As a professor at the
University of Arkansas Fay Jones School of Architecture, Marlon Blackwell knows a thing or two about teaching design. When the university, which is located in Fayetteville, Ark., asked Blackwell’s local firm,
Marlon Blackwell Architects, to renovate and design a new addition for Vol Walker Hall to accommodate the architecture, landscape architecture, and interior design programs all under one roof, he saw an opportunity to transform the building into a learning tool.
The existing 1935 Classical Revival style building faces east on the main axis of the campus. Blackwell’s addition—the Steven L. Anderson Design Center—forms a western wing to the legacy structure. It is modern in character, composed of raw, exposed cast-in-place concrete and steel, with a west-facing glass façade shaded by a brise-soleil of north-angled, 50 percent fritted-glass fins. In the meeting of these two distinct architectural styles Blackwell laid out a variety of spaces—classroom studios, faculty offices, student and teacher lounges, gallery and review facilities, and an auditorium—each of which forms a lesson of sorts from which students can glean insights into the nature of buildings and building elements. The lighting—which Blackwell designed with University of Arkansas alumnus Richard Renfro of New York City–based Renfro Design Group—responds to this episodic succession of spaces while creating cohesiveness and a smooth transition between old and new.
“There isn’t just a standard light deployed everywhere,” says Blackwell. “There are a variety of lighting situations, which are part of the didactic approach to the architecture. There are lights that are hidden, lights that are exposed, some that are engaged, some that are backlighting. There are a variety of ways you can look at how to light space in a situational way. It was pretty important for the students to see that. It breaks out of the institutional mold where you have two types of lighting over a grid.”
Blackwell opened up the central axis of the building with a clear, unobstructed corridor that runs straight through both old and new structures from the main entrance on the east to a new entrance on the west. This required the removal of library stacks that once occupied the rear of Vol Walker Hall. With the stacks gone, and the library relocated elsewhere on campus, a large room was created at the center of the new complex. The 36-foot-tall space, known as the Gallery, made an ideal space for conducting student reviews. To bring daylight and views of the sky into this enclosed room, Blackwell incorporated a rectangular oculus into the ceiling that cuts a passage through new studio spaces that were added to the roof as part of the addition, which he calls a “rectaculus.” The next issue was managing the large hall’s acoustics and finding an electric lighting solution that would preserve the integrity of the Classical Revival fabric. The team found a single solution that answered both design challenges: “I’d seen Richard do this in a loft in New York. A fabric ceiling, backlit, that creates an even distribution of light, like a big lampshade,” Blackwell says.
The ceiling is made from two layers of translucent, stretched Newmat, which has small perforations that give it acoustical properties. Renfro Design Group organized 32W T8 fluorescent strips 2 feet on center in a 2-foot-deep cavity behind the fabric. The fixtures are equipped with stepped ballasts that provide 30 percent, 60 percent, and 100 percent power, allowing the light level to be adjusted depending on the time of day and how the space is being used. At night, for example, the ceiling is dimmed down to the minimum output. It is only set to 100 percent during reviews, when students’ projects are posted on movable boards that can be arranged in multiple configurations.
The design team followed this protocol of using indirect lighting that does not impinge on the historic architecture throughout the existing spaces. In other places, however, an indirect, discreet, modern approach was used. For example, the axial corridor running from the east entrance is lit by vitrines that are used to display student work. The vitrines are perched on legs with 32W T8 fluorescent fixtures on their tops and bottoms, which provide ambient light by uplighting the molded ceiling and downlighting the terrazzo floor. Inside the cases, asymmetric LED wallwashers at 9W-per-linear-foot light the work on display and provide additional ambient illumination in the corridor.
The corridor opens onto a space called the Commons, where there is a 28-foot-long wooden table crafted from two trees that were cut down to make way for the addition. “You can see where the roots were at the bottom, and the knots where limbs came out,” Renfro says. “When you have a wood class you can see every aspect of how a tree grows, or you can just lie down on it and take a nap.” Additional vitrines—here embedded in glass walls that enclose the faculty offices—provide indirect lighting, this time with the 32W T8s only uplighting the ceiling. T8s placed on the office-side of the transom mirror the lighting effect and accentuate the translucent quality of the etched glass.
From outside as well as inside the building, the transition between the old and new structures is best observed—and learned from—at the egress stairs. Encased as they are in glass, they create a transparent formal joint between the two edifices. “When you’re walking down the stairs, the way they slice through corners of the old building, you can get up close and see the cornice, and see the scale of the thing,” Renfro says. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for design students to see how buildings go together.” The lighting reinforces the verticality of the stairs: lens-concealed 32W T8 fixtures run in a continuous pocket carved up the entire four-story elevation of the stairwell’s concrete wall. In the main circulation spaces that feed off the stairs, lines of LEDs carved into recesses in the concrete ceiling create a contrasting horizontal rhythm to the vertical thrust of the stair illumination.
In the studios themselves, Blackwell employed a raised floor to accommodate services and mechanicals in order to leave the concrete slab ceiling bare and exposed. Lines of 32W T8 direct-indirect pendant fixtures running perpendicular to the brise-soleil provide 50 footcandles of ambient lighting, while LED tasklighting incorporated into the workspaces provides another 50 footcandles. Daylighting from the glass wall is carefully balanced with electric lighting in the 50-foot-deep space by arm-mounted 32W T8 wallwashers that illuminate a pinup wall opposite the façade.
