Light | Energy | Impact exhibit at the Center for Architecture.
Light | Energy | Impact exhibit at the Center for Architecture.

OVER THE PAST TWO YEARS NEW YORK CITY LIGHTING DESIGNERS HAVE LOOKED BACK AT THEIR HISTORY, dealt with the present, and struggled to predict the future. New York City remains the center of the lighting industry, and its lighting designers continue to lead the way.

As LightFair 2005 packed its bags, the Museum of the City of New York, in conjunction with the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America's (IESNA) Centennial Celebration, showcased, with an extensive exhibition of lighting technology, design, and fads, an exploration of how illumination shaped the modern city. (See “IESNA Centennial Celebration Recap” and “The Radiant City,” Jan/Feb 2006.) Utilizing timelines and artifacts, the displays documented lighting's past and present, and speculated on the future. In the spring of 2006, the IESNY's 1996 Richard Kelly exhibit, was expanded and re-introduced at the AIANY's Center for Architecture. Enhanced with new materials to introduce lighting design to a broader public, the installation, entitled Light I Energy I Impact, showcased the work of this legendary designer, and how he shaped the use of light in the built environment. (The original Richard Kelly exhibit is now traveling throughout Europe.)

Living and working within such a large lighting community, designers benefit from the immediate access to innovative and improved lighting products. LEDs have had a major impact on the design choices and options of lighting equipment, but LED technology is a moving target. Lighting designers have a love/hate relationship with this constantly evolving technology. Designer's appreciate light emitting diodes' low wattage, long life, and continued improvements in color, size, and brightness. However, the technology (developed for the electronics industry) is a convoluted learning curve of circuiting boards, Tc-Points, heat sinking, chromaticity, and semiconductors. Gone are the simple days of lamps and sockets. The lighting designer's familiar set of tools with which to evaluate output, may no longer apply to LEDs. “Seeing is believing” and most lighting designers appraise LED performance with their eyes.

While New York lighting designers keep up-to-date with revisions to city and national electrical, energy, and building codes, no one issue has had as great an impact as sustainability. Designers are experiencing a new challenge: To improve the quality of lighting design, while balancing design concerns with the environment. Lighting designers and architects are now asking what it truly means to be “eco-friendly,” pondering if today's practice of low-energy sources not only benefit the end user, but also how these products impact the entire eco-system from fabrication to shipping to operation to disposal of light sources and light fixtures—“cradle-to-grave.”

Lighting design projects by New York lighting designers set new strides and definitions of what is lighting design. The integration of light into architecture is much stronger than ever before. The line defining where architecture ends and lighting begins is vanishing. Light now in New York City is the architecture; light is the material; and light is the environment.

Randy Sabedra, principal of RS Lighting Design, is an award winning lighting designer and educator in New York City. He is a lighting instructor at Parsons The New School for Design, The Fashion Institute of Technology, and The Art Institute. Randy is currently serving as president of the New York Section of the IESNA.