Completed in 1888, The Rookery is one of the greatest surviving examples of early commercial skyscrapers. For over a century, the building’s distinctive dark red masonry facades have been unlit, making it visually “disappear” at night. Now, lighting softly activates the intricate masonry carving, creating a subtle presence of brightness, shadow, and contrast that renders the building visible without overpowering it with light.
While the building appears symmetrical, nearly every window condition is unique. With over 100 irregular ledges, the use of standard luminaires proved impossible. Instead miniature, custom 14-watt LED luminaire modules are individually positioned, such that they produce symmetrical, even lighting. Reduced overall hardware and associated costs met the owner’s tight budget.
To meet Chicago Landmarks Commission requirements, all lighting hardware is meticulously concealed from pedestrian view and street lines-of-sight, with each custom-designed luminaire measuring only 1.5” high. To protect the integrity of the building, a custom mounting arm anchors luminaires to the window sills instead of the façades, while polyurethane feet minimize direct contact with the historical building ledges.
Every aspect of the custom luminaire is carefully designed in order to both maximize performance and maintain aesthetic elegance. The pivoting assembly is finished ‘Rookery-red,’ and is accessible within arm’s-reach via the window locations, while its telescoping design further simplifies maintenance. Custom micro-optics create a ‘flattened cone’ of illumination extending three stories high. The extremely narrow beam distribution simultaneously minimizes light trespass into the night sky and eliminates glare for tenants. A 3,000K color temperature enhances the distinctive color of the masonry.
The sustainable design approach strategically utilizes only 14.4-watt LED luminaires, a total of 2,304 watts for the entire project. An astronomic timeclock is used to control lights and reduce light levels during late evening hours, enhancing the delicate architecture in an economical, sustainable, and historically-sensitive manner.