Auerbach Glasow French Designs Lighting for BYU-Idaho Center

by Jacob Coakley


The new BYU-Idaho Center is lit thanks to the work of Auerbach Glasow French. Photo by John Denker, CAPS
The new BYU-Idaho Center is lit thanks to the work of Auerbach Glasow French. Photo by John Denker, CAPS

We spoke about the work that Auerbach Pollock Friedlander did for the BYU-Idaho Center here. Sister firm Auerbach Glasow French was in charge of designing the interior and exterior lighting systems for the Center. Here’s how they managed that for the large performance space and its lobby.



SAN FRANCISCO – With the December, 2010 dedication of Brigham Young University-Idaho’s new 15,000- seat auditorium, BYU-Idaho Center, the campus is now home to one of the largest production theatrical facilities in North America built for the primary purpose of supporting weekly student devotional services. Brigham Young University-Idaho is part of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter Day Saints’ education system. Auerbach Glasow French worked under the direction of FFKR Architects to design, document and commission the architectural lighting and related controls for the lobby and auditorium audience chamber within the building.

Creative design solutions were provided in the lobby to accommodate the soaring three story high volume and long curving corridors. These challenges were solved by lighting fixtures mounted to the balcony fronts pointed towards a series of faceted reflector disks attached to the ceiling, refracting light to specific areas on the floor. Glowing wall sconces and pendant fixtures help create a luminous lobby that is comfortable and inviting. With large windows at the north and south ends of the building daylighting was also a factor in the design. The entire lobby is controlled by a switching system that changes the light levels based upon the time of day and time of year through an astronomical time clock.

In the auditorium, the firm designed lighting for the fan-shaped audience chamber that can be customized for performance, devotional, or lectures. Careful attention was paid to the finishes on the side walls and other details to create intimacy and warmth. Recessed ceiling fixtures and decorative sconces provide a soft glow, creating an intimate feel in the expansive space.

According to Larry French, the principal in-charge for Auerbach Glasow French “We met and exceeded our design challenge, bringing a 15,000-seat auditorium and large lobby into a comfortable scale, while providing a lighting system that is maintainable and energy efficient.”

Auerbach Pollock Friedlander, the firm’s Performing Arts/Media Facilities Consulting and Design division, provided comprehensive consulting services for theatrical, audio-video and broadcast systems for the BYU-Idaho Center.



The main lobby is a 76,000 square foot volume that is three stories high in the central zone and features large glass windows at both the north and south ends of the building. The high volumes posed access challenges for maintenance of the lighting. Where possible, catwalks were built into the attic space above the ceilings to access downlights and accent lights. However, this was not an option for all high volume areas, therefore Auerbach Glasow French’s design solution was to attach a faceted mirror system to the ceiling that aims at specific areas on the floor. The lighting fixtures are mounted to the balcony fronts allowing access for maintenance from a standard personnel lift. An added benefit of this design solution is that the ceiling brightness around and on the mirrors aids in revealing the volume of the space. The random pattern of the mirror clusters adds a quiet sense of playfulness to the ceilings.

The lobbies are quite expansive in the north/south axis to accommodate the size of the audience during assembly and intermissions. Surface brightness was carefully designed to keep these long volumes from becoming dark areas. Decorative glowing sconces and a reverse cove were utilized to light the long curving walls. Artwork along the walls is illuminated with small aperture recessed accent lights. Glowing semi-recessed pendant fixtures are set in random patterns in the low volume spaces and recessed glowing downlights are set in a zig-zag pattern in the ceiling of the curved corridor adding a sense of play. The large pyramid stair leading to multiple balcony levels glows along its length and the wall behind it is deliberately highlighted. The choice of sources and attention to surfaces create a luminous lobby that is inviting and comfortable.

All light sources in the lobby, with the exception of the art accent lighting, use either highly energy-efficient, long-lasting metal halide or fluorescent sources. Although halogen incandescent, the MR16IR accent lights are the most efficient of their kind. The entire lobby is controlled by a central switching system and changes lighting looks and levels based upon time of day and time of year through astronomical time clock based controls.


At 15,000 seats, the auditorium is one of the largest production theatres in North America built for the primary purpose of supporting weekly student devotional services. The fan shaped audience chamber features two balcony levels in addition to the main floor. The general lighting for the 73,300 square foot hall features a dual system that can be used in several different configurations. For performance and devotional use, a fully dimmable incandescent quartz halogen downlight array provides a theatrical look and feel to the space. An all metal halide downlight system is provided for lectures, clean up and set up. These fixtures are switched and provide a high color rendering, energy efficient and longer lamp life system for everyday use. When high light levels are required both systems may be used together to double the light level of either system used alone.

Decorative lighting elements assist in providing a degree of visual relief in the large volume. At the leading edge of both balconies are glowing sconces that add rhythm and sparkle to these long horizontal edges. At the rear of the main floor and at the back of each balcony level soft, glowing recessed ceiling fixtures were used in lieu of downlights. Surface mounted glowing wall sconces further enhance these locations.

The combination of these lighting elements provides a softer glow to the lighting and contributes to the illumination of the ceiling and walls making these areas feel more spacious. The large side walls above the caliper side balconies feature three very tall vertical recessed sconces each. These glowing elements are backlit with dimmed LEDs in a very shallow enclosure. The decorative nature of this group of fixtures also adds lightness and sparkle into spaces. Caliper walls break down the massive main floor and help to create a more intimate feel in the huge volume. These walls were lit to accent and emphasize the rich wood finish. Low level steplights hidden in aisle side chairs and recessed into side walls complete the design and provide low level lighting during performances for all aisle ways and exit paths.

Architectural Lighting Designer: Auerbach Glasow French

Theatre Consultant: Auerbach Pollock Friedlander

Audio-Video Consultant: Auerbach Pollock Friedlander

Architect: FFKR Architects

Acoustics Consultant: D.L. Adams Associates

Construction Manager: Okland

Electrical Engineer: Payne Engineering

Civil Engineer: Keller and Assoc.

Mechanical: Heath Engineering



Kurt Versen, Winona, Bega, Zumtobel, DAC, Focal Point, Selecon, GE Tetra, Lighting Services, Inc., Deltalight, Insight, Columbia, Alera, ETC Paradigm Controls

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