In 1959, local architect Donald Grieb won a design competition for the building of a new horticultural conservatory as one of six parks created by the first Milwaukee Park Commission. His design, three beehive-shaped glass domes 26 m (85 ft) tall, are the world's first conoidal dome structures. Each of the domes is a differently themed climate-controlled greenhouse: the Tropical Dome houses over 1,200 species of tropical fauna, the Desert Dome features unique plants from the arid regions of the world, and the Show Dome hosts a seasonal change of themed floral displays. Opened in stages from 1964 through 1967, the Mitchell Park Domes underwent a renovation in 2008, which included a new lobby and the installation of a dynamic LED lighting system that has completely changed the look and feel of the greenhouses.
Lighting designer Marty Peck of Creative Lighting Design & Engineering employed a combination of Color Kinetics LED luminaires for the installation. Chosen for their low power consumption and energy efficiency, the LED luminaires help the conservatory stay true to its spirit of conservation while giving it a dynamic new look.
ColorGraze Powercore luminaires subtly light the upside-down U-shaped windows of the Mitchell Park Domes lobby building, while iColor Flex SLX nodes (now specified with Flex Compact gen3, RGB) fill the lobby skylights with saturated color at night. ColorCast 14 LED luminaires (now specified with ColorGraze IntelliHue Powercore
) line the entrances of the Dome to emphasize the arched entryways, while ColorGraze Powercore luminaires crown each dome to create a brilliant RGB halo. While conventional lighting is used for the Tropical and Desert Dome, ColorBlast Powercore LED luminaires uplight the Show Dome, washing the concrete frame and aluminum and glass skin with saturated reds, violets, greens, and blues. iColor MR gen2 lamps, installed at each window mullion intersection, highlight the geodesic structure.
The new lighting has made the Mitchell Park Domes a popular attraction, quadrupling attendance from previous years and garnering it the National Gold Medal Award for Parks. The Domes are popular for events after public hours, too. The LED lights, controlled by a Pharos controller, can create any atmosphere at the touch of a button, allowing the Domes to host elegant weddings, vibrant proms, and casual corporate events. In the Show Dome, event-goers can enjoy one of five pre-programmed light shows set to music, including The Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" and Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, or they can create their own custom light shows to complement their events.