An aerial view of Pier One, which is part of Brooklyn Bridge Park along the East River.
John Bartelstone An aerial view of Pier One, which is part of Brooklyn Bridge Park along the East River.

One of the more interesting themes that emerged in reviewing this year’s entries for the AL Light & Architecture Design Awards was the number of projects that were impacted by the 2008 recession and how the downturn interrupted design, development, and construction. For those projects that were lucky enough to restart when the economy turned, they did so during lighting’s transformation from non-LED to LED light sources.

Two projects that best illustrate this are the Brooklyn Bridge Park and the tower-top lighting for 731 Lexington Avenue in New York. In the case of the park, lighting design firm Domingo Gonzalez Associates first started design work in 2004. At the time, linear fluorescent and ceramic metal halide lamps were the best options for the 85 acres of industrial waterfront along the East River being transformed into a public green space. As design continues today, through the project’s later phases, the lighting is incorporating LED fixtures.

731 Lexington Avenue's tower top lighting has been updated with an LED color-changing system.
Frederick Charles 731 Lexington Avenue's tower top lighting has been updated with an LED color-changing system.

Another example of how lighting’s technological transformation has impacted design can be seen in the tower-top illumination for 731 Lexington Avenue. In this instance, the client went back to the lighting designers who had done the original work in the early 2000s, Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design (CBBLD), and asked them to update the cold-cathode lighting system with color-changing LEDs. Here, there were a couple of significant challenges: how to use the existing tower-top infrastructure to incorporate new equipment and how to maintain the look and feel of the original cross fade of white light as the 55-story tower comes to life at dusk. CBBLD re-created this effect while adding color-changing and dynamic motion functionality so that the building owner can now illuminate the tower to coordinate with different holiday seasons.

It is unlikely that we will see another generation of projects so doubly impacted by economic and technology forces.