"Where there is light, keep it going," says Alastair Standing. More than a motto, it is a methodology that this sole-practitioner architect has been refining through a series of light-challenged Manhattan residential projects over the past several years. First, there was a loft on Broome Street. Once a photography darkroom, it required that Standing use an angled piece of reflective one-sided glass to direct light, entering through a skylight, deep into the darkest extremity of the space. Then there was the Rosser Studio, where Standing rendered the surfaces-windows, tabletops, and walls-that fell into the path of minimal daylight, translucent. And finally there is the Lederman Loft, where Standing's innovative lighting techniques have realized their fullest application to date.

Situated on the top two floors of a Madison Avenue brownstone, the Lederman Loft presented very specific natural lighting concerns. 'The problem with any of these row houses,' says Standing, 'is that they are dark in the center. You get usable space in the front and back, but the middle is completely dead.' Standing solved this problem by inserting skylights above the center section of the space, both in the roof and between the two floors of the loft. Strong enough to walk on, the skylights were fabricated from a triple lamination of 1/2-inch annealed glass, one layer of which was frosted, topped by a 1/4-inch wearing surface. The same glass was used for the treads of a staircase that descends through the center of this space from the study to the kitchen. When light pours through the skylights and hits the treads, they transform into glowing bars, glistening and throwing light in all directions. Hanging the staircase from the floor opening by stainless-steel rods also minimized its structure and kept light obstruction to a minimum.

The second part of Standing's plan was to create an even distribution of light throughout the loft, which involved allowing light from the east- and west-facing windows to flow freely toward the center of the space. 'All the program elements had to be moved out of the way of the light,' says Standing. 'They're all pushed against the wall.' The ceiling was kept clean and unobstructed by hanging fixtures that would create shadows during the day, with the exception of two 80W RT6 direct/indirect luminaires in the painting studio, and a 75W A19-lamped pendant above the dining table. The kitchen utilities are illuminated with recessed 20W lamps, and 150W to 300W baffled floodlights are placed in all daylight openings to maintain an even illumination into the night. 'They're a substitution for daylight,' explains Standing. 'Once the sun goes down, you turn these on and there's always a sense that the light is coming from the same place.'

The choice of materials also keeps the light moving: Wood floors in the front and back of the lower level give way to white polished-porcelain tile in the kitchen that reflects light upward. Sliding frosted-glass screens were used wherever privacy was desired, such as between the bedroom and bathroom on the upper floor, and the studio and kitchen downstairs. The bedroom and bathroom screen is outfitted with two layers of perforated metal that can be shifted to create a completely opaque surface or pulled apart to allow light through.

Standing is methodical about working out his lighting solutions. He uses a combination of vector modeling, the program Lightscape, and other software packages to study the way light falls in a space, taking into account both the prevailing natural conditions and the restrictions of the built environment. What can result from this type of careful planning and scrutiny, as is evidenced by the Lederman Loft, is a surprisingly light-filled space where you would least expect to find one. 

Project  Lederman Loft, New York City
Architect and Lighting Designer Standing Architecture, New York City
Photographer  Peter Mauss/ESTO

Alcko:  60W L20 incandescents in bathroom
LeKlint: Decorative fixture with 75W A19 lamp in powder room
Leucos: 75W A19 Goccia pendant in dining room
Lightolier: Lytetube with T8 80W fluorescent lamps in studio
Lutron: Maestro controls throughout the project
Reggiani: Papillon floodlight with T3 150W to 300W baffled lamp in all daylight openings
Sea Gull Lighting: Ambiance recessed luminiare with MRC11 20W lamp in kitchen