CHALLENGE Creating a lighting design for two installations by artist Dale Chihuly in the MGM Grand Macau was no easy task. Lighting designers Jim Sultan and Christopher Thompson of Seattle-based Studio Lux had their work cut out for them with this fast-paced project, for which they had only eight months to decide how to illuminate these two very different pieces of artwork located in the hotel lobby. Sultan and Thompson introduced Chihuly, accustomed to working with incandescent lamps, to ceramic metal halide and light-emitting diode (LED) technology with this project. The lighting design team showed Chihuly that he did not have to give up the characteristics he is used to from incandescent sources in terms of color rendering, beam spread, and performance. The distance between Seattle and Macau posed a particular challenge, but through a series of mock-ups, “everything was determined in how it would go together here in Seattle,” Sultan explains, noting that all aspects were then replicated in Macau in the final installation.

SOLUTION With various design teams spread around the world working to get the MGM Grand Macau ready to open, this project was difficult to pull together. “From a coordination standpoint, it was probably one of the most complicated projects we've worked on,” Thompson admits. With the bulk of the lighting design work accomplished in Seattle, Sultan notes that he took three trips to China to assist with the lighting system, and he supervised every installed fixture. While Studio Lux does the majority of lighting for Chihuly's artwork, this project for the MGM Grand is one of the larger installations the firm has done, and Thompson says it was complicated to design a layout and make sure it was executed flawlessly.

The MGM Grand Macau lobby features two Chihuly pieces: the red “Fiori Di Paradiso Ceiling” glass installation, measuring 55 feet long and 30 feet wide, and the “Fiori Di Paradiso Drawing Wall.” Located behind the reception desk, the drawing wall features 45 different glass panels and is 55 feet long and 15 feet high. With each piece having its own unique qualities, each installation also received its own lighting design solution.

“Fiori Di Paradiso Ceiling” is nestled between two large marble columns situated 60 feet apart in the hotel's main lobby. While many commercial interior settings might use large theatrical-style fixtures, Thompson said in this case, the sculpture required that the luminaire selected would “disappear” into the ceiling. With only a few visible lamps, 100 fixtures are located above the ceiling—80 with 20W ceramic metal halide lamps and 20 with 35W ceramic metal halide lamps. Sultan says the color of the artwork presented a challenge as red is difficult to light, but the 3000K color temperature of the lamps gave them the result they were after. Numerous studies were conducted to figure out how to avoid glare when illuminating the glass work, and the lighting system was “quite technical to put together,” Sultan notes.

The “Fiori Di Paradiso Drawing Wall,” made up of 45 panels with Chihuly drawings infused onto the glass, is illuminated from the front and back by two different lighting systems. First, the luminous panels are backlit with more than 200 high-output LED strips mounted vertically about 12 inches apart and controlled on a 10V dimming system. The use of LED technology to illuminate this artwork is a first for Chihuly. Studio Lux selected a color temperature of 5000K because, as Sultan explains, the cooler-toned LEDs better showed off the artwork. In addition to the LEDs, the drawing wall also is lit from above by a combination of narrow spot and spot 50W AR111 lamps concealed in a trough. The 55-foot-long track has a total of 70 lampheads and features three separately dimmed circuits so that as the dimming scenes change, balanced light occurs throughout.

The expansive MGM Grand Macau lobby is enhanced by these two glass art installations that Sultan says helped drive a paradigm shift in Chihuly's studio from incandescent to ceramic metal halide and LED technology. The success of this lighting design is the result of much collaboration and is proof that the artwork benefits from the use of new light sources.

Project Chihuly Lobby Installation, MGM Grand, Macau
Design Team Dale Chihuly, Chihuly Studio, Seattle (artist); Studio Lux, Seattle (lighting designer)
Photographer Thomas Gray, Chihuly Studio, Seattle
Manufacturers Erco, GE, io Lighting, Viabizzuno