May 8, 2019

Ready, set, don’t go. A panel of designers reflects back on projects that hit an unexpected detour and what changed once they got back on track

By Paul Tarricone

One frustration virtually every lighting designer has experienced is the project already in design that grinds to a halt. The reasons for the stoppage are varied. It could be funding, politics, or even something as historic as the Arab Spring, which put a stop to the Four Seasons hotel design in Tunisia (see LD+A March). On other the end of the spectrum is the unanticipated restart that you never saw coming. Everyone’s got an anecdote, so in that spirit, LD+A asked five designers to recall one job with starts and stops, and discuss how the design changed in the interim.


First, it was vacant for decades, then it was delayed while the client shook the money tree for more donations. But all those lost years at the Missouri Botanical Garden Museum Building ended up benefiting the lighting design, as Lisa Reed, Envision Lighting Design, explains:

Missouri Botanical Garden Museum Building

Built in 1859, the museum had been vacant since 1982, and by 2013, had been sitting on the drawing boards for at least a decade. We thought they were ready to start a much-needed renovation, but soon, the project was again on hold for roughly 12 months while they continued with their fundraising. Three years later, the lighting design finally began.

“The availability of very small LED sources with good optics and great color rendering was critical for the design. A botanical mural on the ceiling is now richer and more vibrant because of high CRI, high R9 fixtures. LED linears with precise optics allowed the designers to evenly wash a complex ceiling. Without the wait, this mural would have been illuminated with a fluorescent cove, sacrificing optics and color quality.

“It was also worth the wait, because small LED strips with minimal heat were installed inside archival display cabinets. The previous technology— xenon lamp strips—would have been too hot, too large and too inefficient to do the job. Without the wait, this charming old building might have suffered from chunky fixtures, clunky optics and bad color. The technology of 2018 revitalized this historic building.”



Sometimes, a project restarts not once but several times. That was the case at the 103-year-old historic Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park, MT, where the work stretched from 2002-2017. Jon Brooks, AE Design, explains:

Many Glacier Hotel

The project represented a rehabilitation effort that would not take ‘no’ for an answer. Due to funding availability, the 140,000-sq ft space which encompassed multiple guest wing corridors, guest wing units, lobby, dining and bar area, and gift shop—took 15 years and seven phases to complete.

“Lighting fixtures specified in the first phase set the aesthetic feel, and the guest experience had to be consistent throughout all areas of the renovation. Compact fluorescent fixtures were specified for the original renovation phases; however, due to the desire to use more efficient LED lamping in subsequent phases but not remove the existing CFL fixtures, the newer LED fixtures had to match the CFL color temperature, providing a consistent feel for the guests.

“The later phases of the project also required the resurrection of luminaires that had been discontinued—a series of Arroyo Craftsman surface-mounted decorative fixtures in the corridors. In the initial phases, the designers had to work with Arroyo to create a custom modification to an existing product in their line. For the later phases, we had to track down that original custom modification, and have them re-customize the fixture again, this time using LEDs.

“The end result of this 15-year renovation is a guest experience that truly pays respect to this historical treasure.”



Two years is not an extraordinarily long delay. But these particular two years made all the difference in the world at Chicago’s DePaul University. John Jacobsen, Schuler Shook, explains why:

Holtschneider Performance Center -DePaul University

DePaul’s School of Music began planning and design for a new music performance facility early in 2012, and documentation was completed for GMP late in 2013. The project paused after completion of design documents to accommodate fundraising efforts. In late 2015 the design team—led by architect Antunovich Associates—resumed work. The waiting period of 2013 to 2015 was a particularly critical one from a lighting technology standpoint,in that it saw cost reductions and technology improvements. Due to cost limitations and concerns over dimming capability, the original lighting designs primarily used fluorescent, metal halide and some halogen sources. LED was used for detailed accent lighting only.

“By 2015 the client had begun to favor LED lighting in all new buildings, and LED fixtures had begun to be more affordable; however, a one-for-one swap to LED would not meet the budget, so it was necessary to selectively delete some accent lighting in order to afford the upgrade. Halogen was retained for the general lighting of the three recital halls, due to acoustical performance concerns in these noise-critical spaces. The final result is extremely successful, in that no compromises were made in the form of illumination levels, color temperature or overall lighting quality.”



With each passing year, confidence grows. In the case of a historic renovation in Red Cloud, NE, that confidence pertained to a light source’s ability to get the job done. Jeff Frank, Morrissey Engineering, details how a decade’s delay prompted a design switch:

Moon Block Building/Willa Cather Center

The Moon Block Building/Willa Cather Center project began in 2006 as a renovation and restoration of one-half block of Webster Street in Red Cloud. Constructed in 1886, the Moon Block Building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Moon Block was identified as an ideal home for the expanding programs and needs of the Willa Cather Foundation, which was located in the adjacent and restored Red Cloud Opera House building. After the proposed renovation design [from BVH Architects] was submitted to the National Park Service for Agency Review, a government shutdown ensued, and the review was put on hold. This, coupled with the fundraising effort, caused the project to be delayed for several years.

“With final funding in place and the Park Service review complete, the project resumed with a phased construction approach and several value-engineering initiatives.

“In 2006, the lighting design consisted of fluorescent and compact fluorescent technology. Over the course of the delay, we witnessed LED lighting technology evolve from experimental and unproven to tested and mainstream. Thus, by project end, the lighting design was changed to largely LED technology. In 2016, the project was completed, inaugurated by former First Lady Laura Bush as the National Willa Cather Center, and was presented the 2017 Nebraska Preservation Award to recognize the achievement of the historic preservation.”



What happens when all your experience tells you the project is about to pause, but the client unexpectedly hits the play button? Ardra Zinkon, Tec Studio, recalls a compressed design schedule tied to a holiday-season deadline.

Ohio Statehouse

Tec Studio had the opportunity to develop a lighting study for the historic Ohio Statehouse in Columbus in the spring of 2016. Working with the Statehouse architect of record (Schooley Caldwell), we created design concepts and imagery for a reimagined façade design that included color-changing lighting. After formal reviews of the concept and detailed budgeting, we waited for the State legislature to consider the proposal and move through the typical machinations required for funding approval on politically motivated projects. We were thrilled to provide a proposal that summer for full design and construction services.

“While this article was titled ‘Worth the Wait,’ once the project was approved, we quickly learned the goal was to have the entire project ready for bidding and immediate demo, with install to be complete by the official holiday tree lighting ceremony in November. The team moved quickly to confirm all existing conditions, develop demo drawings, design drawings, control one-lines and procure equipment for an on-site mock-up, and then also oversaw construction administration down to the point of tracking orders and regular check-ins with the integrator on site to ensure all DMX equipment was ready to go. Our ‘worth-the-wait’ story started off slow, then ramped up to light speed pretty darn quick. On projects like these, having the support of the reps, contractors and manufacturers was paramount to our success. Kudos to Insight, Lumenpulse and ETC for helping us reach the client’s goal without the wait.”


Paul Tarricone

Paul Tarricone

Paul Tarricone has more 25 years of experience in association and business-to-business publishing, specializing in the engineering, design, construction and facilities management markets. Mr. Tarricone currently serves as Editor and Publisher of Lighting Design + Application,... More info »