Schuler Shook Redesigns DeVos Hall


Schuler Shook recently completed the lighting renovation of DeVos Hall, a premiere performance space in Grand Rapids, MI.

Designed by architect Harry Weese, this vintage 1970’s venue is home to the local Symphony, Ballet, Opera and Broadway Theatre Guild. In classic 70’s style, the hall is essentially a concrete box that encloses the theatre and circulation zones, with very straightforward seating banks. Dark wood panels enclosed and connected the seating, with a raw concrete perimeter providing a cold, industrial appearance.

The challenge for the design team was to enliven the space and provide a modern look. Work for the renovation of this 2,400-seat hall was completed in just 90 days and included new perimeter house lighting.

"The convention center surrounding the theatre was greatly expanded and updated, and the hall looked very dated in contrast, comments Schuler Shook’s Todd Hensley. "Given the concrete enclosure and budget, the design team was somewhat restricted in our options. So the seating was replaced, and the wood walls and balcony faces were all reconfigured to make a contemporary design that relies on light. To bring life to the concrete surround and make the space more intimate, we decided to use LED color changing fixtures on the side walls and supplement the lighting levels in various locations."

The original house lighting included downlights cast into the concrete ceilings, with the fixtures located too close to the walls, with noticeable scalloping. The perimeter walls were not illuminated at all, resulting in a visual disconnect and increased perceived distance between the upper balcony and the stage itself.

The new house lighting features floor-to-ceiling colored illumination of the perimeter walls, which visually connects the seating tiers to one another and to the stage. One continuous row of 6’ long, 420W LED color-changing borderstrips, mounted at the ceiling, illuminates most of the 60’ tall walls. This system was supplemented by small 50W LED color-changing floodlights underneath the audience access bridges to assure uniform wall illumination. Additionally, the perimeter walls were painted a lighter color, providing a better surface to render color. Originally, there was very little audience way-finding or reading light in the balcony, so low-voltage cable systems with 50W halogen AR111 track-heads were added to provide additional illumination–without having to break into the concrete. Halogen wall sconces (75W) were also installed to cast soft illumination onto side balcony wood-paneled walls. The new lighting extended into the perimeter circulation areas as well, with LED fixtures from above enveloping the space in variable color. The perimeter walkways are illuminated by small, white LED steplights recessed in walls and integrated into various railings.

A new control system to support the color-changing requirements of the new houselighting was integrated into the existing stage and house lighting controls. Numerous presets can be recalled or modified from wallstations, laptop computer or the lighting console.

Todd Hensley adds, "Relighting DeVos Hall was challenging considering the concrete structure and the tight renovation schedule. The new house lighting helps integrate the architecture, making the space feel more unified and energetic through color. Apparently, stage directors are starting to use the color-changing capacity of the houselighting system as a part of the show."

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