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Lightswitch Architectural Sheds New Light on the Shedd

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Lightswitch Architectural created a dynamic and immersive lighting design for the newly “re‐imagined” Oceanarium exhibit, originally built in 1991, at The John G. Shedd Aquarium, in Chicago. The new Oceanarium immerses visitors in the vibrant Pacific Northwest coastal eco‐system, encouraging visitors to discover how animals are linked to each other, their homes, and people. The marine mammal presentations showcase the talents of the animals and trainers with the ground‐breaking use of color and texture in the light, giving it more magic than ever before. The lighting creates a uniformly immersive environment for visitors from the moment they walk into the Oceanarium, through watching the show, until they leave the brand new Polar Play Zone exhibit in the underwater viewing area.

Using only 1.1 watts/SqFt and four lamp types, Lightswitch Architectural pushed the latest technology to its limits in order to extend the life of the Oceanarium lighting as far into the future as possible. The lighting design combines technology and creativity to create a spectacular, energy‐efficient space.

Recognizing that the future of theatrical production design is LED’s and metal halide moving lights, Lightswitch Architectural designed the permanently installed theatrical system for the Oceanarium amphitheater with a single dimmer panel and multiple relay panels. The design provides incredible flexibility for the current and future shows. The Lightswitch team designed the lighting for the first show in the amphitheater “Fantasea”.

“Polar Play Zone,” a new exhibit in the underwater viewing areas, focuses on engaging children and the inner child in all of us. The lighting helps bridge the visitor into the animals’ world by re‐creating the moods of the Arctic environments. Using a DMX relay system, HID, halogen, and LED sources and a digitally controlled track system which supports multiple lamp types and luminaires, the exhibit breaks new ground, technologically. The lighting designer successfully avoids distracting glare and achieved 1.1 watts per square foot. Aquarium staff members were especially pleased with the even illumination of the murals throughout the exhibit. 

In this ground‐breaking lighting installation, Lightswitch Architectural used the newest, most advanced technology, achieved a very low energy cost and raised the standard for future exhibit and show lighting design for the John G. Shedd Aquarium’s Oceanarium, “Polar Play Zone” exhibit and production “Fantasea”.