By Jeff Gerber and Tim de Jong
Although it may seem extravagant at first blush, custom, blown art glass lighting can be a powerful design element for office building lobbies – something that architects may want to consider incorporating into their projects more often.
A lobby’s appearance can affect building occupancy and caliber of tenants. Of course, tenants decide to lease in one office building over others based on a multitude of factors including cost, location, quality of the space, furnishings in public areas, amenities, the landlord’s reputation and more. But the look and feel of a lobby also strongly influence the decision. The lobby is the first space that tenants, their employees and visitors experience once they enter a building and, in a matter of seconds, it creates a powerful first impression.
Lighting contributes significantly to that all-important first impression, either adding to or detracting from a positive impact. Granted, lighting, first and foremost, has to illuminate the space, but it can do so much more if it’s artistically executed. A custom art glass lighting installation can instantly transform what otherwise would be a purely functional space into a space that’s striking and inspirational. It differentiates a building from competitive offerings and helps a real estate company distinctively brand its portfolio of properties. When it comes to designing new or renovating existing lobbies, these installations should have equal weight with other design elements.
Once the decision has been made to include custom art glass lighting in a lobby, collaboration is key among all parties who will weigh in on the design of the space. The sooner the architect, glass artist and client begin collaborating, the better. The architectural design of a lobby should take into account the design of the lighting installation. At the same time, the lighting installation must blend with the feel of the building and complement both the interior and exterior finishes. Taking the property’s exterior architecture into account also can be important.
“The River of Glass” in Houston is a good example of a successful custom art glass lighting installation developed for a Class A office building lobby. Located in Granite Properties’ Briarpark Green building, which opened in the spring of 2014, this sprawling piece was the result of close collaboration from inception among the architectural team from PGAL, Wimberley Glassworks, and Granite’s director of development/construction, David Cunningham.
Cunningham wanted to include art glass lighting in the new building’s lobby. He had used these types of installations in other office building lobbies as a way to create exceptional spaces that have become a signature of the company’s brand. The Dallas-based developer also is a big fan of the beautiful Texas Hill Country, notable for its expansive, rolling terrain, which includes both wandering, crystalline rivers and desert-like, dry riverbeds.
The creative solution was to incorporate a native landscape-inspired “stream” and dry river bed throughout the property, which would not only be different and interesting but also reinforce the path of travel for building tenants and visitors.
For the interior portion of the stream, Wimberley Glassworks drew its inspiration from Central Texas’s Blanco River, a stretch of water known throughout the Lone Star state for its idyllic scenery and clarity. The building’s dual lobbies were designed to accommodate a 110-foot-long, soothing “watercourse” that flows between the two spaces. The concept required constructing a one-and-a-half-foot deep cove cut into the ceiling. As it meanders through the building, the cove varies in size from six- to 12-feet wide.
To promote a sense of fluidity, the inverted river bottom has an iridescent textural finish that contains hints of greens, blues and oranges. Throughout the ceiling channel, custom pendants hang at varying heights to give the impression of water flowing randomly as it would in nature.
The installation also includes cove lighting along the curves of the recessed ceiling channel.
Because energy performance is important, as well, the entire art glass assembly is fitted with environmentally sound, dimmable CREE LED bulbs.
There are plenty of attractive office building lobbies across the United States (along with many more that are ordinary and outdated), but there are only a handful that truly give these important spaces a real aesthetic boost, stopping people in their tracks and prompting them to say, “Wow, this is a special place.” Among those showstoppers are the lobbies designed to showcase custom, blown art glass lighting installations. Art glass lighting may not be one of the first design elements that comes to mind when planning for a new lobby or renovating an existing one, but perhaps it should be.# # # About the authors: Jeff Gerber, AIA, is the Chief Executive Officer of PGAL, an award-winning national architecture firm. Tim de Jong is the owner and creative director of Wimberley Glassworks, one of the nation’s premier custom blown glass lighting studios specializing in commercial installations. For more information visit www.pgal.com and www.wgw.com.