The lighting in the Carlos Miele store in New York's Meatpacking District magically illuminates both the high-end dresses and the hip organic interior by New York-based architecture firm Asymptote. Rather than standard spotlights on shelves and racks found in typical retail settings, the lighting concept by New York firm Focus Lighting is unconventional and creative, and yet, completely deferential to the merchandise.

Balancing the light levels deep into the store was critical to the client, who wanted passersby to see the length of the space. In the front window and at the changing rooms in the back of the store, removable acrylic panels conceal 4-foot 28W and 8-foot 52W slimline fluorescents-depending on the available space-with integral ballasts. Color temperature was also important. 'We try to paint pictures with light on an architectural canvas,' explains Paul Gregory, principal of Focus Lighting. 'Here, we were painting a white picture, and our lighting pallet was different shades of white.' Throughout the 5,700-square-foot store, cool 3500K T8s emphasize the sweeping white walls and Barrisol fabric ceiling, in contrast to the warmer incandescent fixtures used to highlight the brightly colored clothing.

A configuration of fluorescent strips and MR16 accent lights illuminate the clothing on the perimeter racks. Hidden in a roll-formed metal shell that contains the rod on which the clothing hangs, two T8 fluorescents light the wall behind the clothing. Also concealed inside the shell, MR16s angle in to accent the color and texture of the garments. On top of the shell, two additional T8 fluorescents uplight the wall and curved ceiling. In order to avoid glare and the reflection of the light source, the shiny coating on the walls morphs into a matte finish near the rack. The light above and around the merchandise, already dynamic against the white walls, makes the dresses 'glide' along the rack.

Fluidity and weightlessness define the project. Indirect light helps hide edges and shadows, creating a smooth flowing surface. In addition to the graceful movement of the architectural terrain, five minimalist mannequins dressed in the latest collection 'float' around the store. A 90W PAR fixture recessed in the Barrisol fabric ceiling lights each from above. The hovering figures are also illuminated from below by a ring of four MR16s, alternating with four segments of curved 15-millimeter neon tubes. Embedded in the floor, with a remote neon transformer accessible from the basement, the arrangement suggests a visible energy is emitted by the dresses themselves.

Jury comments
The store's lighting adds to an atmosphere that invites the customer to enter, shop, and buy. • Elegant use of simple fixtures integrated into the walls, floor, and fixturing maximize the effects of the curvaceous architecture without compromising the architectural surfaces and while still keeping the merchandise a priority.

Project Carlos Miele, New York
Architect Asymptote, New York
Lighting designer Focus Lighting, New York
Photographer Paul Warchol
Total square footage 5,800
Watts per square foot 4.5