LED Lighting Systems

Smith Campus Center, Pomona College

Claremont, California, USA

Photo Credits: Benny Chan, fotoworks

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How better to reinvigorate a dark and uninviting space than with dynamic color-changing light?

Philips’ LED lighting proved just that as part of a major renovation of Pomona College’s Smith Campus Center, intended to be a social hub for students. The Los Angeles office of SmithGroup orchestrated the entire interior overhaul, including the lighting, to acclaimed results.

The goal of boosting social interaction was key to the design, according to SmithGroup principal Mark McVay. This goal was party achieved through a unique application of LED illumination. “We wanted to create a dynamic, changing light wall to transform a windowless basement-level room into a nighttime social space for students to dance and enjoy music,” said McVay. “We’d found a translucent polypropylene material that was attractive by itself, but we wanted to go a step further and experiment with back lighting it. The result was stunning, it’s almost biomorphic in its transformation.”

The light wall measures 8’ high by 23’ long. It is comprised of panels measuring approximately 9" square, with a slight radius in a quarter-turned configuration that gives the effect of a woven surface. After several mock-ups and a variety of depths, McVay and team chose Philips’ iColor Cove® NXT fixture because of its compact size, light level and programmability. Each 12” linear fixture can be individually controlled to generate millions of colors without the cumbersome use of colored gels or filters. A total of 290 fixtures were installed behind the translucent wall for a smooth, diffused effect.

“We used LEDs in this application for their programmability, color range, low power consumption and ease of installation,” said McVay.

To bring the wall to life, the design team created five dynamic lighting sequences and one fixed color effect, while leaving two options open for students to self-program according to the desired musical effect. The dynamic programs include tiles with cross fades from the original color to red, vertically oriented tiles grouped in columns, and a program called "Drop in the bucket" – where a series of concentric circles moves from the center to the edges and across the field of tiles. The effects, authored by ColorPlay® software, showcase the highly controllable nature of LED lighting and its ability to completely transform and customize a space.

Project Credits

Neil Gerard
Smith Campus Center Director

Anne Quinley
Dean of Students

Rusty Doms
Board of Trustees Representative

James Hansen
Campus Architect

Tony Ichsan
Project Manager

Architectural Design:
Mark McVay

Lighting Design:
Jeff Gerwing, Chris Coulter

Electrical Engineering:
S&K Engineers

Hamilton Construction

Electrical Subcontractor:
Rancho Pacific Electric