Project Details

Fabric 1

Producer/Manufacturer: Fisher
Primary Use: Main Fabric

Fabric 2

Producer/Manufacturer: Fisher
Primary Use: Secondary Fabric

Engineer Company 1
Ralph Applebaum Associates

Fabrication Company

Project Manager Company
Design & Production

Installation Company

Please describe the project specifications

The museum’s exhibits trace gems and minerals from their origins in mines all over the world, to production facilities where they are cut and polished, to jewelers who mount them in their final settings. The final exhibit is the Treasury, in which are displayed the museum’s finest examples of gemstone jewelry, worth millions of dollars.

This internally lighted 700 ft2 ceiling completely covers the Treasury room. The designer and the owner wanted a ceiling that appears as if the visitor were seeing from inside a large, faceted jewel. The designer specified LED tape-light strips, placed above a fabric diffuser, and operated by a single remote dimmer.

Each display case has its own item-specific micro spotlights, which highlight the individual jewelry pieces. The dimmable fabric ceiling above provides low-level lighting for receptions and events, brighter lighting for better readability of the item cards, and the brightest light, used when cleaning and changing exhibits.

What is unique or complex about the project?

Backlighting a fabric diffuser is not difficult, given sufficient room to allow the individual LEDs to blend into a single, uniform source. Midway through the project, a site visit revealed that the overhead clearance available for the LEDs was not 24 inches, as specified in the bid documents, but only 8 inches! With so little space above the diffuser, the individual LEDs showed through the diffuser. This unexpected and difficult problem was solved by the placement of a second diffusion layer above the ceiling fabric and below the LEDs.

Because Covid was rampant in Arizona during the production and installation, multiple scheduling and logistical hurdles had to be overcome, at the cost of several months of delays and many hours of redesign and adaptation.

With all the technical and Covid challenges finally overcome, the museum is now open, and donors are happy with how the jewelry is displayed. The very patient museum director is at last able to enjoy the Treasury room and its unique ceiling.

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