» When New York's Carlton Hotel (originally built in 1904 as the Seville Hotel) underwent extensive renovations in 2001, a new identity was created, as well as a new look. Focus Lighting was charged with designing a lighting scheme for the lobby that would tie into the concept of 'faded elegance,' recalling the glamour of past eras. 'We wanted to create a sense of drama,' says project lighting designer Michael Cummings, 'but still make the space comfortable and inviting.'

To achieve this, Focus Lighting drew on theatrical techniques and multiple light layers. 'We didn't want a cold, sterile scene,' Cummings says. Nor did the designers want it to feel too glitzy or theme-park-like. The team accomplished this by juxtaposing modern materials against more classical elements. For example, crystal chandeliers hang from the ceiling above the main seating area, but are sheathed in a metal and sheer-fabric drum to make them softer and less imposing.

Several features serve as focal points in the lobby. The reception desk contains brightly illuminated frosted-glass panels, backlit with low-voltage socket strips. Lining the perimeter of the main seating area are quoin-patterned columns, covered in ultra-suede, with orange-glass panel centers that draw the eye vertically. Linear low-voltage socket strips, set behind the glass, glow softly.

To provide a balanced lighting solution for the double-height volume, theatrical fixtures are hidden in the ceiling coves, creating an upper layer of light. In the center of the ceiling is a 'skylight', which suggests a natural light source from above. In keeping with the theatrical nature of the space, it is outfitted with color-changing capabilities that can shift from pale amber to lavender, as well as different intensities. 'It helps us create varying moods from day to night,' Cummings explains. Because the lobby was new construction (the adjacent building lot was purchased in order to expand the footprint), a catwalk was added above the ceiling, allowing for easier fixture maintenance.

By far the most dramatic feature of the lobby is the water wall, a 24-foot glass sheet covering a fabric-printed archival photo of the building, backlit by four fiber optic panels. The image is alternately abstracted, the result of the fiber optics' shifting wave pattern, which responds to the water's movement.

Noted by the jury for an elegant lighting solution that successfully reinforces the design concept while establishing a sense of atmosphere, the Carlton Hotel lobby remains contemporary while referencing its ties to the past. A|L

Very successful in not simply recreating architectural history, but rather enhancing it with modern accents. ••• The lighting complements the rich material palette and provides a cohesive feeling to this sophisticated space. ••• There's an extraordinary kind of consistency, a stage-set quality to it that's admirable.

Project Location New York
Architect The Rockwell Group, New York
Lighting Designer Focus Lighting, New York
Photographer J.R. Krauza/Focus Lighting
Project Size 3,300 square feet
Watts per Square Foot 6.5
Cost $245,000 (lighting fixtures only, installation costs unknown)
Manufacturers Altman Lighting (miniature framing spot); Chris Freeman Designs (15mm warm-white neon); CSL (2090 recessed adjustable wallwasher and 9991 recessed pinhole downlight); ETC (Source 4 and Unison control system); Hydrel (underwater yoked/base-mount floodlight); Lightolier (recessed lens fresnel downlight); Litelab (socket strip); Lucifer Lighting (low-voltage striplight); RSA (combo trimless series); TPR (fiber optic illuminators)