Located in the heart of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) stands the Great Dome of the Barker Engineering Library reading room – one of the University’s signature architectural structures. At sixty-four feet in diameter, the Great Dome with a 25-foot oculus skylight was modeled with similar dimensions as the Pantheon dome from ancient Rome.
“I had visited the space many times before starting on the project and always thought it was such a unique and beautiful space. It was clear we were not adequately emphasizing it,” said Tondorf-Dick. The special projects team was conducting a restoration project on the exterior of the library and decided it was the opportune time to open the skylight and allow natural light back into the library. MIT knew the skylight would provide adequate light while the sun was out, but wanted to investigate options for round-the-clock illumination of the rotunda.
“We were looking for a fixture that would distribute light evenly across the library to give students enough light to work and make the architecture the focal point of the space,” said Julie Rose, senior associate at Sladen Feinstein Integrated Lighting Inc. “Basically, we needed one fixture that would provide direct and ambient lighting.”
LED seemed the obvious choice for longevity and maintenance reduction; however, the University was concerned about maintaining color consistency with daylight streaming in from the oculus. The flexibility of the Incito LED downlights allowed the team to adapt the fixture to highlight the dome.
Additionally, integrated nLIGHT® control technology helps balance the light when daylight streams in from the restored skylight maintaining a suitable light level for students. This controllability also helps reduce energy usage and maximizes the longevity of the LEDs.
“We successfully achieved our goals with one solution. The alternative would have been to select more than one type of fixture, and this would have made the color matching process even more difficult.” said Tondorf-Dick.
After nearly 100 years, the rotunda is finally illuminated with a lighting solution that truly brings the detailed architecture to life, while providing a functional space for students. The renovated reading space has been so popular with students that MIT librarians increased seating underneath the rotunda due to the high demand.