There's no other building quite like the dynamic new home for the Hayden Planetarium. It's a circle-in-a-square, a shimmering sphere in a glass box, glowing softly at night to announce its presence on a darkened city street. Designed by James Stewart Polshek of Polshek Partnership Architects, the planetarium is the central focus of the $210 million Frederick Phineas and Sandra Priest Rose Center for Earth and Space, a 333,500-sq.-ft. (30,015 sq. m) exhibition and research facility that opened in February 2000 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. It was immediately acclaimed a major architectural milestone.
"This is the most fabulous modern building in New York City. I better not miss my chance," says Charles Stone, principal designer and partner at Fisher Marantz Stone, a New York City-based architectural lighting firm which designed the architectural lighting as well as event and exhibit lighting packages for this important addition to the museum. The biggest challenge for Stone was lighting the 87' (26m) reflective aluminum-clad sphere which looks like the earth floating within the 95'-high (29m) glass cube that encases it.
"We wanted to make it seem cosmic and spectacular," says Stone, who opted for 4' blue fluorescent fixtures "right out of the box" to light the large white structure at night (during the day natural light streams in through the glass). "The whole thing could be turned into a projection screen," he notes, admitting that he toyed with the idea of automated fixtures to add movement to the light. Instead, he went for a cleaner, purer design that complements the architecture. "We came up with nine or 10 different lighting solutions, but kept coming back to how to light the sphere. I knew a soft light was the answer," he says, referring to the use of fluorescent lamps. "And the 20,000-hour lamp life works in this kind of maintenance environment."
An environmental impact study was done, and the mandate was not to increase the light levels that existed at the former planetarium building. "I wanted it to be appealing and interesting, yet not overbearing," says Stone, who went into an apartment across the street from the new building. Here, he took photographs and luminescence readings to help make prototypical layouts for lighting solutions.
"The color of 'the ether' is blue," Stone adds. "I had this romantic notion that blue would not be intrusive at night, but rather has a magical quality that fits into the night sky. It is still possible to add a moving light show at some time in the future if it fits within the context of the neighborhood. From the beginning we imagined a rolling crossfade from Central Park West to Columbus Avenue. Wouldn't it be fun to see the sphere spinning?" asks Stone. "This is a simple solution with no moving parts, and nothing to break in our all-night lighting scheme."
The blue fluorescents that illuminate the sphere are housed in custom white fixtures with louvered fronts made for the project by Forum Lighting of Pittsburgh, PA, and installed by E-J Electric Installation of Long Island City, NY. These run around the inner perimeters (at the top and on the second floor overlook) of the building. "The ones at the top light the sphere from the Arctic Circle to the equator and the lower ones from the Tropic of Capricorn to the equator," says Stone, who worked with a scale model at the architect's office.
ETC Source Four ellipsoidals (5-degree, 10-degree, and 19-degree) are hung from a catwalk 90' above the floor to provide light for the hanging models. The 19-degree Source Fours also provide light for a second-floor walkway. Control is via a Lutron 6000 architectural dimming system which also controls other architectural lighting in the building. "Various presets change the mood in the entire space for events at night," says Larry Kochman, lighting systems project manager for E-J Electric Installation. "The general illumination during the day highlights the different exhibits. Come evening, the mood changes as the sphere is bathed in blue and the orbs are glowing."
Stone, whose firm worked on this project for over five years, also designed an unusual events lighting package for the exhibit area below the sphere. "This is the first major public building design which allows theatrical lighting to come in off the truck and hang without running any cable," he explains, pointing out that there is a distributed dimming system as well as hanging points for truss at key points in the space. This system was installed by Barbizon Lighting in New York City.
Barbizon's role on this project was to provide systems integration, equipment, project management, and technical recommendations for four different systems, working directly for E-J Electric Installation. They began work on the project in October 1998, providing technical recommendations for the installation of the equipment along with project management and on-site field supervision for the event lighting package, the pre-show dimming, the Sky Theater dimming, and the Hall of the Universe exhibit dimming.
"The events lighting package specified by Fisher Marantz Stone was provided for parties and special events where rented equipment would be tied into the system for DMX and power distribution," says John Gebbie, Barbizon's project manager. This system includes 47 distributed DMX outputs and 12 inputs routed through a Gray Interfaces DMX Pathfinder LR.
