Broad Art Museum: East Lansing, MI

Lighting Designer:

The Broad Art Museum – an unexpected gem for a Midwestern college town

The partnering of Zaha Hadid, Eli and Edythe Broad and Michigan State University (MSU) has resulted in a museum that is as remarkable and challenging to the eye as the art within. LTP444 light columns from WE-EF were selected to complement and highlight the exterior of this metallic ‘jeweled box’.

The Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum was built at an unlikely place and time – East Lansing, Michigan during a recession. Designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Zaha Hadid, the museum is a symbol of recovery, renaissance and new vision in these dynamic times. The architecture is mysteriously abstract, revealing itself at different angles depending on the viewer’s perspective and position. As Hadid says about her work, “I like architecture to have some raw, vital, earthy quality. You don’t need to make concrete perfectly smooth or paint it, or polish it.”

There is a surprising juxtaposition between the abstract building with its sharp, pleated surfaces and trapezoidal volumes, and the leafy collegiate setting. Yet the size is more modest than expected, in keeping with the scale of the campus. The museum is a bold attempt to make MSU an international art and culture destination.

Philanthropist and businessman Eli Broad grew up in Detroit and graduated from MSU with an accounting degree in 1954. Three years later he co-founded Kaufman and Broad Home Corporation, an influential home-building company. Broad then acquired Sun Life Insurance Company of America (which later became SunAmerica Inc.) that he eventually sold to AIG. A generous donor to MSU and a collector of nearly 2,000 pieces of art, he donated $26 million to his alma mater in 2007 for the creation of a dedicated art museum. The museum opened in November 2012, with plans already in place for a second museum in Los Angeles in 2014.

There is continuity between the exterior lighting design and the museum’s unique architecture. The LTP444 light columns illuminate the exterior pathways and echo the building’s sharply triangular, louvered design. “The LTP444 closely fits the aesthetic and performance requirements and complements this monumental museum,” explains Darko Banfic, one of the project’s lighting designers. The 13-foot high columns, fitted with 150 W metal halide lamps, provide three-sided symmetric light distribution to the frequently used footpaths in the West Plaza and East Walkway. Ideal lighting levels are achieved with a single row of luminaires that are neatly organized within the walkway’s central plant beds as well as the perimeter landscaping.