Currently holding the largest ballroom in the state of Texas at 54,000 SF, the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in Downtown San Antonio is the epitome of imaginative lighting design. With fun design challenges of “stars at night” and “twinkling sky” effects, HLB’s Michael Lindsey gets candid as we discuss the importance of light in a substantial building and achieving that must-have glow.
What made this project or experience special to you and your team?
The project proved special due to the “stretching” that it required of the HLB staff. Early design concepts became a strong foundation for the design and something that everyone strived to meet. Along the way, the architectural team was instrumental in bringing all the systems together and HLB was challenged to deliver on many challenging concept, no more so then complex ceiling/programming installation within the “Stars at Night” ballroom. Without a doubt, it steals the show and is the result of multiple iterations, mock-ups, and hours from many individuals.
Describe a design challenge and how was it achieved.
The team was challenged with a design concept of Land, Air & Sky in the signature ballroom and how that could be communicated with lighting. Understanding that we wanted to reflect “Stars at Night”, the challenge became mounting, cost and programming. Through the design process, a custom LED fixture was created that mounts to an undulating architectural ceiling. To reduce cost and weight, the original spherical shape was “cut in half” as the team recognized it still provided the desired sparkle effect. In addition, fixtures were zoned in a randomized pattern so that final programming could create a show of subtle on/off motions similar to that of a “twinkling sky”.
Were aspects of the project culturally or historically significant?
Culturally the goal was to weave the project within the strong cultural fabric of San Antonio. Understanding that the project was to serve the community and likely ignite other change in the surrounding area, it was critical to approach it with the future in mind.
Were there budget constraints and how were they met?
Normal budget constraints were apparent on the project simply due to the design-build nature. HLB worked with the electrical contractor on alternate fixtures that met design goals but reduced overall cost.
Were there schedule constraints for design process or construction? If so, how was this addressed?
Normal constraints were recognized because of the design-build process but, as usual, communication was key in trying to stay ahead of them and provide the team with information as needed to keep to the schedule.
Were there controls, custom fixtures, or commissioning scope for HLB?
Controls were traditional narrative and zoning guidance. We did modify ceiling fixtures for the signature ballroom. Commissioning of the various scenes within the public spaces was also an important process for HLB to be involved with, guiding the client and contractor through function of the space and appropriate light levels. In addition, HLB modified a glass pendant fixture that was located above the stair serving the ballroom level as we had concerns about the glass falling when maintaining.
What was your favorite aspect of involvement in the project?
The most challenging and rewarding was the development of design concept and execution within the ballroom space. Trying to deliver on a “Stars at Night” concept was difficult and required working across all design and construction trades. In addition, the programming aspect was complicated in achieving an subtly active ceiling plane.
What were the project’s goals regarding lighting?
Flexibility and energy reduction were key to the client goals. Due to the project size, subtle changes to lighting approaches can have large energy and maintenance impacts.
How were these goals achieved?
Specification of long-life sources including fluorescent and LED limit the amount of long term lighting maintenance being needed.
Are there any best practices that we have learned through this project?
The most important take-away from the project was the need for integration services when dealing with complex controls to ensure everything works properly prior to HLB being on site.
“Serving the immediate needs of the exhibition community, Henry B Gonzalez Convention Center offers ultimate flexibility through its lighting design and controls. Greeting guests, the Stars at Night ballroom becomes the visual show-stopper of the project showcasing the ever changing Texas landscape with tunable color on the walls and subtle changes in intensity of the lights overhead” – Says Michael.