Barbizon also provided 20 Rosco/Entertainment Technology IPS 1206 portable dimmer boxes. These can be hung at any of the lighting positions and run through the distributed DMX system for control. ETC custom faceplates were provided with DMX inputs and outputs, as well as receptacles for single-phase and three-phase power for dimmer packs and moving lights (208V power for the moving lights and 110V for the conventional fixtures).
The faceplates are strategically placed beneath the Cosmic Pathway that leads down from the entry to the planetarium and at different points throughout the exhibit area. All of this was installed by E-J Electric, as well as LSI custom-painted track heads with AR-111 and PAR-38 lamps hung under the cosmic walkway to help light the exhibits, which were designed by New York City-based Ralph Appelbaum Associates.
Inside the upper half of the sphere is the Hayden Planetarium's 429-seat state-of-the-art Space Theater. The New York and San Francisco offices of Auerbach + Associates (theatre and media facilities design) and Auerbach + Glasow (lighting design) worked with the architects on the sight lines, the in-the-round seating configuration, and initial lighting package for the theatre.
One of their largest challenges was converting the flat floor in the center of the theatre into a central projection platform that lifts the planetarium's one-of-a-kind Zeiss Mark IX Star Projector, as well as slide projection and laser systems. "The museum would like to use the venue for other events," explains S. Leonard Auerbach, principal-in-charge for Auerbach + Associates. "They wanted a flat floor for a string quartet, a lecture, or theatre in-the-round."
The lift was manufactured by J.R. Clancy in Syracuse, NY, and is housed in a very shallow space between the Space Theater and the Big Bang theatre which is located in the lower half of the sphere. The projection and special effects system on the lift required power, water and air cooling, copper and fiber-optic signal, and control cables, as well as plumbing for liquid nitrogen fog effects.
The fog system is a liquid nitrogen Dry Fogger Mammoth by Interesting Products and was installed by New Jersey-based Production Arts/PRG. The Omniscan laser system that accents different portions of the show by pointing out various astrological phenomena was manufactured by AVI (Audio Visual Imagineering) in Orlando, FL (see "Star trek," page 57). This system can create one image that covers the entire dome, 180 degrees by 360 degrees in full color, and is expected to be used more fully in future shows in the Sky Theater.
The initial lighting system in the dome was specified by Larry French of Auerbach, supplied by Barbizon, and installed by E-J Electric. This includes a row of 58 Lighting & Electronics striplights with R40 lamps fitted with red, green, and blue glass filters. These run above the last row of seats at the base of a technical gallery that also holds projection equipment for the show. The theatre lighting system also includes ETC Sensor dimmers and an ETC Express console along with a DMX distribution system for special events, an ETC Emergency Lighting Transfer System, and ETC Contact Closure interface with life safety and A/V systems. Industrial jelly jar fixtures with R20 halogen PAR lamps are also placed behind the last row of seats to indicate the perimeter of the room.
"The Space Theater was a unique installation in that the structure was a sphere," notes Gebbie. "Conduit was bent to match the curvature of the sphere and routed across an access bridge tied into the main building. Load wiring and control wiring was run in these conduits that go back to an equipment room where the dimmer rack and equipment rack are located."
Narrated by Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks and produced by New York multimedia experts Batwin + Robin, the first show in the Space Theater is Passport to the Universe, where fiber-optics and video images provide audiences with the world's most realistic trip through outer space. The show was written by Anne Druyan (a longtime associate of Carl Sagan) and museum astrophysicist Steven Soter, with music composed by Stephen Endelman.
The computer-controlled Zeiss projector uses fiber optics to produce a high-intensity white light that twinkles just like the real night sky. It is capable of projecting 9,100 stars, some of which are so far away that they cannot be seen by the naked eye; star buffs bring binoculars to the show to enhance their experience.
In addition, a digital galaxy is projected using the Digital Dome System which stores information on a Silicon Graphics Onyx2 Infinite Reality super-computer, housed in a room of its own. This generates a three-dimensional map of the galaxy that is extremely realistic. The digital computer images are sent via seven fiber-optic channels to seven high-definition SEOS-Prodas video projectors (modified Barco 812 projectors); five cover the sides of the dome and the other two cover the top.
