“The beauty of LEDs is that they provide continuous, uninterrupted illumination,” Michael Barber recently told writers for Architectural Record.
The Moelis Family Grand Reading Room in the University of Pennsylvania’s Van Pelt-Dietrich Library is a perfect demonstration of the benefits of LEDs. Their low physical profile and compatibility with control systems keep the focus on the architecture and desired atmosphere. Both Mike and Ryan Conover were interviewed about the 5,500-square-foot space, which The Lighting Practice re-imagined with architectural firm Gensler.
Beyond the 20-foot-high ceilings and double-height windows, the Reading Room’s focal point is an acoustical mural by artist Claudy Jongstra. This mural, made from wool and silk, is illuminated by a hidden line of linear LED grazers. The subtly placed fixtures create a continuous line of light highlighting the natural materials and intricate details.
Ambient light is provided by pendant mounted LED downlights. The Lighting Practice arranged the fixtures to create a starry night effect, further complementing the mural. Customized, adjustable table lamps allow users to change the angle of light by tilting the lamp, while the output is linked to the lighting control system.
To provide a comfortable environment for students, the 3500K LED lighting system is designed to maintain consistent light levels throughout the day. Sensors placed within the reading room track daylight levels and communicate with the control system adjusting the electric light accordingly.
The connection to nature through finishes and views, combined with the ample daylight, creates a unique and wondrous space for students.
Earlier this year, the Moelis Family Grand Reading Room received the 2017 Viewer’s Choice Award and Best in Education Award from the International Interior Design Association’s (IIDA) Pennsylvania/New Jersey/Delaware chapter. The project also received a Merit Award during the AIA Philadelphia Design Awards.
Moelis Family Grand Reading Room by Gensler
Architectural Record | November 2017
The new Moelis Family Grand Reading Room, part of the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, lives up to the adjective in its name. The 5,500-square-foot space, formerly occupied by a periodicals library, is a place for focused study, in the tradition of grand European reading rooms. Its setting—in a 1962 Modernist brick building (by Harbison, Hough, Livingston & Larson, now known as H2L2 Architects/Planners) that houses the larger library center—provides grandeur of its own, with 20-foot-high ceilings and double-height windows on three sides that offer abundant natural light and views of the campus.
With a rich but understated palette of materials and forms, Gensler sought to create an atmosphere of luxurious calm when asked to reimagine the existing space. In collaboration with the Philadelphia firm The Lighting Practice, the architect devised a lighting scheme tailored simultaneously to the large space, to individual readers, and to a monumentally scaled, three-panel wool-and-silk acoustical mural, Fields of Transformation, by the Dutch artist Claudy Jongstra. Additionally, given the soundreflective quality of the windows, it was crucial that the space was adjusted to be “pin-drop quiet,” says Peter Stubb, Gensler’s design director for the project.
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