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Lighting a monolith

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The Museum of Contemporary Art & Planning Exhibition (MOCAPE) by Coop Himmelblau is a part of the master plan for Shenzhen’s new urban center, the Futian Cultural District, establishes itself as a new attraction in Shenzhen’s fast growing urban fabric. The project is conceived as the synergetic combination of two institutions, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) and the Planning Exhibition (PE), whose various programmatic elements, although each articulated according to their functional and performative requirements, are merged in a monolithic body enveloped by a multi-functional facade.

The transparency of this facade and the interior lighting concept allow for a view from outside through the exterior envelope deep into the volume of the space, thereby particularly accentuating the shared entrance and circulation space between the two museum volumes. At the same time, the building skin also allows unhindered view from the inside on the cityscape while giving the visitor the impression of being in a pleasantly shaded outdoor area—an impression enhanced by very wide spans which allow for completely open, column-free and flexible exhibition halls with heights ranging from 6 to 17 meters.

The lighting design for this was conceptualized by Grand Sight Design International Limited (GD-Lighting Design), founded in 2004 in Hongkong by its Chief Designer Wang Yenchin. GD-Lighting has accumulated rich design and practical experiences in high-rise buildings, large commercial mixed-use buildings, five-star hotels, and public and traffic spaces.

Surface materials of glass, perforated plate, and stone extend and twist along the steel structure, creating a complicated architecture full of vitality. However, the unique facade form also created great difficulties in lighting design. The design conquered multiple challenges and by successfully integrated within the building, presented a clear and translucent city “rock” neatly and sharply.

In creating a fast and effective solution to lighting the irregularly shaped building, the team at GD-lighting design turned to building information modelling. BIM is a fast and effective solution for irregular shaped buildings. For this time’s lighting design process, it is also an effective attempt to use BIM to assist with lighting design. By constructing a 1:1 architectural digital model in Rhino, luminaire installation was mapped, and also calculated multiple times with lighting design software in order to analyze different photo-metric, power and material reflectance.

In addition, in order to resolve glare issues caused by the building’s concave and convex corners, the design team carried out multiple on-site tests with lumianires’ installation angels, manipulated its photo-metric and added shading accessories. Use of the program allowed the team to perfectly predict luminaire installation, load, wiring and visual effects, paving the way for future lighting design processes on similarly complex irregularly-shaped buildings.

Considering the large quantity of luminaires and their installation difficulties, it was finally decided to use custom-made U-shaped shading grooves with exterior baffles adjustable in heights to block glare, and coated the groove interior matt black to reduce self-illumination.

The construction and commissioning process of this project took advantage of BIM’s convenience, seamlessly integrated building and its façade, perfectly presented luminaire installation, load, wiring and visual effects; which also laid the foundation for future lighting design process on similar complex irregular- shaped buildings.

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