Launch Slideshow

Cranbrook Art Museum and Library

Cranbrook Art Museum and Library

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    Cranbrook Archive

    A view of the Cranbrook Art Museum when it first  opened in 1942.

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    Cranbrook Archive

    A view of the Cranbrook Art Museum in 1972. The  signature ceiling coffers had been turned off and retrofitted with an  adjustable track mounted lighting system.

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    James Haefner

    A view of the north gallery. The new ceiling  coffers serve to articulate and organize the museum galleries and reinstate  architect Eliel Saarinen's original architectural vision.

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    James Haefner

    The main entry gallery.

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    Cranbrook Archive and SmithGroupJJR

    SmithGroupJJR found Eliel Saarinen's original detail drawings for the coffered ceiling in the Cranbrook archive and used them as an underlay to figure out how to detail the new retrofitted linear white LED lighting system.

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    James Haefner

    A view of the south gallery.

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    James Haefner

    A view of the south gallery with the addition of  the fully directional accent lighting.

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    James Haefner

    In the main gallery, a close-up view of the  modified coffer intersection with track accent lighting component.

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    James Haefner

    The main entry gallery.

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    James Haefner

    The lower gallery and the link between the museum  and the new Collections Addition.

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    James Haefner

    In the Collections Addition, which houses storage  and conservation facilities, the lighting designers wanted to create a contrast  to the lighting approach in the museum galleries. A metal-grate system hangs  below the ceiling so that the downlights, which have fluorescent fill, create  texture on the walls.

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    James Haefner

    One of the areas in the new Collections Addition  where stored art is displayed.

 

Built in 1942 on the campus of Eliel Saarinen's Cranbrook Academy of Art, the Cranbrook Art Museum houses a permanent collection and plays host to traveling exhibitions. In the mid-2000s, however, outdated mechanical systems threatened both the museum's accreditation status and the art. SmithGroupJJR was hired to renovate the structure and add a new building for storage of the museum's growing collection.

When lighting designer Jeff Gerwing, principal of the firm's in-house lighting group, visited the museum, the lights were turned off and the coffers were compromised by secondary tracklighting. After a visit to Cranbrook's archives to look at the original documents, Gerwing discovered that Saarinen had installed the newest lighting technology for the time—fluorescent tubing—into a custom-designed luminous ceiling.

Like Saarinen, Gerwing and his team used the latest technology available when they started the project in 2008. They wanted the coffer system to be dimmable. LEDs were the solution, both for their lumen output and efficacy, as well as from a conservation standpoint. At the time, though, an off-the-shelf linear white-light LED solution didn't exist. They worked with Color Kinetics to design a new fixture that provided a diffuse light. In selecting a secondary layer of light, the designers channeled the legendary architect, choosing a cylindrical trackhead with a simple stem and no yoke—a minimalist look that the modernist would have liked.

Jury Comments: The luminous ceiling is beautiful and the restoration of the coffers is well done. • Nice job of balancing the amount of illumination in the space so that the lighting doesn't compete with the art.