At MGM National Harbor, lighting unifies the narrative

Oxon Hill, MD—Located on the banks of the Potomac just outside of Washington, DC, the $1.4-billion, 23-story MGM National Harbor is home to a permanent collection of artwork; 135,000 sq. ft. of gaming space; retail shops; a spa; nine restaurants; a 3,000-seat theater; 27,000 sq. ft. of meeting and event space; and a 4,800-car parking garage. Lighting all of these elements, as well as a white aluminum and concrete exterior, was a monumental task.

MGM’s iconic bronze lion statue is illuminated using high-output floodlights and in-grade adjustable fixtures with dichroic color filters.

MCLA Architectural Lighting Design of Washington, DC, handled the interior lighting. “The project was a massive undertaking because of the size and the number of designers assigned to the various spaces,” said Maureen Moran, principal with MCLA. “Our scope included most of the front-of-house spaces: lobby, spa, atrium, conference center, theatre pre-function, all food and beverage, retail, casino, retail promenade, guestrooms and corridors. Each design firm controlling these spaces made their own statement and interpretation toward the project mission. The lighting design blended each of these interpretations through similar lighting techniques and color temperature to unify the visual narrative carried throughout the complex.”

Lighting throughout the property is 2700K, intended to be warm, accent wood and soft colors, and contrast well with the daylight, according to Moran.

For the lobby and lobby bar, the design team aimed to keep the guest focused on a lower level within the tall space. “The lighting enforces the linear motif with long-lensed fixtures inserted into the ribbed columns, creating sharp shadows onto the ceiling,” she said. “The lounge offers a dramatic backlit bar with lighting inserted into the ceiling fins to accent a secluded seating area. The visitor is led to an enormous conservatory (atrium) staging seasonal displays accented with RGB light sources.”

She continued, “As a primary intersection, the atrium draws the visitor to the destinations and restaurant entrances surrounding the space. Daylight serves as an attraction during the day to this prominent intersection, and vibrant color and displays are the focus in the evening. The conference center on the second level has indirect lighting and dropped pendants, which provides a comfortable space for special events and wedding parties.”

In the casino, a vertical light cove emphasizes the cascading portal entrance, drawing the casino patrons into the space. “The cove light was detailed to eliminate hard shadows and provide adequate light levels for the secure entrance,” Moran said. “The main circulation path was illuminated with edge-lighted acrylic panels and decorative ceiling mount fixtures with integrated cove lighting.”

The retail promenade has a soft, indirect lighting approach to allow an accent on the vibrant retail shops, while the spa, in contrast to the vibrant interior of the property, needed to promote relaxation with softer colors. The lighting has mostly cove lights to accent the finishes with decorative lighting to add sparkle.

The resort’s permanent collection of art is inspired by the Washington metropolitan area and was developed in collaboration with Prince George’s County Arts and Humanities Council, Atlantic Arts and RareCulture. Each piece of art had to be lit in a way to best present them.

The lobby front desk has an installation by Margaret Boozer, created using the original soil, clay and twigs from the site before the project existed. The materials are arranged into a map of the DC area. “The result has great texture and warm tones covering the entire back wall,” said Moran. “We intended to reveal this texture by grazing the piece with light (placing the light source close to the wall). Given the unusual ceiling conditions, the light locations were limited. Lighting from above through the wood ribs would have produced distracting shadows, so we decided to place the light source directly below the art, from the service counter. The art piece appears to be accented with only ambient light, but with the intended textural focus.”

Another art piece MCLA lit was a sculpture by legendary musician Bob Dylan that arches around the west casino entrance. “The dark metal piece provides little surface area to catch light,” she said. “We chose to light these forms in silhouette, by lighting the indirect cove behind.”

Architectural lighting designer       Illuminating Concepts of Farmington Hills, MI, assisted design architect HKS with the exterior lighting. “The lighting design intent for the building was to illuminate and highlight the beauty of the distinctive structure and its brilliant white aluminum and concrete construction, while complementing the region’s mix of historic architecture, without overwhelming it,” said Kelly Stechschulte, executive director of design and management with Illuminating Concepts.

Customized linear LED sources from Acclaim Lighting were integrated into the building’s facade, producing a solution that effectively illuminates the tower exterior and allows a clear, glare-free view from inside guestroom windows, according to Stechschulte.

“A customized 4000k exterior-rated linear LED fixture was developed and integrated into the sunshade fins at each floor slab,” she said. “The fixtures up-light the frit and the shades, creating a seamless and continuous lighting effect. Carefully placed directional kick films within the fixtures spread light the entire length of the fins, and at the corner conditions. The power for the line voltage linear fixtures is daisy-chained through the shades and enters the building at carefully coordinated penetrations within the curtain wall.”

The exterior lights also meet MGM’s commitment to energy conservation. “The customized fixtures consume only nine watts of energy per foot, despite an output of 419 lumens per foot,” said Stechschulte. “Exterior low-profile 4000K fixtures accent the roof spine and plinth notch for continuity in lighting from the tower to the parking garage.”

Throughout the property, Illuminating Concepts lit the MGM Lion statue and many outdoor large-scale custom art sculptures with high-output LED floodlights with necessary beam shaping lenses, to strategically highlight details of each piece. HB

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