The John Jay College of Criminal Justice is the only higher education liberal arts institution in the United States with a focus on criminal justice and forensics. As such, it experienced a phenomenal rate of growth on the heels of September 11, 2001, when the terrorist attacks of that day spurred not only a great wave of interest in the field, but also turned law enforcement into a growth industry. To handle this influx of students, the college hired Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) to design a new facility that would integrate with its existing buildings—including the C.B.J. Snyder–designed 1903 Haaren Hall—and fill out the entire city block between 10th and 11th avenues and 58th and 59th streets in Manhattan. In addition to creating more programmatic spaces—classrooms, lecture halls, dining areas, and mock courtrooms—the school wanted a facility that would act as an urban campus, providing community and informal gathering spaces for its student body.
SOM responded with a glass-clad building composed of two distinct volumetric elements: a long, low podium that connects to the existing buildings along 10th Avenue, and a 14-story tower that anchors the college on 11th Avenue. Within these volumes, the architects inserted a central circulation spine that also acts as a commons. “We call it the cascade,” says Mustafa Abadan, SOM’s partner in charge of the project. “It’s about the width of a New York City street.” Just as Broadway steps to the west as it works its way north through Manhattan, this commons steps up in section as it works its way toward the tower, culminating in a light and airy atrium space. The architects also gave the podium an accessible green roof, known as the Jay Walk, which gave the college its first and only campus quad.
The lighting designer, New York City–based SBLD Studio, devised a simple, elegant scheme for the project that relies on the ample daylight provided by the glass architecture while unobtrusively deploying electric fixtures that are easy to maintain. “The lighting was [designed] completely in response to the architecture,” says SBLD principal Susan Brady. “It’s as integrated as possible, so that you don’t see a lot of fixtures”
Another of SOM’s architectural moves that aids in creating a sense of campus for the school despite its city setting was to locate John Jay’s main entrance at the middle of the block along 59th Street, away from the hustle and bustle of the avenues. Students enter into an airy lobby topped by a sloped skylight that floods the space with natural light. A matrix of long, vertical pendants—the project’s most outgoing luminaires—hang from the steel armature of the skylight. “They create a sense of place and really emphasizes the verticality of that space,” Brady says. The pendants are of two types: one with a luminous shaft outfitted with two 3-foot T5s and a 35W PAR30 metal halide downlight, and the second with an opaque shaft and a 35W PAR30 metal halide downlight.
From the entrance lobby, students can turn left into the older buildings or turn right into the new facility and the series of spaces that make up the commons. Initially, SOM wanted the interior street of this space to be capped by a traditional luminous ceiling, a goal that was retooled when new safety codes required a more robust smoke-exhaust system. Instead, the architects specified a cellular aluminum ceiling panel capable of accommodating the ventilation equipment. SBLD developed a random pattern of T5 fluorescent strip fixtures in varying lengths, which are also concealed by the ceiling panels. This erratic, staggered array of fixtures provides a variable amount of footcandles while using much less energy than a traditional luminous ceiling. It is also very forgiving from a maintenance point of view, since a burned out T5 is not nearly as noticeable in a random arrangement as it is in a standard grid formation. SBLD zoned these fixtures in three different groups that can be switched on or off individually, in pairs, or all together, depending on how much illumination is needed at any given time.
SOM created a hierarchy of space throughout the commons. One way the firm did this was by calling out certain elements with primary colors. For example, coffee bars, information centers, and other locales of import were given a dark blue wrapper, whereas cross corridors that feed perpendicularly off the commons have bright yellow walls. To return to the Manhattan street grid metaphor, the blue areas are the major cross streets—such as 14th, 23rd, or 34th—whereas the yellow hallways are the smaller in-between streets. The lighting scheme follows suit. For example, the blue panels stand out from the rest of the wall and there are coves at top and bottom outfitted with long 28W CFLs. The fixtures are overlapped so as not to show the socket shadow that typically appears when fluorescents are arranged linearly. Exposed 28W T5 fixtures run down the center of the ceiling and distinguish the yellow corridors. Other secondary corridors that run east to west along the commons are topped by wallwashing coves equipped with staggered 28W T5s.
