Fins to the North, Fins to the West


Fins to the North, Fins to the West

When it comes to citing notable urban architecture, county parking garages typically don’t make the list. A garage in San Diego, however, stands as an exception.

As part of the San Diego County’s waterfront project, a striking new parking garage with a distinct architectural lighting scheme now graces the corner of Cedar Street and Kettner Boulevard in the city’s Little Italy neighborhood. Built on a brownfield, the $36 million structure provides 645 parking spaces within ten stories, three below ground and seven above ground.

Designed by architects International Parking Design (IPD) of Encino, California, in partnership with San Diego-based construction manager McCarthy Builders, the garage provides parking to county workers at the nearby County Administration Center during the day. At night and on weekends, it offers paid public parking to visitors who want to explore the city’s historic Little Italy enclave.

The parking garage project played a big role in the overall vision for a new Waterfront Park at the County Administration Center, giving county workers a nearby place to park. At the same time, the neighborhood needed to accommodate more visitors to the area with highly regarded restaurants that had very little or no private parking available. The garage easily has filled both of these needs.

Architects incorporated a vertical CloudWall fin-based facade system on the structure’s north and west sides. Reminiscent of ripples in the San Diego Bay and encompassing the building’s seven above-ground levels, the CloudWall uses clear anodized aluminum for both the fins and the cross bracing.

To highlight the fins at night, county officials requested use of a state-of-the-art lighting scheme for the garage. In conjunction with that lighting project, the County wanted to update the lighting system for the nearby historic Beaux-Arts/Spanish Revival-style San Diego County Administration Building. Completed in 1938, the building is nicknamed the “Jewel on the Bay” because of its notable architecture and its scenic location fronting San Diego Bay.

OCS Lighting & Control was selected to work with Dynalectric, the electrical contractor responsible for both installations, to provide system design and manage the implementation of the lighting schemes for the structures. OCS is recognized for its unparalleled support and high quality lighting product offering that meet the requirements of virtually any project, regardless of scope, size, value, budget, type, and requirements, while heeding to the local, state, and federal regulations and the specific terms and conditions of its customers.


Lighting Selection Criteria

The lighting team and county officials determined from day-one that several attributes including strong light output, good color quality, ease of control, fixture build quality, and a clean aesthetic were all critical factors in determining which fixtures would be selected for the lighting both buildings.

The county wanted to create a lighting spectacle on the finned parking garage façade, reminiscent of a low-res video screen, by using RGB fixtures to create pixels between the intersection of every pair of fins on the north and west facades of each floor. Fixtures selected for this project would need to use DMX/RDM for lighting playback and have a corrosion resistant exterior that matched the aluminum fin architectural features. The lighting team also determined they would need to install 70-foot fixture runs using 277 volt input power and that, in order for these runs to fall within the County’s aesthetic requirements for the building exterior since they would be exposed to the public both day and night, a single cable was required to deliver power and data.

For the county building, officials wanted to update existing high wattage HID floods uplighting the building’s unique architectural details with technology from the 21st century. They looked to replace the existing 400-watt metal halide narrow floodlights with RGBW LED lights to gain several benefits including much greater energy efficiency, reduced maintenance, and quick and easy color changes accomplished through programming rather than a crew physically applying color filters for special events and seasonal themes.

Moreover, the county wanted the ability to easily coordinate the lighting shows running on both the garage and building, which are in the line of sight for each other, so that the two would always be unified in schemes and color themes.


Acclaim Lighting Solution

After thoroughly comparing various solutions with guidance from OCS and Dynalectric, the County selected lighting products from Los Angeles-based Acclaim Lighting. Acclaim’s solution not only met but exceeded the technical requirements set forth within available budget parameters for both projects.

For the Cedar/Kettner parking garage, OCS specified (876) 1-foot RGB Dyna Graze HO, a high-power, color-changing, outdoor linear fixture, featuring class-leading light output, adjustable feet, a glare shield and DMX and RDM control systems. The unit includes swivel mount and beam angle options to fit a wide range of applications. Available in 1’ and 4’ sections, DynaGraze HO offers multiple configurations that provide smooth linear dimming with ELV modules and most TRIAC dimmers. The system provides 650 lumens per foot and maintains 70 percent of its initial lumen output at 150,000 hours.

The color-changing Dyna Drum HO fixtures feature RGBW chips, providing a wide color range one can select from when creating lighting content. The Dyna Drum HO is available in several beam angles and lens options. Both Dyna Drum models feature four-channel, DMX-512 control systems, including built-in wired and wireless protocols.

Dyna Flood HO, high-powered, quad-color LED flood units, supplies precisely matched colors in outdoor settings to illuminate facades, structures, landscapes and monuments. Consuming over 60 watts, Dyna Flood HO delivers 1,579 lumens of brightness at a 20-degree beam angle, delivering efficacy of 26 lumens per watt.


Lighting Under Control

Control systems for both structures are based around ETC Mosaic show control, ETC Response Net3 Gateways, and Acclaim RDS6 DMX/RDM opto splitters that support a custom control/content playback system created by the San Diego-based studio of Sosolimited, an art and technology consultant that specializes in interactive environments and multi-sensory design. Working with SoSo’s content playback platform, which is operating on a Mac Mini, the complex control system enables precise, dynamic lighting schemes.

The outcome of the Cedar & Kettner parking garage illumination project has been well received by county officials and citizens alike. The structure has already claimed its place as a nighttime icon in a favorite neighborhood enjoyed by many residents and visitors of the area. And now, thanks to crisp and colorful LED lighting, the architectural features of the iconic Jewel on the Bay are greatly enhanced at night, providing a treat for the eyes on the San Diego evening cityscape, whether seen from land, sea, or air.

Erica Loader is VP Acclaim Lighting she can be reached at

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Erica Loader
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