“What we need to get is a drone fly-through shot to understand the space,” said Scott Hatton, principal of Oculus Light Studio, describing the complexity and dizzying heights of the Boston Consulting Group offices in Downtown Los Angeles. “The blue oculus skylight in the lobby, that’s the only space that’s open the full 54 ft.” The lighting design for the BCG offices earned Hatton, Senior Designer Carol Prendergast and Principal Archit Jain one of the top prizes at the 2017 Lumen West Awards, the Award of Excellence. The team creatively accommodated the project’s stunning wraparound views, high illumination requirements and a fast‑track, moderate budget.

Oculus Light Studio blue skylight in lobby.

The project springs from a tenant improvement on the 51st floor of the north tower of City National Plaza (a.k.a. the ARCO Plaza Towers). The office rises up through the 52nd floor, previously unoccupied, into formerly empty mechanical space above. Private offices and meeting rooms are clustered in structures toward the interior of the 51st floor, while workstations on the mezzanine and below enjoy abundant daylight and views. “On the 51st floor, you can see 360 views: the mountains and the ocean, from downtown to Long Beach,” Hatton said.

Oculus worked closely with the team of architects from ShubinDonaldson to arrange a dramatic transit from the dark-finished, compressed elevator lobby to the soaring, daylit BCG lobby space. “You’re looking north at 50 ft of glass on the 51st floor of a downtown office tower. Where else would you find a space like that?” Hatton asked.

Oculus Light Studio downlights under the stairs and dramatic lighting in compressed elevator lobby.

“There are downlights over the reception desk and under the stairs, but there’s nothing from the ceiling because the space is open to the rectangular oculus.” RGBW flexible striplights provide uplight in the signature blue corporate color, though it can be changed. “This keeps the skylight from going dark and draws the eye up, so you’re aware of the height of the space.”

BCG has offices worldwide and enforces a corporate office-lighting standard, which is unusual according to Hatton. “Their standard was pretty high in terms of light levels. All 30+ fc and then above that in some areas – with a lot of daylighting,” Hatton said. “They wanted higher light levels, so we had to achieve that in these double height spaces. And they wanted the open offices to feel intimate, not like a big airport terminal with lots of uniform downlighting from very high up.”

The largest banks of windows mostly face north, so only east- and west-facing private offices, and the conference rooms, have shading. “Because the windows are so tall, the whole space is daylighting zones. We ended up having three daylighting zones: primary, secondary and core. A lot of fixtures landed between the first and second, so how they had to control the fixtures became complicated,” Prendergast explained.

Oculus Light Studio decorative pendant lights in lobby.

Mullions and structural cross bracing inside the façade lend visual complexity, but could not be used as lighting positions, according to Hatton. “Decorative pendants bring the light down into the space, but they also speak to the vibe, which the client wanted to be way cooler than a typical open office.”

Five-armed Eureka Switch pendants drop into some of the tallest open-office areas to light without obstructing views. Oculus worked with the manufacturer to design the custom arm configurations to maximize their utility and mounting to the structure above the ceiling. In addition, several three-head multiples are aimed to supplement workstations below. Oversize dome lights in charcoal gray, Artimede Nur pendants, light workstations on the 51st floor and the 52nd‑level mezzanine. These provide a highly desirable touch of glow on the ceiling, according to Prendergast.

You do get sunlight and shadow patterns on the core walls from the mullions and cross-bracing, explained Hatton, but cove lighting softens that effect. Striplights, fully concealed, create the strikingly clean, floating stairway effect. White finishes, with dark accents, conduct light throughout the space and balance contrasts.

Oculus Light Studio hanging garden.

The “hanging garden” retreat areas perch atop conference rooms. These are lighted with low-profile linear fixtures and petite solid-glass “beacon” pendants for sparkle. Note that the large cylinders light the tiny bridge leading to one garden retreat and cast light to lounge by; but these fixtures are primarily illuminating the walkway below. To maintain high light levels adjacent to that conference room, a rectilinear pendant casts light downward onto the workstations.

In the multipurpose space, cylinder lighting is well concealed in the tall ceiling. The rings provide a second layer of light along with the drop pendants along the window wall. Again, decorative pendants are petite and airy, so as not to obstruct views. Pinspots along that wall, concealed by the floating ceiling, brighten the framing of the windows. “They have large meetings in this space, so light levels can vary from lounge to business. It’s split into a few zones, so they can dim front lights near the projection screen,” Hatton said.

Oculus Light Studio multipurpose space.

Single-height private office “cubes” were built out from the core on the double-height 51st floor. “We integrated lighting above the cubes that reflects off the 16 ft ceiling. It helps out with light levels – supplementing the Nur fixtures – and lights up the ceiling, keeping the area from appearing dark,” Predergast explained. “It sounds like it wouldn’t be that effective, but the ceiling was white; there was an abundance of real estate in which to locate the fixtures; and then you’re spreading the wattage across a large amount of square footage. So it worked out… We ended up being a little under our Title 24 allotments.”

Lois I. Hutchinson

About Lois I. Hutchinson

Lois I. Hutchinson is a freelance writer specializing in lighting and energy issues. She is also the content marketing mastermind behind Inverse Square LLC, a Los Angeles–based consultancy. Contact her via lightinginsider@exponation.net with your comments and any article ideas that concern the lighting community here in the Southwest.

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