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Crown Casino, Sydney, Australia

Issue 74 August / September 2013 : Architectural : Facade


The Crown Casino in Melbourne boasts a new golden exterior worthy of the IALD Award for Excellence it earned designers Electrolight.

When the IALD assembled in April this year to reveal the recipients of the association’s annual Lighting Design Awards, the winning list proved one of the most diverse to date, both in terms of their technical focus and geographical spread of the ten projects highlighted. Among the practices honoured was Electrolight, whose work on the Crown Casino Complex in Melbourne earned an Award for Excellence.

The Crown project was notable for the lighting designers’ high level of involvement in developing the very structure of the built environment, specifically the creation of a new eastern entry façade and porte cochere.

The process began in 2010 when the owners of the entertainment complex instigated a program to refresh their image. Opened in 1994, the site comprises a casino, luxury hotel, five-star restaurants, bars and retail offerings. Under new plans a new entrance would be created at the eastern end of the complex, extending its footprint and creating a new façade that would project an image of luxurious glamour.
The challenge was to light the façade while accentuating the richness of the faceted glass and sumptuous sandstone elements.

The Casino’s original architect Bates Smart was contracted to design the new elements. They suggested a pavilion constructed in rippling glass and stone, one that would curve round the Casino Hotel tower forming a new unified podium at its base. The materials for the project were meticulously chosen to create the right look. Blocks of Indian Teak sandstone were individually selected from a quarry in Jaiupur, India, and then sent to Queensland for cutting. The colour, patina and pattern of veins were all considered before each piece was allocated a place on the façade. The end result is a precisely engineered, subtle gradation of colour that sweeps across the new structure.

Curved, corrugated and smooth glass panels with scalloped surfaces were designed to continue the rhythmic line set by the sandstone panels. The intention was to create a jewel‐like box that reflects light and cast shadow in a way that presents the casino’s stylish character to Queensbridge Street streetscape and the Yarra River promenade.
Melbourne‐based lighting design firm Electrolight was asked to design specialist lighting for the new podium structure as well as considering the surrounding landscaping. Their brief was to work closely with the architect to create a lighting scheme that did justice to the façade design.

Electrolight faced the challenge of lighting the glass and creating an effect over the entire glass façade, while emphasising the façade design’s overarching metaphor of a luxury perfume bottle.
Electrolight devised a solution whereby concealed lighting is integrated into the very fabric of the façade. In tandem with the architect, the team designed a scheme where a cold cathode light source is reflected in each of the corrugations of the individual glass panels, to create the appearance of a lit glass façade.

The cold cathode emits light in all directions. This omnidirectional quality of light was put to use in the design of the façade’s structural nosing system, which attaches the glass to the building. One strip of cold cathode is employed to cast light in two directions, something that would have been difficult to achieve with the obvious alternative, LED (see detail sketch). An identical lighting scheme is applied to the sandstone sections of the façade and the result is a gentle, warm light grazing the façade panels. The cold cathode for the façade lighting was custom made by a very small neon manufacturer in Melbourne.It has excellent life expectancy and the designers had the freedom to choose an appropriate colour temperature, which they selected through site trials to match the tungsten hues of the existing hotel tower above.
In combination with the thickness of the glass panels, the lighting treatment adds depth, sparkle and warmth – a night time layer of luxury and sophistication.

It was the success of this approach, one that sidestepped the more obvious floodlit solution, that most impressed the IALD judges.
“Full integration of lighting with the architecture results in not only a beautiful façade design but also [acts as] branding and signage,” noted one judge in praise of the design. “If only every project could have this level of lighting integration.”

Electrolight founding director Paul Beale is quick to acknowledge the supportive attitude of the clients themselves. “We were delighted with the outcome on this project. Much of the credit for the project’s success rests with the client, who pushed the design team to create something truly special. They understand the importance of light and the difference good design can make to their property. The scheme we presented to them was unusual, yet they got behind the design 100% and with their backing something magical was born.”


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