A recent addition to the family at the University of Arizona (UA) is neither a boy nor a girl, rather, it's a 72,000-square-foot facility called McClelland Park. The four-story building, completed in spring 2008, houses classrooms, research space, and administrative and faculty offices for the UA Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences. Seen as the cornerstone of a new extension to the Tucson, Ariz., campus, McClelland Park represents a step forward for UA with its engaging yet practical exterior façade, which includes sun-shading devices and is illuminated with LED technology.

“What we really take pride in is the ability to understand the context and look at the character of a building,” explains Rodrigo Manriquez, principal and senior lighting designer at SmithGroup's Detroit office, which provides lighting design services to all the SmithGroup offices. “This project was for the School of Family and Consumer Sciences—we needed to understand what the building is used for and how the students relate to it.” He adds that the theme of family was prevalent in this project, and by identifying with the building and the people who use it, the lighting design evolved. A tight budget, maintenance concerns, and dark sky ordinances forced the SmithGroup team to be meticulous in the execution of the lighting scheme. “More constraints actually made the design stronger,” Manriquez notes. “The biggest challenge was trying to maintain a connection to that concept of ‘family' with all the other challenges. We had to make sure we were able to embody the essence of the school.”

From the get-go, McClelland Park was intended to reflect the school's diverse and multicultural identity. Manriquez says the building took on two different “personalities”: the side facing the existing UA campus with its somber brick façade became the “introvert” part of the building, and the side oriented toward the new area of campus was dubbed the “extrovert” because of its welcoming and bold use of a color-changing LED lighting scheme, and access to the open plaza area. “The idea of an ever-changing family dynamic, we really grabbed onto that,” Manriquez explains. “The plaza was seen as a family living room where students and faculty could gather, and it truly has become that.”

The exterior features various layers thanks to the shading devices: terra cotta–finish scrim serves as the base layer, and horizontally arranged louvers and vertical blades subdivide and mask the façade. Preliminary daylighting analyses looked at the effectiveness of the shading devices in the abundant Arizona sun. “The direct sun coming through these blades is an ever-changing condition,” Manriquez says. During the day, the shading devices mask the building behind them, and at night the scrim is lit like a lantern, washing the building with light. White 3000K LEDs and RGB LEDs on a 6-inch-by-6-inch panel delineate the plaza and illuminate the scrim, and a multiple highlight effect is achieved because the fixtures—concealed by the shading panels—are mounted vertically. Manriquez notes that the project afforded them a “great opportunity to use a color-changing system,” but adds that they were careful in their use of color and used it only to enhance their lighting concept. With hard-to-reach fixture placement and strict dark sky ordinances in place, LEDs were selected instead of fluorescent lamps because of their size, long life span, and fine beam pattern—in this case, a 5-degree beam. “It's a narrow blade 6 inches wide that we're lighting,” says Chris Coulter, lighting designer and associate at SmithGroup. “To be able to control the light to be only at these blades, we needed the fixture to be controlled precisely. LEDs really allowed us to focus that light where we needed it and not lose it out in the sky.”

An open-air staircase with a screen of colored glass panes along one side is an architectural design element that the lighting designers embraced to allow the building to read more vertically. It provides a counterpoint to the open plaza located at the opposite end of the structure. A walkway around the building is illuminated by 70W metal halide T6 lamps, and 35W metal halide T6 downlights are mounted to the columns in the plaza to provide lighting along the perimeter. In addition to the downlights, 35W T6 metal halide steplights also are used in the plaza. “The whole point was that we were trying to consolidate the number of lamps that needed to be stocked for maintenance concerns,” Manriquez points out.

The LEDs illuminating the façade run through a handful of scenes, and various hues help reinforce the differences between the scrim, which features warm colors, and the family plaza, which uses cooler tones. “We wanted quality color lighting, but we didn't want it to be in-your-face,” Coulter explains. “Since this is the first building with exterior lighting like this [on the UA campus], there was some hesitancy by the client to do anything too flashy. But they love the outcome.” The lighting design team at SmithGroup also is pleased with the end result of the facility's lighting concept, regardless of whether passers-by pick up on the overarching theme of family. “Philosophically, maybe one person will get it. I want to talk to that person,” Manriquez says. “But regardless of whether you see the connection to [our intended] concept, the lighting scheme still works. Ideally you do see it, and if not, we'll wait for the person who does.”

Project McClelland Park, John and Doris Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences, Tucson, Ariz.
Client University of Arizona, Tucson, Ariz.
Architect SmithGroup, Phoenix
Lighting Designer SmithGroup, Detroit
Project Size 6,300 square feet (illuminated façade); 72,000 square feet (building)
Watts per Square Foot 0.17
Images Courtesy of SmithGroup
Manufacturers B-K Lighting, Color Kinetics, iO Lighting, WE-EF Lighting