Celebrating the Brightest Minds in Lighting Architecture

Sheila Kim Sheila Kim

Great building design doesn’t stop at the architecture. As the prestigious Lumen Awards proves year after year, thoughtful lighting of the architecture can also be key in the design’s success. At the 48th annual Lumen Gala in New York City this month, the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) honored 14 projects for excellence in lighting design ranging from houses of worship to civic structures. Here’s a look at some of the highlights.


Covington & Burling, Washington, D.C.
Lighting: Fisher Marantz Stone; Architect: Lehman Smith McLeish
For this 450,000-square-foot office building, the lighting program was executed using LEDs for 99 percent of the lamping for efficiency. Crisp lines of light throughout the interiors accentuate some perimeters, such as triangular ceiling panels in the high-energy employee café. In areas such as conference and teleconference rooms, lighting is used to create luminous ceilings and provide ideal soft light for cameras.

Covington & Burling; photography by Prakash Patel

Lincoln Square Synagogue, New York City
Lighting: Tillotson Design Associates; Architect: CetraRuddy Architecture
The sacred Torah scroll inspired a series of undulating architectural elements of this New York synagogue, such as the glass ribbons that form the building’s façade. Lines of LEDs behind the façade’s extrusions create a glowing effect as the glazing’s ceramic frit catches the light. Meanwhile, inside the sanctuary, tiny recessed LEDs in the ceiling plane shine down like stars to provide both accent and aisle lighting, and cove LEDs diffused by resin components spill soft light down onto acoustical panels lining the space.

Lincoln Square Synagogue; photography by David Sunberg/ESTO and Emile Dubuisson


85 Broad Street Cafeteria, New York City
Lighting: One Lux Studio; Architect: Mancini Duffy
After Hurricane Sandy flooded this cellar level of an office building in Manhattan’s Financial District, the space was cleaned up and transformed into a new cafeteria with various layers of lighting. Reflective surfaces create movement and volume as well as double the cove-lighting effects to trick occupants into forgetting that this is a windowless, subterranean space.

85 Broad Street Cafeteria; photography by Eric Laignel

Grace Farms, New Canaan, Connecticut
Lighting: BuroHappold Engineering; Architect: SANAA
Anyone who’s visited this SANAA masterpiece (also shown at top) by day is usually in awe. But at night, the sinuous complex can equally amaze thanks to its thoughtful yet understated lighting. In-ground uplights dotting the entire length of the serpentine walkway and interior light pendants all work to reflect off the wood ceilings and soffits to produce a warm glow.

Grace Farms; photography by Iwan Baan

Hillman Hall at Washington University, St. Louis
Lighting: BuroHappold Engineering; Architect: Moore Ruble Yudell; Architect-of-Record: Mackey Mitchell Architects
The heart of the school, the Forum is a rotunda space that’s used for both formal and impromptu gatherings and meetings. Here, 25 layers of lighting were routed into the top of a dramatic, concentric wooden suspended ceiling to indirectly light the ceiling above and softly filter back down.

Hillman Hall; Photography by Gabe Guilliams

Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge, Nashville
Lighting: Domingo Gonzales Associates; Architect: Civic Engineering & IT
This was really an existing bridge that the city of Nashville wished to make more prominent, befitting its status as a memorial bridge. Lighting was therefore used make it stand out as more of a “gateway.” Wirelessly controlled LEDs wash the arches and are deeply shielded for mitigating glare and light pollution, while additional LED set the deck girders aglow. Colors can be changed to mark holidays and remembrances.

Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge; photo by Bob Schatz

OnAir and Open Studio at Hyundai Capital Services, Seoul
Lighting: KGM Architectural; Architect: Gensler
This project consisted of two areas that serve as employee perks: OnAir is a radio broadcast studio with street presence, while the Open Studio is a video broadcast space inside the lobby. In the former, lines of blue LEDs define major walls in the space to grab the attention of street passersby. In the lobby, cool white LEDs snake across the ceiling eventually delineating the Open Studio and creating a halo effect that further enhances this carved-out space when sheer curtains are drawn.

OnAir and Open Studio; photography by Nacasa & Partners

The Broad, Los Angeles
Lighting: Tillotson Design Associates; Architect: Diller Scofidio + Renfro
In-ground LED fixtures with custom lenses and shielding accentuate each unique cell of the museum’s dramatic exoskeleton-like veil. Care was taken to avoid any light trespass onto nearby residential buildings as well as the Gehry-designed titanium-clad Walt Disney Concert Hall. Inside The Broad, cove uplighting and in-grade spots continue to emphasize the peculiar topographies, ultimately producing an ethereal or otherworldly feel.

The Broad; photography by Iwan Baan and John Muggenborg