Lighting designer Ted Mather was brought in by Batwin + Robin to create show-specific lighting effects. He upgraded the ETC console to an Express 250 (a software upgrade), in order to run a series of nine High End Systems Technobeams(TM) that sit horizontally along the technical gallery at the base of the dome. These are used to light the Zeiss projector as it rises into the theatre, with medium blue and light blue dichroic filters to add color. These fixtures can also be used as followspots if needed, or for special patterns such as stars that fall onto the audience (this effect was in the show at one point).
Forty Altman Mini-10 floodlights are hung between the shell of the sphere and the perforated off-white metal inner-projection surface of the dome, which acts as a scrim. The floods serve as work lights, or can be used for events that might want to light the projection surface from above (which reveals the back of the dome and creates quite a nice look). There are also four 10" Altman UV fixtures with dousers used for a blacklight effect at the end of the show.
"The biggest challenge for me was that the dome was already installed when we added the lighting," Mather explains. "We had to be really careful not to drop anything. We were brought in at the very last minute, so time was a real factor. And we had to bring in 48 additional dimmers after the space was built, and drill through the floor to get power from the basement to the technical gallery." The extra 48 ETC Sensor portable dimmers are placed around the technical gallery for the Altman floods primarily, and provide power for the Technobeams and blacklights. The original rack of 96 dimmers runs the striplights and house lights, aisle lights, and exit signs which dim to black during the show. The software upgrade for the ETC console and the extra dimmers were provided by Production Arts.
The show lighting, the Zeiss projector, the lasers, the platform lift, the fog, the slide projectors, and the audio system are run by a Dataton Trax Smartpax show control system. The Dataton system sends MIDI signals to the Express console to run the show lighting, while Silicon Conductor serves as the interface between the Silicon Graphics computer and the Dataton system. Benjy Bernhardt serves as project manager for show control at the museum.
Prior to entering the Space Theater, visitors pass through a pre-show area, where the lighting was also designed by Auerbach's office, with systems integration by Barbizon. Control here is provided by an ETC Sensor R24 dimming system and an ETC Unison Architectural Control System. A Contact Closure Interface was provided for interfacing with A/V and life safety systems, and ETC Alternate Source Transfer Switches for a cost-effective means of switching normal power to emergency power.
"There was a tremendous amount of coordination between all the trades and the design teams for this project. It was up to us to interface so there would be a smooth construction process as far as the lighting systems were concerned," says Jonathan Resnick, president of Barbizon Lighting. "For us, the reason a project like this is so important is that this style of lighting is what we have been doing for so many years in the entertainment industry. This has now been extended to the world of architecture and can provide flexible yet powerful systems to create dramatic environments."
Architects Polshek Partnership Architects James Stewart Polshek, Todd H. Schliemann, design prinicpals
Architectural and Events Lighting Fisher Marantz Stone Charles G. Stone II, design principal; Hank Forest, senior associate; Matt Toomajian, Randy Fisher, Tara Christy, Alicia Kapheim, designers
Space Theater/Pre-Show Consultants Auerbach + Associates S. Leonard Auerbach, principal theatrical designer; Steven Friedlander, principal-in-charge, New York; Grace Gavin, project manager (pre-show); Daniel Mei, lift and fog system coordination
Lighting consultants Auerbach + Glasow Larry French, principal designer Susan Porter, project manager
Systems Integrator and Primary Lighting Equipment Supplier Barbizon Lighting Company Jonathan Resnick, president; John Gebbie, project manager; Jeff Siegel, systems integrator
Electrical Contractor E.J. Electric Installation Co. Mitchell Olshewitz, project manager; Larry Kochman, project manager
Selected Equipment List Space Theater ETC Sensor SR48 dimmer rack with 96 15A and 20A dimmer modules ETC Sensor portable 12-dimmer packs ETC Express 250 control console ETC Unison Architectural Control System ETC Emergency Lighting Transfer System ETC Contact Closure Interface ETC Power Distribution ETC custom plug-in stations and DMX patch panel Gray Interfaces Bi-directional Opto-Splitters Mystery Box floor boxes with custom DMX and three-phase power faceplates GAM Products Star Strobes High End Systems Technobeams Altman Mini-10 floodlights Altman 10" UV fixtures with dousers Lighting & Electronics striplights with glass filters
Pre-Show Area ETC Sensor SR24 dimmer rack with 15A standard and fluorescent dimmer modules ETC Unison Architectural Control System ETC Unison Preset Station ETC Unison Key Switch Station ETC Unison PC Interface Stations ETC Alternate Source Transfer System ETC Contact Closure Interface ETC Unison Light Manager Software
Events Lighting System Gray Interfaces DMX Pathfinder LR with DMX QConnect software ETC custom plug-in stations with DMX inputs and outputs, single-phase and three-phase receptacles Rosco IPS 1206 portable dimmer boxes ETC 5-degree, 10-degree, and 19-degree Source Fours and accessories Union Connector outlet boxes
Architectural manufacturers Lutron dimming system LSI track and track fixtures Edison Price downlights Forum Lighting Elliptipar (donor wall lighting)
The lower half of the earth sphere at the Rose Center houses the Big Bang, where Oscar-winning actress Jodie Foster narrates a 90-second laser show about the creation of the universe according to the Big Bang theory. An Omniscan laser system creates this explosive beginning of the universe.
