Mention Nashville, Tennessee and you're more apt to think of country music and the Grand Ole Opry, rather than classical music and symphony halls. But, with the debut of the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in September 2006, that has changed.
Charged with the task of creating a family of fixtures that would have “grandeur and sparkle” while addressing the diversity of spaces, New York-based Susan Brady Lighting Design (SBLD) began by researching period luminaries. The studio found inspiration in the chandeliers—upside down wedding cake-like forms from which varying length stems with glass globes extend—designed by architect Otto Wagner for the St. Leopold am Steinhof Church in Vienna. SBLD worked with Crenshaw Lighting to custom design 40 different fixture styles throughout the project. Because the architects did not want to use downlights in the main public spaces, the lighting designers relied on ceiling suspended chandeliers, as well as wall-mounted and torchiere-style luminaires. But custom design did not mean open-ended budget. Rather, limited means meant creative solutions, and the lighting designers repeated details and kept materials simple. All of the luminaires are nickel silver with a variety of finishes—polished, satin, and angle hair, and have 6-inch glass globes with a crackled texture to emulate the feel of candlelight. One of the significant challenges, explains lighting designer Attila Uysal, was in understanding the scale of the project and how that would translate to the different fixtures. “We worked with a concept of units,” he says, “defined, but flexible.”
The most elaborate fixtures—eight grand chandeliers—are found in the concert hall. Occupying the main portion of the room, four of the eight measure seven feet in diameter by seven feet high, and utilize over 80, 75W halogen A-lamps to provide a soft illumination. The other four chandeliers are outfitted with adjustable theatrical units with 500W PAR lamps for the stage lighting. Located over the side balconies, a line of smaller bracket-mounted chandeliers form a secondary layer of light. Ceiling suspended and wall-bracketed chandeliers, also of a smaller scale, illuminate the lobby and provide a jewel box-like feel to the space.
One of the more interesting features of the 197,000 square-foot, 1,872-seat concert hall, which predates SBLD's involvement on the project, is the presence of indirect daylight. Not normally found in performance spaces, in part due to theatrical lighting requirements, after touring concert halls worldwide, in particular Vienna's Musikverein, the architects decided natural light was an important element to include in the interior. Blackout shades and flexible lighting controls help to provide the balance between daylight and electric sources.
The family of custom luminaries carries to the building exterior as well. Here, according to Uysal, scale was a major issue. “All the building elements are big. In turn, the fixtures are simpler, but the form is reminiscent of the interior chandeliers.” Decorative custom fixtures, such as post top lanterns and sconces accent the entrances, while metal halide luminaires mounted on street poles around the site provide a floodlight wash across the main façade.
Aesthetically speaking, when it comes to architectural styles, the new building makes an interesting statement given the current trend toward the “contemporary”—a neoclassical exterior coupled with an interior inspired by the Viennese Secessionist Movement. Nevertheless, when it comes to the building's illumination, it is artfully executed in the hands of SBLD.
PROJECT: Schermerhorn Symphony Center LOCATION: Nashville DESIGN ARCHITECT : David N. Schwarz/Architectural Services, Washington, D.C. ARCHITECT OF RECORD : Earl Swensson Associates, Nashville CONSULTING ARCHITECT: Hastings Architecture Associates, Nashville LIGHTING DESIGNER : SBLD Studio, New York BUILDING COST: $120 million LIGHTING COST: $3 million PHOTOGRAPHER : Attila Uysal/SBLD Studio MANUFACTURERS : B-K Lighting, Crenshaw Lighting (all custom fixtures); Sterner, Sternberg, Winona, USA Illumination