Project Profile: Aurora Recreation Center | Zaneen

Project Profile: Aurora Recreation Center

An interview

An interview with Innovative Electrical Systems and Sarah Gardiner from Zaneen.

The city of Aurora celebrated the New Year with the opening of the Southeast Aurora Recreation Center. Built to create a unifying space for the community, the center sits on top of a hill with breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains. Its design brings in influences of its location as well as state-of-the-art amenities. Zaneen was specified by PopulousInnovative Electrical System (IES) and represented by The Lighting Agency to highlight the exterior architecture. The project called for clean, simple luminaires that coordinated with the natural materials of the facility. Our team was able to deliver on this vision, providing a lighting structure that was unique, streamlined and that allowed for the building itself to take center stage. The result is a building whose warm and natural tones glow like a lantern at night.


Keep reading to learn more about the Aurora Recreation Center project!

Sarah Gardiner: What was the project timeline and is there an important/unique significance to the space? 

Innovative Electrical Systems: Schematic design began in the fall of 2019 and construction ended early 2023. The building is a 77,000 square foot recreation center. This is the second newly built recreation center we have designed for the growing population of Aurora, Colorado and the city’s first indoor turf field.  

Copyright Conor CulverPopulous

SG: What was the project vision?  

IES: The facility sits on top of a hill with breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains to the west. The building is surrounded by open space adjacent to the Aurora Reservoir. The views to the west and the rolling hill landscape influenced the design. The architect used natural materials and tones, and designed a rolling wooden rooftop mimicking the rolling hills around the area. Our vision was to completely integrate lighting to showcase the natural materials of the facility while maintaining the unobstructed views to the west.  The site and the exterior architecture called out for clean, simple pedestrian luminaires that would not compete with the intricate wood structure of the main entry.  

SG: How did the project develop in terms of design from the initial concept? 

IES: We like to decide early where the lighting budget should be spent. From an exterior lighting standpoint, we like to spend the budget on lighting that highlights the building as well as on the pedestrian lights that are near the building.   


We knew that we wanted the pedestrian fixtures near the building to blend in as much as possible. At first we were not sure if that meant short small bollards, taller poles, fixtures with wooden highlights, or a fixture that we pulled from the city’s central district. After initial photometrics we realized we wanted something taller to limit the quantity of fixtures needed to light the pedestrian areas. We looked at several fixtures, mostly those with natural materials like wood finishes and those with simple linear rectangular shapes. We decided a wood fixture would compete with the building too much. A fixture with a void in it would allow you to see through the fixture and see the building.  

Copyright Conor CulverPopulous

SG: Why did you specify Zaneen?  

IES: Zaneen is a high-quality manufacturer that fit our budget. Once we landed on the concept of wanting a pedestrian fixture with simple lines, and one that is as transparent as possible, we came across the T4 family. After running photometric calculations and getting the price from our rep we knew it was the perfect fit.  

SG: What lighting challenges did you run into from the time of specification to installation?   

IES: The biggest challenge during design is the challenge we designers always face – budget. It becomes an exercise of coordinating with the architect as to what elements are most important and that is where the money is spent. The construction process went as smooth as you could imagine. The lighting install did not run into major issues. This is a credit to being part of a great design team and  builders on this project – it really was a dream team.  

Copyright Conor CulverPopulous

SG: How did Zaneen contribute in solving these challenges?  

IES: The fixtures cost allowed us to provide exactly what we were looking for within the lighting budget of the project.  

SG: What was your favorite part about this project?  

IES: The result! We were challenged early by the lead architect to provide a design that limited fixture, conduit and any exposed systems on the wooden structure. The result is a building whose warm natural color tones glow like a lantern at night. The lighting design really makes the structure and building shine. 

Copyright Conor CulverPopulous

SG: Has this project been nominated for, or won any awards? 

IES: Not yet, as the project has just finished. But we anticipate this building will be getting lots of love from the industry. It truly is one of the most beautifully designed projects we have been a part of in our nearly 25 years of business.  

SG: Any additional comments? 

IES: At IES we understand that the entire process from design to building is a team effort. The results of this building would not have been possible without the significant effort given by every member of the design team, their supporting manufacturers and representatives and the builders. We are proud and humbled to have been a small part of such an amazing project.  

Location: Aurora, Colorado

Products included: T4 Bollard 

Specifier: Populous + Innovative Electrical Systems, Inc. (IES)

Represented by: The Lighting Agency

Photographer: Conor Culver and Populous 


T4 is an architectural exterior lighting structure: at power-on, this ephemeral structure disappears from sight, transforming into two beams of geometrical light which creates a suggestive alternation of light and shadow on the ground. T4 Its an efficient tool for the lighting of open spaces, pedestrian areas and urban zones.

Get inspired by T4

Thank you for reading about this incredible project with PopulousInnovative Electrical Systems, Inc.!

Any thoughts, questions or suggestions regarding this article we would love to hear from you!

Our direct contact is 



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