In Detail> Lighting One Bryant Park
Cook+Fox and Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design
One Bryant Park has its own distinctive identity on the night skyline.
Courtesy Cook + Fox

When the Durst Organization and Cook + Fox approached Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design (CBBLD) to execute the exterior lighting scheme for One Bryant Park, they already had a very clear idea of how they wanted their building to appear at night. The crystalline volume of the 55-story tower features a variety of facets, sliced away from the mass of the building, that orient views through the forest of midtown skyscrapers surrounding the structure. This is most apparent on the southeast exposure, which faces onto Bryant Park itself, where the corner of the building is cut away from the 22nd floor up through the parapet, creating an inverted triangular facade element. Here, the architects established a double curtain wall, the exterior glass surface forming the smooth plane seen from the street, while the interior is notched in plan to create additional corner office space. Cook + Fox and the developer both wanted this inverted triangle to glow at night—to shine out on the skyline even brighter than the lantern-like, already glowing glass tower. And of course, the job would have to be accomplished without exceeding the stringent energy requirements demanded to achieve a LEED Platinum rating.

Courtesy CBBLD.
Courtesy CBBLD.
Top and above: LED cove lights installed within the wall cavity at the spandrels. The LEDs are tuned to a cooler white than the interior, making the section stand out on the lantern-like building. [Click to enlarge.]
Courtesy CBBLD

As tall as those marching orders may have been, they were not the last of the challenges that the project presented to CBBLD. The design team was impressed, and concerned, by the minimalism of the structure and the clarity of the low-iron glass. These were great features for giving the tenants unobstructed views to the park and skyline, as well as for flooding the interiors with copious quantities of salubrious unfiltered daylight, but those same aspects made the space Teflon, so to speak, for electric lighting. There was nothing upon which the light could cling, no surface that would hold it and create the glowing effect the architects so desired. The joke around the office was that they would have to fill the cavity with smoke and shine light up through its hazy mantle for anyone to notice any illumination at all. Cook + Fox was unwilling to add anything to the structure or the glass itself that would impede the view/daylight continuum. Furthermore, they insisted that whatever fixtures CBBLD inserted into the space must not be visible from the interior.

In the end, the solution was quite simple. The architects wavered an inch from their transparency hard line and added a touch of translucent fritting on each exterior glass panel, high up where it wouldn’t trouble the eye. It proved enough, however, to catch the light and create a subtle striated pattern of illumination on the exterior, an effect, after all, that even matched the romantic rendering first presented to CBBLD. To make the light, the team settled on high-output 15-watt LED cove fixtures placed in the spandrel sections of the elevation, where they would be well out of sight. They also tuned the white LEDs to 5,000K, establishing a cooler light within the double wall that contrasts with the warmer, 3,000K-T5 fluorescent strip lighting on the building’s interior.

As elegant as the solution was, it didn’t work all the way up the elevation, where two other architectural conditions presented themselves—the mechanical floors, which run from 52 to 56, and the parapet, which goes from 57 to the sky. Cook + Fox wanted a consistency to the appearance of the lighting scheme in spite of these differences, and so CBBLD went about fabricating as close a facsimile of the office floors as was possible. The mechanical floors step back from the lower parts of the tower, and on the resultant ledges, the team inserted frosted glass panels. They backlit these with floor-mounted 58-watt T5 fluorescent lamps, tuned to the same 3,000K color temperature as the office lighting. Within the cavity created between the frosted panels and the exterior wall, the designers placed the same 5,000K LED fixtures as used on floors 21 through 51, only bracket-mounted rather than cove. This strategy created a similar depth and contrasting tone of light as below. The team also backlit the rest of the mechanical floor’s facades, which are translucent glass, with 58 watt T5 fluorescent lamps, further reinforcing the consistency of lighting throughout the elevation of the building.

  One Bryant Park.
Courtesy Cook + Fox

Lighting the parapet, which extends in some places as much as 50 feet above the roof, was an entirely different ballgame. There would be no constructing of a backing wall of frosted glass, as on the mechanical zones. CBBLD also had to contend with the helter-skelter ambient light of nearby Times Square. The solution was to use 400-watt metal halide floodlights behind the double wall section to simulate the lighting provided by T5s below, and 269-watt metal halide up-lights paired with each vertical column of the glass wall to reproduce the effect handled by the LEDs. The remainder of the parapet was lit with 150-watt metal halide up-lights, again to establish consistency of light all the way to the tippy top of the tower.

Then there is the spire, which reaches a full 1,200 feet into the air. Cook + Fox and Durst felt this element should be lit in a changing array of colors, both to complete the overall architectural composition at night, and as a civic gesture on the skyline similar to that offered by the Empire State Building. In answer, CBBLD outfitted the spire, a sort of triangular vertical truss in form, with strategically placed 50-watt RGB color-changing LED up-light fixtures. The luminaires are linked to a DMX control station, allowing One Bryant’s management to adjust the color on demand.

CBBLD also completed the lobby lighting scheme, though there is no room to discuss that here. Throughout the project, CBBLD counted every watt; there isn’t an incandescent on the job. The watt-scrimping paid off. The lighting scheme helped the base building earn its LEED Platinum rating, and it did so without sacrificing a little splash on the exterior, proving that a building doesn’t have to be boring to be green.

Aaron Seward