CHALLENGE In a quest to create a cutting-edge lounge and bar environment that would incorporate interactive components and digital art to entertain guests, entrepreneurs Jason Freiman, Peter Gogarty, and Nick Podesta combined their business and design talents to open Lumen in downtown Chicago in May 2007. Their first combined venture, the trio wanted a dynamic design and a mixed-media environment that also sought to incorporate sustainable design strategies, including the use of light-emitting diode (LED) technology for the entire lighting system.

SOLUTION This nightlife hotspot, located in a converted meat-packing factory in Chicago's Fulton Market District, encompasses more than 5,000 square feet. Gogarty, who has a background in new media and design and was responsible for Lumen's lighting design, says he and his partners wanted a lighting system that was clean, simple, and energy efficient. For Lumen, Gogarty drew inspiration from a previous project he designed for the Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, where he created a large LED video waterfall. “That particular installation made me really want to pursue using LEDs in this space,” Gogarty explains. “Traditionally speaking, lounges or clubs can look nice, but it's always unique and pretty to have a space that can change and never be the same twice. Light and video seemed to be the most practical solutions to achieve that.”

Throughout the lounge, approximately 5,000 LEDs are employed, which according to Lumen's website use only as much power as it takes to run a microwave. Although the system offers more than 16 million color combinations and multiple color ranges, warmer tones generally are used to best compliment the space. LED technology was selected for its longer lifespan and because, as Gogarty explains, it “gives us the ability to change patterns, textures, atmospheres, and moods through three different inputs.” A video system functions as a light source by incorporating direct video, audio, and motion. Infrared cameras sense the proximity and movement of club-goers and in turn transfer the information via DMX to the lighting system, which responds with a ripple-like effect while the audio system simultaneously syncs itself with the beats of the music.

Installing the primary lighting system on the ceiling was a challenge, Gogarty notes. The ceiling-based luminaire, mounted on a custom computer numerical control milled frame with the light source directed at the floor, is about 42 feet in length by 16 feet in width and uses 7W/m at a 77mm pitch.

Overall, it took about six months to design, engineer, and install the system. “People always walk away talking about the lights,” Gogarty says. “Depending on who's playing or what system we have dictating the mood of the space, there are a lot of heads looking up, staring at the lights.” The lighting system and the use of bamboo throughout the space for furniture and the façade, accented by white LED rope lighting, creates a simple yet sophisticated setting for Lumen. Add the numerous effects achievable through the LED and video systems, and the principals behind the club have succeeded in delivering an interactive light installation that engages customers.

PROJECT | Lumen, Chicago

DESIGN TEAM | Peter Gogarty, Chicago (lighting designer); Vertu, Chicago (architect)

PHOTOGRAPHER | Nathan Kirkman, Chicago

PROJECT SIZE | 5,000-plus square feet