The commons culminates in an airy atrium that climbs its way into the tower and faces onto the Jay Walk. The space’s primary architectural element is a switchback staircase with blue paneling, which forms a visual backdrop that can be seen from the green roof at night. The undersides of the stair flights are equipped with recessed 28W T5s. The lighting in the atrium itself fulfills a supplementary role to the ample daylight that floods the big room. Wedge-shaped uplights outfitted with 42W CFLs two-thirds of the way up the wall combine with recessed 35W metal halide downlights in the ceiling. Throughout the project, downlights are either 26W, 32W, or 42W CFLs or 35W metal halide, depending on the ceiling height. Metal halide lamps were used for the taller ceilings. “If we were designing this today,” says Brady, “we would use LEDs.” (The project was initially designed in 2003 and then put on hold before completed in 2011.)
John Jay’s typical classrooms are light and airy with relatively high ceilings, all of which allowed the lighting designers to use direct/indirect pendants outfitted with 28W T5s. Some classrooms with lower ceilings feature recessed T5s. The direct/indirect lamps in the pendant fixtures can be switched on or off separately to tailor the light level for the prevailing daylight conditions. Fixtures adjacent to the perimeter glass wall have daylight sensors that will turn the indirect lamps on or off automatically.
The building also features a multipurpose seminar room. SOM distinguished this space with a wooden interior that wraps up the walls and across the ceiling. Infrastructure bands cut across the wood paneling, equipped with ventilation and audio equipment as well as 54W T5HOs and 35W MR16s. In this room, the lighting is programmed with different presets calculated for the many uses that the room is meant to serve, such as video presentations, lectures, or cocktail receptions.
The project also features some dedicated exterior lighting. For example, the canopy at the main entrance is outfitted with recessed CFLs that supplement the light that pours out from the interior. But it is the Jay Walk that was given the most robust treatment. Here, steps that descend from the tower are set aglow with 13W PL-C CFLs and light poles, equipped with 28W long biax CFLs, that create a stately progression along the walkways, whose pavers feature integrated LEDs. An amphitheater that descends from the tower radiates with recessed 13W PL-C CFLs arranged in a similar randomized pattern found in the ceiling of the cascade.
The scattered points of light continue across the campus green, again 13W PL-C CFLs recessed within the grass. “They’re like stars, points of light, that kind of randomness is projected to the grass surface,” says Abadan. “From upper levels of the tower you look down onto this space and it’s quite attractive at night.” And the building’s glass envelope—alternately transparent and fritted with an orange color meant to blend with the prevailing brick character of the neighborhood—provides the most splash. It allows the variety of interior lighting scenes to peek through the walls and animate the building at night.
Project: John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York • Client: City University of New York, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, New York • Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, New York • Lighting Designer: SBLD Studio, New York • Structural Engineer: Leslie E. Robertson Associates, New York • M/E/P Engineer and Vertical Transportation: Jaros Baum & Bolles, New York • Laboratories Planning: GPR Planners Collaborative, Purchase, New York • Higher Education Programming: Scott Blackwell Page Architect, New York • Civil/Geotechnical/Environmental Consultant: Langan Engineering & Environmental Services, Elmwood Park, New Jersey • Owner’s Representative/Construction Manager: Turner Construction, New York • Project Size: 625,000 square feet • Project Cost: $410 million • Lighting Costs: $9.50/square foot for fixtures; $13.50/square foot installed • Energy Code Compliance: Completed prior to current energy code compliance requirements • Watts per Square Foot: 1 • Manufacturers/Applications: Bega (13W PL-C exterior steplights) • Crenshaw Lighting (two custom pendants—3-foot T5s and a 35W PAR30 metal halide for downlight component—at entry lobby) • Eaton’s Cooper Lighting Business/io Lighting (illuminated handrail system at Jay Walk) • Hess America (pole luminaire at Jay Walk with 28W biax CFL lamps and inground LED pavers) • Legion Lighting (54W T5HOs in luminous ceiling in cafeteria; 28W biax uplight and covelighting at Blue Boxes) • Linear Lighting (28W T5 staggered linear fluorescents in east–west secondary corridors; 28W T5 recessed linear fixtures in classrooms) • Philips Lightolier (T5 fixtures at the cascade—primary public circulation and gathering areas; 28W T5s at yellow cross corridors) • Sylvania (lamps throughout the project) • USAI Lighting (35W MR16 dimmable downlights in cafeteria and throughout project)