Metal halide wallwashers with 35W T6 lamps cast into the concrete ceiling highlight two concrete shear walls that run the entire elevation of the new building. This feature lighting enables the walls to telegraph their presence through the glass façade after dark, providing yet another lesson in structure. In fact, the entire western face of the building becomes a lantern on campus at night that reveals the activity going on within—and architecture students are known to work late—to passersby.
This transparency, or at least translucency, was maintained even in the new wing’s auditorium space, where the brise-soleil, running across an upper gallery, allows daylight to filter in. “Back in my day, I missed [things] in my architecture history classes because they pulled the shades, it was hot, and I fell asleep,” Renfro says. “This room never has to go really dark. Projectors are more powerful so they can work with some daylight coming in, and it makes a much more engaging space in which to listen to a lecture. You’re always connected to out of doors.”
The electric lighting scheme in the auditorium, as in the rest of the project, integrates with the architecture. Shielded dimmable 21W LED accent lights are incorporated into metal channels in the ceiling, providing flexible lighting for the seating area and accent lighting for panel discussions at the front. Linear LED fixtures, 14W-per-square-foot, in lens-covered uplight coves incorporated into the stairs are equipped with two settings: higher output white light and a lower output red light. Dimmable 50W MR16 halogen accent lights recessed in the ceiling above the podium focuses lights on speakers. And a dimmable 32W T8 fluorescent wallwasher illuminates the display wall behind the podium.
While diverse in its types and treatments of space, Vol Walker Hall and the Steven L. Anderson Design Center seem part of a cohesive statement, the glue of which is the lighting design. “We had a desire to make insertions where we wanted to make them and create our own history rather than looking over our shoulder,” Blackwell says. “Somehow it all fits together.”
DetailsProject Steven L. Anderson Design Center, addition to Vol Walker Hall at the Fay Jones School of Architecture, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Ark. Client University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Ark. Architect Marlon Blackwell Architects, Fayetteville, Ark. Associate Architect Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects, Fayetteville, Ark. Lighting Designer Renfro Design Group, New York Structural Engineer Kenneth Jones & Associates, Little Rock, Ark. Mechanical Engineer TME, Fayetteville, Ark. Civil Engineer Development Consultants Inc., Little Rock, Ark. Landscape Crafton Tull Sparks, Little Rock, Ark. Acoustics Dr. Tahar Messadi Preservation John Milner Associates, West Chester, Pa. Geotechnical Engineer Grubbs Hoskyn Barton & Wyatt, Little Rock, Ark. Contractor Baldwin & Shell Construction Co., Little Rock, Ark. Project Size 90,955 square feet (34,320 square feet—new addition) Project Cost $32.4 million Lighting Cost $1.15 million Code Compliance ASHRAE 90.1-2007, LEED 2009 v.3 Watts per Square Foot 1.17
Acuity Brands/Lithonia Lighting Surface-mounted 32W T8 fluorescent strip with stepped ballast at double-height gallery Acuity Brands/Mark Architectural Lighting Recessed lensed 32W T8 fluorescent wall grazer at corridors Acuity Brands/Winona Semi-recessed linear 32W T8 fluorescent wallwasher at classrooms Bega Recessed louvered 13W CFL steplight at auditorium corridor Eaton’s Cooper Lighting/io Lighting Surface mounted linear 9W/LF LED wallwasher within display cases; 9W/LF LED fixture mounted within handrail at exterior stair Edison Price Lighting Surface, pendant, recessed, and unistrut two-circuit track with halogen MR16 and LED wallwasher and accent trackheads at galleries, auditorium, and faculty lounge Fawoo Surface-mounted 30W LED glowing panel at west entry vitrine Focal Point Recessed, flangeless, linear-lensed 32W T8 staggered fluorescent fixture at classrooms; recessed, linear-lensed 32W T8 fluorescent fixture at south conference room; recessed 50W halogen MR16 downlights and wallwashers at south conference room GE Lighting ConstantColor HIR 45W MR16 lamps iLight Surface-mounted linear 3W–5W/LF LED strip at corridors, student lounge, and exterior plazas Kurt Versen/Hubbell Recessed lensed 26W CFL downlight at exhibition gallery Lumascape ln-ground 20W T3.5 metal halide uplight at exterior façade MP Lighting Semi-recessed 1W LED marker light at roof terrace Philips MasterColor 20W T3.4 and 35W T6 lamps Philips Color Kinetics Surface-mounted 14W LED grazer at auditorium stair and lounges Philips Lightolier Recessed 21W LED downlights and wallwashers at lobby and corridors Prudential Surface-mounted linear-lensed 32W T8 fluorescent fixture at stair niche Selux Pendant-mounted linear-lensed 32W T8 fluorescent fixture at studios The Lighting Quotient/Elliptipar Pendant- and surface-mounted 32W T8 fluorescent wallwasher at studios; semi-recessed lensed 35W T6 metal halide wallwasher at concrete feature walls; surface-mounted 32W T8 asymmetric uplight at Commons Universal Stepped ballast for surface mounted 32W T8 fluorescent strip at double-height gallery