al knows anniversary celebrations aren't just for magazines. lighting design firm Domingo Gonzalez Associates is observing 20 years in practice, while manufacturers Lucifer Lighting and Progress Lighting are marking their 25- and 100-year anniversaries, respectively. The Aalto vase turns 70, and the Eames lounge chair is a memorable 75. Indeed, 2006 is a celebratory year for a broad mix of firms, businesses, and iconic objects in the world of lighting and design. We feel particularly admiring of one project, however-the Statue of Liberty.
Recognized around the world as a powerful beacon for freedom, hope, and opportunity, the Statue of Liberty's light is not just metaphorical: her dramatic illumination is a perfect example of American ingenuity and engineering. Since the statue's installation in New York Harbor in 1886, lighting engineers and designers had struggled to illuminate the 150-foot copper-clad monument in a manner becoming an American icon. It took the thoughtful and creative approach of Howard Brandston-a legend in his own right-to solve this lighting challenge. In 1984, the designer was asked to give the statue a much-needed lighting makeover in preparation for its centennial. In order to avoid the shortcomings of previous attempts, he studied the monument from every angle and in all lighting conditions, discovering that it looked best in the light of dawn. Brandston determined that he would need 'one lamp to mimic the morning sun and one lamp to mimic the morning sky.' Learning that no existing lamps could simulate these conditions, Brandston partnered with General Electric to develop two new metal halide products. With only a short time for R&D, a team of engineers at GE's Nela Park laboratories assembled a 'top secret' testing room dedicated to the Statue of Liberty project. After nearly two years of work to perfect the new lamps, the 'dawn's early light' effect was finally achieved just days before the centennial celebrations were to take place in 1986. 'It was truly a labor of love,' he recalls. margaret maile petty
Margaret Maile Petty, a doctoral candidate at the Bard Graduate Center in New York City, teaches in the lighting MFA program at Parsons the New School for Design, and specializes in the history and theory of twentieth-century architectural lighting design.