The future of vision & daylight control


Case Studies

Grand Rapids Art Museum

The context:

Founded in 1910 and relocated twice since then, the Grand Rapids Art Museum in Michigan needed a new modernist building to host its collection of over 5,000 works of art. In an era when museums are competing to duplicate the Bilbao effect to be more spectacular than Frank Gehry's Guggenheim, the new building to host GRAM aimed to be the first green museum in the United States, designed to become LEED certified.

The construction started in September 2004, after many months of calculations and preparations. At its completion, three years later, the museum was voted among the word’s 6 best new buildings of 2007 by Newsweek magazine.

The challenge:

Kulapat Yantrasast with wHY Architecture was appointed to design the new building, on a mission to respect its civic symbol and obtain the LEED certification. Integrating arts and technology, the architect needed appropriate solutions to support the green commitment. Using and giving meaning to natural light was one of the main challenges, because the building had to save as much power as possible.

Unicel’s solution:

In order to achieve important energy savings, the use of natural light in the building was carefully calculated. Therefore, the building was designed such that 70 percent of the interior illumination would come from natural light.

As part of a complex lighting program, Unicel was called upon to provide the lantern skylights for the top floor galleries, the main area of the museum, as well as motorized Vision Control® units required to improve the energy efficiency of the building. During day, the lanterns serve as natural light sources to the galleries, while at night they illuminate the building and make it prominent in the streetscape.

Key parameters:

Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan
Gross square footage: 125,000 ft2 (11,600 m2)
Cost: $75 million
Completion: October 2007
Program: Galleries, offices, cafe, shop, auditorium, courtyards

Owner: Grand Rapids Art Museum
Architect: wHY Architecture (design), Design Plus (architect of record), Munkenbeck + Marshall Architects (concept design)
Contractor: Harmon Inc.