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Designer

Amy Vonderau

Architect

Lettie Harrell
LH2 Architecture

Lighting specifier

Jason Long
Long Term Builders

Location

Houston, Texas

Background

Founded in Houston, Texas, Othon is a multi-descipline civil engineering firm focusing on private and state-sponsored projects, such as a segment of California’s high-speed railway, sought to redesign its office in Houston, Texas.

Goal

“Othon’s goal was to [afford] every desk’s seat a direct view outside—a challenge proven difficult with private offices lining the perimeter of the window walls,” designer Amy Vonderau said.


“[Othon Engineering’s] original space was a typical closed private office and full height panel cubicles, basically a maze of long corridors. There was a snag in hiring new talent because of the compartmentalized work environment. By opting to design their new space with an open concept, this gave way to community areas for project teams to easily interact.”

Othon Engineering

“Othon’s goal was to [afford] every desk’s seat a direct view outside—a challenge proven difficult with private offices lining the perimeter of the window walls,” designer Amy Vonderau said.

Challenge

As the plan took shape—the goal of direct exterior view posed a problem with ensuring that lighting levels were balanced. “The building wasn't originally designed for an open concept ceiling, so when the lay-in ceiling was removed we had to make most sense of the existing elements,” Vonderau said.

Solution

“We decided to create the store front 'eyebrow' that extended from the top of the glass in the private offices into the open ceiling area, creating a shelf. Within this shelf which we named as the 'eyebrow' we use the 1" linear light that followed the perimeter of the private offices which in return balanced the exterior natural light into the open space. This also served as a wayfinding element that leads one from the reception to the open work area, then down the corridor to the community conference room—while ensuring this light wasn’t a glare bomb but rather an ambient continuous glow, Vonderau said.”


The eyebrow flowed through the space creating the perfect path to be illuminated to help balance the natural light from the exterior into the core.


Ultimately, private offices were kept along the perimeter window walls but rebuilt with glass to allow for the center work area a direct view of the outside from every desk. When she specified a long linear 1" LED tape light that needed custom lengths and continuous corners, Jason Long submitted Alcon Lighting’s product, which she approved. “The linear LED light strip was the main design element within this renovation,” she said.

Two foundational principles of lighting design guide most designers and architects—the qualitative (or aesthetic) aspect and the quantitative (or engineering) aspect of light. Architectural lighting is concerned with the qualitative lighting experience. The qualitative pertains to ensuring that a space has a pleasing ambience. It is the artistic interspersing of shadows and light, darkness and illumination, highlighting certain figures and form.

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