When the team at Arup Lighting's New York City office was asked to design a cafeteria for a large media company based in midtown Manhattan, the designers saw an opportunity to do the unexpected—to create a flexible space where employees could take refuge from the fast-paced, high-stress work environment, anytime, not just during lunch hours. The result is a dynamic, fluid space, which marries technology with artistic capabilities.

Because the space, a nondescript New York City office building presented several challenges—low-ceiling heights in particular—the lighting designers, Brian Stacy and Matt Franks, began by setting up a set of self-imposed “rules” to tackle the design. The primary “rule” the designers adhered to was: no visible luminaires. This enabled the lighting designers to imagine the space as an environment, where luminous planes create the “architectural motif” (right). To achieve this, the ceiling and wall surfaces are lined with a low-iron, two-lite glass with an internal diffusing layer, measuring only 3/32” thick. Over 270,000 red, green, and blue LED nodes, uniformly spaced, are attached to the glass from behind (see image gallery). Equipment closets for the LED control gear are integrated into the room, but hidden from occupant sight.

Once the technological solution presented itself, the lighting team had to define how it would be used, particularly the play of color. As lighting designer Brian Stacy explains, “To make full use of the system a highly customized computer program was required, beyond the industry standard playback controllers.” So Stacy called on a group of programmers and the technical assistance of the LED manufacturer to create a custom computerized lighting authoring and control system. For this installation “each LED node is programmed into the system, allowing patterns, abstract images, or any conceivable input to morph to the shape of the space, spanning the ceilings and walls” (see image gallery). As a result, the custom programmability allows the space to be continuously updated with new color combinations and graphics. During normal lunch hours, the space is illuminated with colors in a muted “white” range providing 10 footcandles for a comfortable spa-like feeling (see image gallery). In the evening, or for special events, the lighting system can be programmed to include any effect. The versatility of the space and the programming system make it a particularly attractive canvas for artists looking to work in a new medium, and is certainly in keeping with the fast-paced, working environment of this media-savvy client. Lighting is transformed into an interactive experience. Lunch will never be the same. A|L

jury comments

Architecture is transformed into surface. | Through the use of lighting, a social and immersive environment is created. | The space provides a new artistic venue for other creative people.


Project Location: New York Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, New York Lighting Designer: Arup Lighting, New York Photographers: Brian Stacy and Matt Franks, Arup Lighting, New York Project Size: 12,000 square feet Watts Per Square Foot: .8 (architectural); 6 (LED art component) Lighting Installation Cost: $900,000 Manufacturers: Color Kinetics, Gammalux