When the New York Times chose Renzo Piano Building Workshop's soaring glass and ceramic rod design in a limited competition for its Manhattan headquarters, it was looking to represent the fabled “gray lady” as a cutting-edge 21st century information organization, through both literal and metaphoric transparency. But the literal transparency of the low-iron glass posed a challenge to the firms working on the interiors—New York–based Susan Brady Lighting Design Studio (SBLD) and architectural firm Gensler. The open office plans that the Times desired meant that every level has floor-to-ceiling glass facing each direction of the compass. “We needed a solution that could be done without touching the exterior,” says SBLD's Attila Uysal.

Ceramic rods on the façade cut direct daylight entering the space by about half, says Gensler project architect Rocco Giannetti—but they don't reduce light levels and glare enough to make working in the space comfortable. Ultimately, the light quality in the building is a result of several critical specifications—the fixtures, the furniture layout, and the mechanical shading system—which are all interrelated, according to Uysal. “The shade selection was the hardest part,” he says, as it required careful quantification of the shading algorithm. A full-size mock-up and the expertise of the Advanced Building Technology Group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories—a member of the team that the research-minded New York Times brought to the project—helped solve the daunting problem. After extensive analysis, the team decided on a brightness of 2,000 candela as the maximum permissible level of natural light within the space. Above this threshold, shades automatically are deployed. Likewise, the brightness of the light fixtures never exceeds that level.

The design of the ceiling and the fixture selection were related to both Piano's building design and specific concerns of the client. Recessed linear fixtures all run in the same direction and reflect the clean and open aesthetic of the architect's façades. Shadows were to be avoided, which led the lighting designers to increase the number of fixtures while lowering the brightness from each lamp.

Uysal estimates he could have designed the project with half the number of fixtures used. The use of a digital addressable lighting interface system for control—the first large-scale installation of its kind in the United States—was particularly useful in tuning the overall quality of the light. “We get high-quality ambiance from direct lighting,” Uysal says.

The amount of hands-on, scientific research and constant fine-tuning during the building's commissioning reflects the New York Times' passion for learning and its commitment to providing a quality workspace for its employees. Pushing the envelope, as well as the architects, interior designers, and lighting consultants, is just another day's edition.

Project The New York Times Building, New York
Client The New York Times Co. and Forest City Ratner Companies, New York
Architects Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Paris and Genova, in association with FXFowle, New York
Interior Architect (NYT tenant floors) Gensler, New York
Lighting Designer (base building) Office for Visual Interaction, New York
Lighting Designer (NYT tenant floors) Susan Brady Lighting Design Studio, New York
Watts per Square Foot 1.28 (offices)
Project Size 1.5 million square feet (total); 700,000 square feet (NYT)


Base Building–Façades
Erco: 250W metal halide floodlights with three different optics for narrow-to-wide beam distributions on principal façades; 70W metal halide floodlights on Eighth Avenue façade; 39W metal halide spotlights at building's notched corners; 50W-250W T4 and PAR halogen floodlights at pedestrian retail arcade

Base Building–Lobby
Edison Price Lighting: 250W PAR38 halogen downlights, wallwashers and adjustable fixtures
iGuzzini: 50W T4 halogen floodlights in garden courtyard
Lucifer: 50W MR16 downlights at elevator header
RSL: 300W T3 halogen uplight with custom double-blade arm profile and white glass diffusers

New York Times tenant floors
Lutron: Quantum lighting control/management system
MechoShade: Shading system
Zumtobel Lighting: 14W two-lamp T5 linear fluorescent fixture with recessed troffer with center louver for direct downlight, and acrylic diffusers for ambient light