Omniscan lasers seem to be the system of choice for science centers these days, with installations at Science City, Kansas City, MO, the Chabot Observatory in Oakland, CA, L'Hemispheric in Valencia, Spain, National Science Centre in Leicester, England, Louisiana Arts and Science Center in Baton Rouge, LA, Toyokawa City Library in Toyokawa, Japan, Redlin Arts Center in Watertown, SD, Coca Cola Space and Science Center in Columbus, GA, Zeiss Planetarium in Jena, Germany, and Minolta Planetarium Co. in Toyohashi, Japan, all in the works.
AVI collaborated with MY Designs, an Orlando, FL-based company that provided the show control for the laser, lighting, and audio systems. "Since construction of the theatre space was well underway long before work began on the actual show content, all equipment selected had to allow for maximum flexibility pending the final show requirements, while allowing the construction crews to install conduit and other support systems that would be difficult, if not impossible, to access or modify after construction," says Joanne Young, managing director for AVI.
The show in the Big Bang is viewed through a large hole in the center of the floor of the theatre. Guests gather around a glass handrail and look into the "bowl" to see a laser simulation of the origin of the universe projected onto the darkened surface.
"The floor of the Space Theater is roughly at the sphere's centerline," explains Young. "The remainder of the sphere is shared between the Big Bang and an electrical crawl space. A pit for the Zeiss projector and two Spectra-Physics lasers used for the two Omniscans passes through the crawl space and invades the Big Bang. This is the reason for the large shroud in the center of the Big Bang's ceiling; it decoratively conceals the projector pit. The projection head of the Omniscan is centered at the bottom of the projector pit to project onto the bowl below."
Limited access to the equipment located directly above the bowl required the use of 12 large sliding drawers to house lighting fixtures, with one ETC Irideon AR6S architectural moving light fixture in each drawer. Ribs around the interior perimeter wall provide additional mounting locations for additional Irideon AR6s and emergency lights.
Thirty-six Martin Robocolor Pro 400 fixtures are positioned evenly around the outer ceiling to illuminate the interior wall of the sphere with deep saturated colors. "These provide the illumination required for loading and unloading guests, as well as setting the visual mood during the show," says Young.
The primary show controller is an Alcorn McBride V4+ with SMPTE time code used to synchronize the lighting and laser. In addition to the SMPTE link, the V4+ is connected via RS422 and MIDI to the user interface controller, an LED reader board sign, the audio playback equipment, and the lighting computer.
An AMX 10.5" color Touch Panel provides the user interface, and is powered by an Axcess Card frame. MY Designs developed customized screens that allow full control of all the show's electronic equipment. An ETC Expression 3 LPC, with a pair of DMX512 interpreters, controls the lighting.
MY Designs also installed and programmed the LED sign that runs around the inner edge of the bowl. A Sunrise Systems EXL-3000 displays scientific data in a method that guests can quickly comprehend. Installation was very easy; tabs were clipped to the back of the unit and the sign was bent into place.