Pennsylvania Convention CenterGO BACK
Created by The Lighting Practice (Philadelphia), the 172’ wide, 60’ high marquee-like display serves as a fitting gateway to the world’s largest annual architectural lighting trade show. It utilizes Acclaim’s AL Bar AC 1200, a 47.25”/120cm IP65-rated direct view RGB LED tube.
Installed as part of the PCC’s $785 million expansion project, the Acclaim LED display came about after The Lighting Practice was called on to improve upon a previous design plan for lighting the 1 million sq. ft. building’s façade. The glass and tensile façade, which sits out about 20’ in front of the building’s actual lobby wall, is elevated about 25’ off the ground and extends upward 100’.
Big, open and prominent, the glass façade literally called out for a dramatic lighting presentation, said Stephen Hoppe of The Lighting Practice. “There was an existing lighting design, but they decided that they’d like something a little fancier and more integrated into the architecture. With the glass and horizontal bars already there, they realized that the lighting wasn’t meeting the architecture at the right place, so to speak,” Hoppe explained. Consulting with his local lighting rep, Diversified Lighting, Hoppe learned about the Acclaim AL Bar AC 1200. “We hadn’t worked with Acclaim before, but obviously we knew that something like a direct view was out there. They explained product to us, told us about Acclaim’s reputation and all the theatrical work they’d been doing with it.”
After presenting the PCC with a number of different ideas, including uplighting the whole facade from the ground or from above the entrance area, the Acclaim AL Bars won out. “They loved the (Acclaim) direct view tubes, and we did too,” said Hoppe. “We thought that this was a really cool way of doing it and certainly more engaging than floodlighting the whole area.” The AL Bars, which can be separated up to 10 pixels per tube for low-resolution images, “provided kind of a graphical interface for the façade, which was interesting,” he added.
As an added bonus, the Acclaim Al Bars were easy to install into the existing façade design. “We didn’t change a single thing architecturally,” said Hoppe. “The horizontal bars of the structure were already in there. Plus, the contractor had spent a lot of time drilling all the mounting holes in the beams, so everything was really prepared in advance. The nice thing about the AL Bar is that it has mounting holes right in base of fixture. So it doesn’t need junction boxes or anything like that. We did have pretty narrow steel beam to attach to, so we just drilled a piece out for surface mounting, then pretty much just screwed the fixtures onto the building and plugged them in. With their plug-n-play connectors, it wasn’t an overly complicated mounting.” The AL Bars come equipped with 8-pin IP67 waterproof power and DMX connectors.
There are nine rows of AL Bars on the Pennsylvania Convention Center façade, with 43 fixtures per row. The rows themselves are separated by 6.5 feet. Despite the space between the rows, the AL Bars can be programmed to create geometric shapes that span across the building’s facade. “We have it mapped into the software to create circles, triangles and so forth – your eyes fill in blank area,” explained Hoppe.
The programs designed by The Lighting Practice feature a variety of bold shapes, dazzling colors and mesmerizing chases. On a normal night, the light show may “start with bunch of red on red effects and then work its way thru spectrum so you get this big red and yellow spiral across the whole façade. Then an orange and yellow circle emanates from center, eventually changing to blue and green squares that expand. Expanding shapes have a really great impact. You take an image and move it out to the edge like a barbershop pole. It really starts to come together as one huge square, especially when you’re viewing it from further away.
“Another cool thing you can do with bars,” added Hoppe, “is have a chase that uses one color scheme on every other row north to south, and then use a different color scheme on the in-between rows chasing south to north. So you’ve got a little play between the two different rows.”
The display appears all the more dramatic thanks to the impressively bright output of the AL Bar AC 1200. Hoppe reports that the lights are currently running at between 75%-80% of their maximum capacity. “We actually turned them down – they were too bright.” He noted that from an operational standpoint, this translates into a substantial utility cost savings and most likely a longer product life.
However, bright as they are, the Acclaim AL Bars are not distractive at times when they are not running. “One of the things we evaluated was, ‘How is the fixture going to look during the daytime?’ These bars are very quiet – if you don’t know they’re there, you don’t know they’re there. But when you’re out there at night, the impact is pretty impressive,” said Hoppe.
Added The Lighting Practice’s Alfred Borden, “PCCA asked us to create a dynamic lighting treatment for architecture that is mainly transparent. The (Acclaim) tubes gave us a means to create a graphic and textured nighttime appearance that is still transparent.”
The PCC has turned the graphic opportunities created by the LED display into a selling point with its corporate clients. Companies and trade groups holding meetings and conventions at the center can have the lights programmed to reflect their logo colors.
“We did some training with the (PCC) staff to get them up to speed on how the software works, and now they’re pretty self-sufficient,” said Hoppe. “When there’s something they can’t handle, they give us a call. We actually have it all hooked up to the internet, so I can just edit it from my office.” DMX distribution is provided by four Acclaim AL-NET 8 Pro Artnet to DMX data distribution boxes, which are tied into a front-end controller.