The School of American Ballet at Lincoln Center in New York makes the most of its space with a double-height studio, where the upper-level studios are “nested” within the studios below, sharing the same windows and outer walls. This setup created a challenge for the designers at New York–based Tillotson Design Associates because they had to make sure the dancers on the lower level felt part of the larger overall space in addition to ensuring that the light was bright enough. The upper and lower studios are illuminated with T5HO fluorescent lamps behind 4-inch-wide white lenses that run perpendicular to the mirrors on the wall. The perimeter double-height walls are washed with light, also from T5HO lamps, and a combination of a continuous wallwash and downlight located in the upper ceiling ensures the corners in the lower-level studios are appropriately illuminated.

A lounge area between the upper studios features custom recessed sockets with stainless steel cover plates and dimmable silver bowl lamps to achieve a residential lighting quality. The lounge offers views into the upper studios, as well as a peek to the ones below. The studios have glass walls with a 4-foot band of electrified glass that change from clear to more opaque, allowing visitors watching the dancers to see in while the dancers can see out, but so as not to be distracted. Suzan Tillotson, principal of Tillotson Design Associates, says the design team carefully studied how the lighting would interact with the glass and mirrors that make up the walls of the studios. “When you have glass and mirrors, you have to be really careful with reflections and viewing angles,” Tillotson explains.

The building has an abundance of natural light, and shades are used on the windows, offering the school control over the daylight. Tillotson says the project was challenging but that making the studios “work for the dancers on both levels and minimizing the distractions was really unique.” Working with walls of glass and mirrors, the lighting design achieves its goal of offering adequate lighting throughout the space while also giving the dancers their privacy.

Jury Comments
Kathy Abernathy: The lighting and architecture are married in a very clean and pristine manner.

Laura Briggs: Love how the design team was able to use the architecture to produce light effects by borrowing light from adjacent spaces and working with the surfaces of materials.

Randy Burkett: A straightforward lighting solution makes this difficult design challenge seem easy.

Jean Sundin: A clean, simple lighting design that is very effective, architecturally appropriate, and nicely detailed.

David Ziolkowski: Beautiful. Simple. Elegant.

Location: New York
Client: School of American Ballet at Lincoln Center, New York
Architect: Diller Scofidio + Renfro, New York Lighting
Designer: Tillotson Design Associates, New York
Project Size: 12,000 square feet
Manufacturers: Bartco Lighting, Bega Lighting, Contardi, Selux