Stories The Writers Theatre: Going Above and Beyond
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The Writers Theatre: Going Above and Beyond

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Renowned theatre company Writers Theatre opened a new LEED-Gold, 36,000 SF performance space in late 2016. The building, designed by Studio Gang Architects, was praised by Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin as a building that “doesn't just contain performance spaces; it celebrates and enhances them, becoming a memorable part of the drama.” Lightswitch designed the architectural lighting and controls for the entire building complex, including the exterior and interior Atrium and Theatre spaces. Due to the complexity of the project, several challenges had to be overcome throughout the design and construction process, and close collaboration with the architect and greater design team was critical. At every opportunity, Lightswitch went above and beyond to ensure the lighting was not only functional, but also supported the architecture, met the Client’s goals and aspirations, and enhanced the environment for Theatre patrons and Glencoe residents alike.


 
Brick Wash: Flexible Lighting to highlight unique materials
One of the key design elements inside the Nichols Theater is the adaptive reuse of the Women’s Library building brick. As Studio Gang was designing the brick surround, we investigated different ways that the brick could be illuminated. At the time of design document production, a standard product that could provide color-changing capability along with a high-quality white color while maintaining an even level of light was not manufactured. Lightswitch specified a static white light product and ultimately the design team had to choose a stain color for the brick. A mock-up was going to take place during construction with the light fixture and the brick to finalize on a stain color. As mock-up day arrived, technology had changed and advanced to the point where a product was now on the market that could provide the color-changing capabilities we wanted. We reviewed the specified fixture and the color changing alternate, and mocked it up with Studio Gang, the owners, and the design team, and the result was a success! Working closely with the manufactures, contractors and distributors, we were able to make the change at no additional cost to the project. Our clients benefit from our keen awareness of the latest in lighting technology and products.

Detailed Renderings: Helping the client visualize the design and lighting in advance
Throughout design process, one of the big questions was what the building should look like at night. Lightswitch worked with Studio Gang to create photo realistic renderings of what the lighting design would look like using Sketch Up models. We were able to try out different materials and mimic the reflectivity that we would expect for the materials with which Studio Gang was working.  The next step was to collect IES files for each of the light fixtures we intended to use. Using rendering tools, we created the images and presented those to the designer and owner. These renderings allowed us to test different beam angles, beam spreads, and intensities to make sure that the design met the intention that we were trying to achieve.

Submittals: Coordinating the team for the best result
Because the electrical contractor was relying on the electrical distributor to receive all the detailed submittal information for our review, submittals for Writers Theatre were difficult. After multiple conversations, putting the submittals together was just not possible. Lightswitch gathered the architect, distributor, electrical contractor, general contractor, representatives, and manufacturers in the same room so that each party could understand what was needed, why, and when – simplifying the process. A final submittal review was done as a collective team between the contractors the owner and the architect working out any final details on ordering and installation, so all products could be released to manufacturing. Our ability to efficiently coordinate the larger team led to overall project efficiencies: we reduced emails, calls, and time by as much as 30%.

Project Bidding and Pricing: Getting the most bang for the buck
When Writers Theater initially bid, the electrical contractors bid was an all-inclusive lot price, including all equipment and labor.  The first time the project was bid, the electrical number was substantially over the initial budget created during the design process. Lightswitch made a recommendation to rebid the electrical portion of the project, but separate the light fixture package and have line item pricing provided on the fixtures. As a result, electrical contractors were now on par with the initial design budget. Lightswitch’s understanding of the bidding process allows us to work on our client’s behalf to get the most competitive pricing and stay on budget!

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