects generated by the Angstrom FineLite Projection system. "Each of Katy's four courtyards has a different illumination texture," says Winters. "Here, the skylights in the center of the courtyard have been tinted blue, which you don't get anywhere else in the mall. The blue tint, coupled with the rippling waves effect on the ceiling, and on the gateway and side walls of the area, rounds out a distinctive look. And the Angstrom unit could punch through the base building metal-halide illumination, which has a high ambient light level." Kaye adds, "You don't want a huge environment like a Mills mall to look like visual mush. You want customers to know where they're at instantly, once they get to a specific area." While JK has used Martin Professional and ETC Irideon gear on other Mills projects, moving light effects "require too much TLC according to some our clients," Winters says. The short lamp lives and high maintenance requirements of the equipment demand a level of maintenance not usually found in a typical mall or retail environment.
In contrast to its water treatment, JK also lit six oasis areas at Katy, "which relax the look of the overall box-like environment," says Kaye. "Katy is more whimsical than Concord and in some areas a little cartoony, so you can use hard-edged patterns more easily. There are several tree types in the mall, and we mimicked the leaf texture of each type on the floor with the gobos in the Colortran Arc Mini Ellipses, and some of the accent lights shine into the trees themselves and cast shadows. Use of the Arc Mini's shutters allowed us to highlight the anchor tenant directional signs in a way that minimizes glare and light spill." A total of 250 Arc Minis, in 70W and 150W versions, are deployed throughout the mall, and represent the largest single order of that fixture. "Their service was above and beyond," says Winters. "I think Colortran is on its way up again." (NSI and Colortran are now part of Leviton.)
Given its proximity to NASCAR racing, Concord Mills has a like-themed courtyard. An elaborate light show was planned, but when the gas leaked out of the budget "we were challenged to come up with a more static representation of racing," Winters says. To simulate a sunlit sky on racing day above the themed elements, the two used fluorescent cove lighting and the base building's metal-halide downlights, plus a series of standard fluorescent striplights mounted on each of the roof joists aimed at the light blue ceiling. "We studied this design using Lumen Micro to provide a seamless wash on the ceiling. Because the roof joists were placed so close together, the fluorescent scheme blended instantly without any gaps in between. We did not want to use skylights; we wanted to make our own sky, so that even at night you get a daytime feel. The theming is reinforced by audio--engines revving, crowd noises, and other sounds. There is a level of detail here that other malls can't match, and the graphics designers have been presented with a prestigious design award for their work at Concord."
For Concord Mills, JK Design Group and Matthews Studio Equipment (MSE) of Burbank, CA, teamed up to create the JK Clamp, a device that went on to nab an honorable mention in the rigging and hardware product of the year category at LDI99. The clamp assists in lighting the stage area of the food court, which has a curved ceiling; it allows fixtures and equipment to be hung vertically on non-horizontal structures. "If your mounting orientation is inconsistent from fixture to fixture, you have a tough time aligning shutters and lighting areas consistently, and having fixtures hung at an angle on a C-clamp mounted on a curved pipe looks odd if you're sitting underneath it trying to eat," Kaye says. "We talked to MSE about repackaging one of its clamp products, and giving it more of a theatrical slant by putting a C-clamp at one end and milling a shaft on the other that could accept the standard 1/2" bolt that normally supports theatrical fixtures." Winters adds, "We wound up using 30 of them, and may use them again for a new stage design at the Hollywood Bowl. The JK Clamp is now part of MSE's standard lineup, and it's a nice novelty to have our name on it."
"We keep an eye out for new technologies," says Winters. One that captured JK's eye was the Borealis, the color-changing LED fixture distributed by Avolites. "LED makes colors and printed media take on a fluorescence, and we've often demonstrated this to clients by training a small color-changing LED unit on the Aerosmith cover of the April 1998 issue of Lighting Dimensions; it seems to turn the beams in the picture on and off." At Concord Mills, 35 Borealis SL 1300s shine on Trivision graphics panels in the Entertainment area, creating multiple lighting looks augmented by dichroic color-changing from ETC Irideon 500 units, ETC Source Fours with filters circuited for color-changing, and a three-color neon system. "The Borealis provides animation and punctuation for the rest of the palette," Winters says. Kaye adds, "And again, they're low-maintenance, long-lasting, and have low energy consumption. We're still waiting for a strong, white LED light; as it stands it's more for shows and not really a replacement for a traditional white light. And we would like to see an exterior package. But what we most look forward to is watching the market evolve to pull LED and other emerging technologies into the variety of work that we do."