Philadelphia-based lighting firm The Lighting Practice—working with students from the University of the Arts and sound-system designers from Metropolitan Acoustics, and in partnership with the Center City District and the Philadelphia International Festival of Arts (PIFA)—have designed a temporary lighting display that is being projected onto the façade of Philadelphia City Hall. The installation debuted on April 15, to coincide with PIFA, and it will run each evening through May 19, from dusk to 1 a.m., so that it's on display as city hosts Lightfair. The lighting installation continues the Lighting Practice's illumination projects for the city's Avenue of the Arts, which showcases 14 illuminated façades along Philadelphia's downtown culture and art corridor from Market to Pine Streets. (architectural lighting covered Philadelphia's urban lighting plans and the Avenue of the Arts in the Jan/Feb 2008 issue, and the Lighting Practice's work received a 2009 AL Light & Architecture Design Award Special Citation for Public/Private Partnership.)

This installation, titled “Styling a Second Empire: A Light and Sound Experience,” features animated graphics along with moving lights and color-changing effects that reinterpret the French Second Empire–style architectural details of Philadelphia's City Hall building. The University of the Arts students were included in the workshop sessions and were asked to assist in the development of the lighting and music concept, as well as the system design and program content. According to Al Borden, principal of the Lighting Practice, the students have composed an hour of original music that accompanies the imagery. “We are especially excited to be working with the students from the University of the Arts who are bringing their talent and education to the project,” Borden says.

The focus of this latest lighting display is City Hall's south façade and tower. It also provided an opportunity for the lighting designers to revisit their 2008 illumination sequences for the 14 façades along the avenue and design something that would connect to the City Hall display. “It's about creating an environment for the block,” Borden says. “It's very cinematic.”

Photo and video links For a behind-the-scenes look at the development and installation of “Styling a Second Empire: A Light and Sound Experience,” go to