Chicago’s Merchandise Mart

Chicago Merchandise Mart Thumbnail

June 23, 2020

Turning Chicago’s Merchandise Mart (the Mart) into the most extensive permanent projection system in the world was a significant feat, and the opening attracted over 30,000 people and garnered national media attention. The Mart’s two-and-a-half-acre façade features two-hour projection shows known as “Art on theMART,” 5 nights a week, 10 months of the year, for the next 30 years.

During parts of the two-hour show, and during the other 22 hours each day, lighting designers Gwen Grossman Lighting Design chose Lumenpulse Lumenfacade and Lumenbeam luminaires to illuminate the crown of the Mart. The grazed and glowing crown of the Mart uses Lumenfacade Stand Alone and Lumenbeam Grande fixtures to not only draw attention to the historic building outside of the new projection mapping on the facade below, but to also lend a supporting role during the show by providing ambiance and dynamic colour changes to coincide with the main dynamic feature.

In support of the projections below, an SMPTE timecode became a critical need for the crown lighting. The addition of a remote input module allowed the synchronization of the Lumenpulse luminaires to Gwen Grossman Lighting Design’s architectural lighting cues and timelines. The projection team can also take complete control of the architectural lighting whenever need.

The dependable longevity of the Lumenpulse fixtures (L70 at 280,000 hours) was one of the additional benefits that made them perfect for this duty. Thousands of the control agnostic, spec-grade linear Lumenfacade and Lumenbeam luminaires are being used in similar highly exposed environments, such as public squares, façades, and tall buildings around the world, so their usage in the Windy City should be of no surprise. This longevity and extreme lifespan were essential to the overall design as the crown lighting is a constant, nightly occurrence while the projection show below is for limited timespans of up to two hours.

The highly responsive RGBW capabilities of both the Lumenfacade and Lumenbeam fixtures, as well as their controlled and precision optics, are also worth noting here. Keeping light where it needs to be and lessening light spill into the night sky lowers light pollution while also making sure that the lighting area targeted is fully lit and coloured to the design’s needs. Taking a foundation role on such a project is a testament to the robust ingenuity of the Lumenpulse Lumenfacade and Lumenbeam luminaires.

Equipment specified
• 390 x Lumenbeam Grande RGBW (flood and narrow flood)
• 119 x Lumenfacade Stand Alone RGBW (8° x 8°)

Project details
• Project type: Arts + Culture, Urban
• Location: Chicago, Illinois, MI
• Client: Vornado Realty Trust
• Lighting design: Gwen Grossman Lighting Design
• Architect: Valerio Dewalt Train Associates
• Commissioning and programming: Protolight
• Lighting design and artist: Obscura Digital
• Photographer: Bob Grosse, Barry Butler

This article was first published online HERE.

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