Last year, as part of an ongoing effort to attract young, affluent buyers, Cadillac drove its headquarters from Detroit to New York City’s Hudson Square neighborhood. At the base of its new office building, the automaker opened a multipurpose “experience center.” Named the Cadillac House and designed by Genslervaaztstrffwcduxcycbwauvxxzx, the 12,000-square-foot storefront contains an art gallery, a lounge, a communal meeting area, a coffee bar, and a novel twist on a car showroom: a runway. New Cadillacs are displayed on a terrazzo inlay embedded in the floor and which runs down the center of the space. Brian Orter Lighting Design (BOLD) chose to illuminate this feature with a combination of LED fixtures and strips of old-school neon—a nod to the automaker’s midcentury-design heritage.
“Even though the space looks new and fresh,” says BOLD principal Charlie Dumais, “we wanted to reference [Cadillac’s] history, and we did that through [the] lighting design.” Dumais and his team drew inspiration from pictures of the original Cadillac dealerships as well as the Eero Saarinen–designed GM Technical Center in Detroit, the home of Cadillac’s parent company, General Motors. In doing their research, BOLD discovered “a lot of very graphic and modern neon,” Dumais says. “But what we wanted to do was introduce it in a clean, artistic kind of way.” The solution: A custom ceiling installation of 3500K 13W neon strips arranged in 62 rows set 18 inches apart. (The repeating lines also echo the linear grille design of today’s Cadillacs.) To supplement the neon glow, BOLD added 3000K 15W LED downlight track heads between the neon.
Originally, the lighting designers wanted the 9-foot by 10-inch stretches of neon to be continuous tubes but, for budget reasons, had to separate each row into three parts arranged in two alternating patterns: long–short–long and short–long–short. Using different lengths of neon also helped to mask any imperfections between adjacent rows, since the rows don’t have the same spacing. “The issue with having the runs all the same is that any misalignment of the fixtures would be visible to the naked eye,” says BOLD studio leader Gary Wong. The designers applied black film to the ceiling-facing sides of the neon to prevent spill light from illuminating unattractive mechanical systems, and specified that the fixtures be dimmed to 30 percent output to extend their life span.
Many considerations factored into the color temperature choice for the neon. Its coolness blends with the light cast by the digitally programmed LED video screens mounted onto the structural columns flanking the runway. The color also approximates Cadillac’s 3500K headlights. Behind the runway and separated by a wall is a communal meeting space, where 3000K 7W recessed slot fixtures continue the rhythm and length of the neon strips.
Along the sides of the runway, the color temperature grows warmer, starting with 3000K 4W ceiling coves, containing wall grazers with a 15-degree by 29-degree optic above the columns holding the LED screens. To the left of the columns, 2700K 10W pendants are suspended over the coffee bar. For the lounge, the architects designed a dark-bronze-finished chandelier, which BOLD, per Gensler’s request, initially fitted with filament-style 2700K 4W lamps before swapping them for clear ones. Double-headed recessed 24W 3000K LED downlights help achieve an even level of illumination throughout the seating area.
Across from the lounge is a gallery space, where BOLD incorporated the same ceiling-suspended track heads as over the runway, as well as clusters of three 2700K 15W parabolic aluminized reflector lamps with a prismatic-glass lamp that hearkens to car headlights of the past.
But the strongest homage to the brand’s history is the neon—an element that, Wong says, GM originally vetoed in favor of a stretched ceiling common in car dealerships. “They were concerned that the individual illuminated tubes would image on the super-shiny automotive paint finish,” the designer recalls. BOLD persisted, and in the end, GM approved of the result. “The light actually accents the car’s curvature,” he says. “With a [stretched] ceiling, the cars would have looked very flat.” •
Project: Cadillac House, New York • Client: General Motors/Cadillac • Architect: Gensler, New York • Lighting Designer: Brian Orter Lighting Design (BOLD), New York • Engineers: McLaren Engineering Group, New York • M/E Engineers: Fiskaa Engineering, New York • A/V Consultant: AV&C, New York • Construction Manager: Shawmut Design & Construction, New York • Project Size: 12,000 square feet • Project and Lighting Costs: Not Available • Watts per Square Foot: approx. 1.28 • Code Compliance: ASHRAE 90.1-2010
Aion LED: Bathroom covelight • Aamsco: Hybrid LED G25 retrofit lamps for custom pendant at lounge • Cree: LED PAR lamps for decorative fixtures at gallery • EcoSense: Surface-mounted 3000K LED grazing light strip at runway columns • Flos: IC tablelamp at lounge • iGuzzini: Track-mounted, high-output 15W 3000K LED accent light at runway and gallery • Fluxwerk, a Lumenpulse Brand: Recessed-mounted, high-efficiency, 7.5W-per-linear-foot, 3500K LED light slot at veranda and collaboration area • Intense Lighting (Leviton): Illuminated handrail at veranda • Manhattan Neon: Dimmable, 13W-per-linear-foot, 3500K custom neon configuration at runway • Philips Color Kinetics and Philips Day-Brite: Fixtures for back-of-house kitchen • Resolute: Decorative fixture in gallery • Roll & Hill: Decorative pendant at coffee bar • USAI Lighting: Recessed-mounted, trimless, dual-head adjustable LED accent light at lounges