A 40-year beacon of cultural celebration in downtown Milwaukee, the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts has transformed its classic exterior to reflect the dynamic and diverse programming that it houses. Made possible by cutting-edge LED lighting technology, the building's exterior now shines in endless color combinations and kinetic effects that reinvigorate its presence among Milwaukee's pre-eminent venues. The lighting installation was unveiled to the public last week.

"It has long been our mission to provide a world-class entertainment experience in a state-of-the-art facility of the highest quality. This promise extends to the exterior face of our building, which required new life to reflect our present-day identity," says Paul Mathews, the Center's president. "Not only have we been given a new face, but one that can be aesthetically tuned through color and light to coincide with performances, holidays, and other special occasions."

With funding led by the Milwaukee-based Argosy Foundation, the installation perfectly exemplifies the transformative essence of intelligent LED lighting, which provides a means to reinvigorate existing buildings without expensive architectural overhaul.

Adds Mathews, "The new lighting treatment allows us to maintain the integrity of the building, while giving us a flexible way to change its appearance and even manifest the spirit of our programming."

The newly-illuminated landmark, already an icon of the local performing arts community, is sure to become an icon of the city itself.

Conceptualized by Paul Gregory of Focus Lighting, Inc., the lighting scheme is intended to mimic the beauty found in nature, incorporating the colors of famed local artist Georgia O'Keefe's work. Approximately 900 LED-based lighting fixtures manufactured by Color Kinetics (now Philips Solid-State Lighting Solutions) illuminate all sides of the building, which occupies its own block and is therefore prominently visible. Each fixture can be digitally programmed to produce millions of colors and color-changing effects without the cumbersome use of gels, filters and mechanical color scrollers. As such, Gregory and team were able to design a series of "light paintings" that bathe the building in softly blended color combinations at various kinetic speeds.

"Light plays a large role in creating not only a better lit environment, but also aesthetically pleasing spaces which enhance the quality of our lives," explains Gregory. "We accounted for the strengths of the building and the architect's original vision to create a work of 'light art' that mirrors the creativity of the performing arts."

The combination of digital control technology with LED sources has enabled completely new uses of light that can visually alter an entire building with the simple push of a button. At the same time, the inherently durable, long-lasting and low-energy nature of LED sources allows facility owners to keep maintenance and energy consumption to a minimum for truly sustainable design.

In addition to the Marcus Center, a number of prominent entertainment venues around the world today shine with Philips' LED lighting systems, including the Hollywood Bowl and Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, Chicago's Goodman Theatre, Stockholm's Globen arena, and Palacio de las Artes Reina Sofia in Valencia, Spain.