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230 Park Avenue, New York City, USA

Issue 71 Feb / Mar 2013 : Architectural : Facade

CLIENT: Monday Properties LIGHTING DESIGN: The Lighting Practice PHOTOGRAPHY: Evan Joseph

One of Manhattan’s original tall buildings, 230 Park Avenue had in recent decades become a lost classic among the canyons of New York’s cityscape. Now a new scheme by The Lighting Practice has dramatically redefined its nocturnal presence.

Built in 1929 and standing 34 storeys high, New York City’s 230 Park Avenue was once considered one of the taller structures on Manhattan’s skyline. Though dwarfed by the towering Chrysler and Empire State buildings that were built just months later, its Beaux-Arts style and links with the iconic Grand Central Terminal (both were the work of architects Warren & Wetmore) have ensured its enduring status as a New York classic.

Despite 230’s golden cupola and various ornate moldings providing key features of its daytime presence, the building had been rendered virtually invisible at night; only its lit rooftop was discernible from a distance. Owners Monday Properties decided to rectify this by hiring The Lighting Practice to create a bold new lighting design for the site.

“The existing lighting used high-pressure sodium sources to illuminate the roof,” says Al Borden, principal at The Lighting Practice. “The rest of the building was in shadow. At night, it seemed to blend into the facades of surrounding buildings and disappear.”

Borden’s team was tasked with rebranding the building with a lit exterior that would be immediately recognisable from both up close and afar.
“We were asked to illuminate the building from the sidewalk up to the top of the cupola on the north side, and to wrap the lighting treatment around the east, south and west sides of the building at the 29th floor and up,” Borden recounts. “Our intent has been to give the building a lively nighttime appearance by re-interpreting its historic forms and proportions with concealed uplight sources. During daylight hours, when downlit by the sun, the building’s architectural details have a familiar appearance. At night, we flip the source upside down and present a new way of looking at the building. People will see details very differently and have a new experience of the architecture.”

Over 700 colour-changing luminaires were used to create 230 Park Avenue’s new nocturnal look, all of them drawn from Lumenpulse’s Lumenbeam and Lumenfacade ranges.

“Lumenpulse presented excellent project experience and a committed team,” says Borden. “Their financial proposal was competitive and they showed an enthusiasm and attentiveness that was distinctive. They worked hard to get this project and have continued to work hard servicing it.”

Wide-angled Lumenfacade fixtures illuminate the ground-level tunnels arching over the north- and south-bound traffic on Park Avenue. At intervals on the 5th, 16th, 29th, 32nd and 33rd floors, a mixture of Lumenbeam Large, Lumenbeam LBX and Lumenfacade luminaires with narrow optics accentuate the building’s neoclassical elements, while enhancing its soaring, stately presence. Lumenbeam Large and LBX provide flood lighting for the sloped rooftop, while narrow-beamed Lumenbeam and Lumenfacade fixtures bring out the cupola’s lavish details.

“These [Beaux-Arts] buildings are beautiful and they have a story to tell about the times that produced them,” Borden notes. “We want to help them communicate clearly.”

Lighting such a tall, historic building is no small feat. The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission reviewed and approved the project, ensuring the design wouldn’t compromise the building’s architectural integrity. This means that light sources had to be hidden from view, and mounts could not be drilled into the surface, only anchored to joints.

“For highrises,” Borden adds, “we also consider how to light the building for distant viewers. Aesthetically, you need to determine what elements or details of the building make it a recognisable structure.” The new lighting design makes the building visible from nearly 40 blocks north on Park Avenue.

On top of rebranding 230 Park Avenue through architectural restoration and building system upgrades, Monday Properties was also pursuing LEED Gold certification. “LED was always a consideration, but when we started five years ago, the systems did not have sufficient output,” Borden explains. “The recent dramatic improvements in LED performance made us reconsider and ultimately select LED.”

Monday Properties’ Vice President of Property Management and Operations Hani J. Salama confirms that the Lumenpulse luminaires installed on the rooftop consume 71% less energy than the original fixtures, adding, “the new lighting dovetails with our ongoing commitment to energy efficiency.”

On top of energy savings, the RGB fixtures will also provide some entertainment. On a typical night, the building will run its standard White show – static 4000K white with three-minute dynamic changes every 27 minutes – but the team has also programmed 20 colour-changing shows made of static and dynamic sequences. Using a Pharos control system, mounted in the engineering office deep within the building, the luminaires can be programmed to change colours for special occasions like July 4th or Thanksgiving. Each colour show has two static looks. A static colour is displayed for 27 minutes followed by one of the two dynamic shows that run for three minutes. The façade then locks in to the next static colour as the cycle repeats.

Holiday shows are programmed to trigger on specific dates and times in the system’s annual calendar, but can also be accessed through the manual control station and through the network interface, giving Monday Properties the ability to change, edit and create new shows, and to control each fixture independently.

Testing of 230 Park Avenue’s new lighting has sparked the interest of passers-by. Borden says people often stop to ask questions, and a few have even applauded.

But Borden’s priority is the address itself. “We are helping people rediscover this building,” he declares. “Good lighting should enhance the visitor’s experience of a project. Like art, it should produce an emotional sensation that elevates the experience of the project. It should help to turn a location into a place that makes the visitor want to return.”

230 Park Avenue, New York City, USA
Client: Monday Properties
Architect: Warren and Wetmore (1929)
Lighting Designers: The Lighting Practice
Lighting Installation: Fred Geller Electrical


3rd Floor (Archways)
8 x Lumenfacade Color Changing (3’, 60° x 60°)
12 x Lumenfacade Color Changing (4’, 60° x 60°)

5th Floor (North façade, including medallions, statues and center of building)
4 x Lumenbeam Medium Color Changing (narrow 10° optics)
8 x Lumenbeam Large Color Changing (narrow 10° optics)
34 x Lumenbeam LBX Color Changing (very narrow 6° optics) 32 x Lumenbeam LBX Color Changing (narrow 10° optics)
6 x Lumenfacade Color Changing (4’, 10° x 60° optics)

16th Floor (Upper portion of north façade, from 16th to 28th floors)
2 x Lumenbeam LBX Color Changing (narrow 20° flood)
20 x Lumenbeam LBX Color Changing (narrow 10° optics)

29th Floor (From 29th to 32nd floors)
225 x Lumenfacade Color Changing (4’, 10° x 60° optics)

32nd Floor
112 x Lumenfacade Color Changing (4’, 30° x 60° optics)

33rd Floor
100 x Lumenbeam Large Color Changing (40° flood)

34th Floor (Bottom part of sloped roof)
44 x Lumenbeam Large Color Changing (40° flood)
4 x Lumenbeam LBX Color Changing (narrow 10° optics)
24 x Lumenfacade Color Changing (4’, 10° x 60° optics)

8 x Lumenbeam Large Color Changing (40° flood)
52 x Lumenbeam LBX Color Changing (40° flood)

8 x Lumenfacade Color Changing (4’, 10° x 10° optics)
16 x Lumenbeam Large Color Changing (narrow 10° optics)

Pharos LPC-1 Lighting Playback Controller using Designer software


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