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Gadgets and Gizmos in the Lighting Factory

November 27, 2010


Ever wonder where all of those downlights, wall washers, and track lights come from?  Sure, they all show up on a job site assembled and ready to go, but where do those fixtures start their lives?  Our Luminaire Design class had the rare opportunity to find out this past Monday during our tour of the Edison Price Lighting factory in Queens, where we had the chance to observe some of the machining processes that the typical light fixture goes through before it leaves the factory for installation in projects all over the world.

"Edison Price" lighting light architecture architectural manufacture manufacturing factory

The factory itself is a clean, bright, modern facility, where most fixtures in the Edison Price product line are assembled prior to their delivery on a job site.  What this means is that each fixture is manufactured and assembled per order (a “Just-In-Time” business model), so there is no warehousing of large stocks of light fixtures here or at another location — the process is simply: you order it, they’ll build it (all within one to two days).  Surprisingly, this doesn’t require legions of employees to accomplish as one might expect.  The factory employs less than 75 people that can build hundreds of fixtures per product line, per day, which is due, in large part, to the amount of automated machinery used in the manufacturing process.  From automated laser cutters and punch presses to folding press brakes and even packaging machines, the investment in modern technologies in this factory has clearly paid off in efficiency, accuracy, and production.  Luckily our hosts allowed me to take some short videos on our tour, so you can see exactly how some of these machines work!

Despite all of the automation, however, a large part of the manufacturing process is completed by hand.  All of the assembly of the fixtures, for instance, is done by hand.  Some of the raw material processes are done by hand as well.  In fact, one of the most interesting processes we observed on our tour was the hand-crafting of an aluminum reflector.  The man in the photo below is “spinning” a curved reflector from a flat disk of aluminum by using a series of wooden sticks to push the metal against a form in the machine.  It was impressive to watch as he expertly formed each piece in a few fluid strokes.

light lighting manufacture manufacturing architecture architectural factory luminaire reflector

I find it very reassuring, too, that many of the processes in the factory are left to the human hand.  The fact that a company as large as Edison Price trusts in the skill and craft of their employees to construct their fixtures is evidence of a caring company that is concerned with delivering only the highest caliber of products.  As a lighting designer, I know that this is a company I can trust to take care of me and my work from the start of a project to its finish (and beyond), because I have seen, first hand, the care that goes into each product.

It’s surprising to me that most businesses like this don’t advertise these parts of their company.  Edison Price, for instance, hardly mentions anything about their manufacturing process on their website.  In today’s transparency- and social media-driven world, I think any business would benefit from promoting the fact that every one of their products is crafted and inspected by a well-paid American employee.  People like to feel a connection to the things they buy and the companies they buy from, and the more they know about the inner workings of a company, the more they are likely to trust and buy from that company.  I think if more people knew about what happens behind-the-scenes at companies such as these, it would benefit everyone involved.

Thankfully I can share these photos and videos with you, so now you know and can spread the word about the great work that this company is doing, and hopefully use this knowledge to your own benefit on your next lighting project!  Know of any lighting or related companies that promote their behind-the-scenes activities as much as their products? Share with all of us below in the comments!


Pandora Lamp: A Desk Lamp Design

November 16, 2010


lamp luminaire light lighting design task desk cfl

Meet the Pandora Lamp — my latest creation in Luminaire Design class where we were charged with developing a task lamp for a specific application.  I chose to create a desk lamp for use in an office environment.

The idea for the design came from my desire to create an interactive lamp that could provide several different types of light to suit whatever task or mood was desired.  Personal experience also played a factor here, as I often need or want two different types of light when I am working at my desk at home (or at school, for that matter) — direct light on my work surface, and indirect light on the wall in front of me (or the ceiling above) to provide a soft, ambient glow.  The Pandora Lamp solves both problems.

There are two operable flaps on the fixture that allow the user to control the direction and intensity of light on either the work surface or other walls/adjacent surfaces.  One can be left closed, both can be opened, or both can remain closed, but all three situations provide a different mood and amount of illumination.  The simplicity of the fixture’s form is also intentional — both flaps are designed to close flush with the surface of the fixture, so that when both are closed the fixture appears no more than a simple white box (which glows from within when the lamp is on).

While this full-scale model is constructed of paper materials the actual fixture would be made of high-grade opal white acrylic, which would give it a soft, seamless, glossy appearance from the outside, and transmit and reflect the light in a similar way to the foam core used in the model. (It would also allow me to charge more for it!)

lamp luminaire light lighting design task desk cfl

On the more technical side of things (in case anyone was curious), the lamp is an 18 Watt tubular compact fluorescent (which was another requirement of the project) producing 1150 lumens (approximately the same brightness as a standard 75W incandescent bulb) at 2700K, which is operated off of an 18W 120V ballast hidden in the base of the fixture.  It really is a very simple, easy to maintain fixture.  The lamp assembly pops out for easy lamp replacement and to provide access to the ballast should the need arise.

lamp luminaire light lighting design task desk cfl

In terms of its output it is a very effective and pleasing light to use (I have, in fact, been using at my desk for the past several days).  It provides a smooth, comfortable wash of light across the work surface — enough to read or write by, at least — and the color temperature gives it a very warm appearance, almost as if it were an incandescent bulb.  The warm glow it emits from the sides and top are also pleasing to have nearby when I’m working, as most of the lighting in our studio is very cool in appearance.  Overall I’m very happy with the way it turned out and I’m excited to have a new desk lamp to use while I work!  I never imagined myself building a desk lamp when I signed up for grad school, but it is a fun skill to have — after all, who doesn’t need a fun, personalized desk lamp?

All orders can be placed with my secretary, who I wish was a real person so that I could organize the mountain of work I have to do in the next week before the holiday!

Focus Lighting Internship Update!

November 9, 2010


"focus lighting" architectural light lighting design "new york" nyc

It’s time for an update on my internship at Focus Lighting!

First bit of exciting news: I now have an email address at Focus:!  What does this mean for my e-mail inbox? I’m sure you can imagine …

More news: Focus Lighting now has a Facebook page:!  I will be contributing things there from time to time, so you should definitely “Like” Focus to keep updated on what’s going on there.

I’ve been having a lot of fun at the Focus offices over the past two weeks.  Even though my busy grad school class schedule only means I can go in to the office once a week, I’m very lucky to have the opportunity because I’ve already learned so much in such a short amount of time.

For the most part I have been working closely with a few of the staff designers (mainly Scott) on specific projects, assisting with drafting and correcting redlined drawings.  (Redlined drawings, for those who don’t know, are simply hard copy drawings with corrections made in red pen to be changed in the CAD drawings.)  It may seem like typical intern work, but it’s really been a good learning experience.  I’ve not only had to learn the office CAD standards but also the organizational system for files, drawings, and references; and I have to say, Focus is an extremely organized office.  Even though there are small piles of paper here and a few demo fixtures there (which is typical of most design offices anyway), everything that happens behind-the-scenes on their computer systems is thoroughly documented and organized.

It’s been a learning experience in itself pulling various types of information — dimensions, fixture specifications, etc — from multiple files and coalescing it into one drawing.  There is really nothing that can compare with that experience in grad school because everyone works independently.  It’s a whole other experience to collaborate with twenty other people to produce something that is of consistent quality and appearance every single time.  The experience has also been a great impetus for me to start organizing some of the files I use over and over again so that I don’t keep reinventing the wheel every time I, for instance, start a CAD drawing.

Otherwise, I have also been learning more about the specifics of lighting design and the construction process from Scott.  I’ve, for example, learned a ton about cove lighting, a topic which was only briefly touched on in one of my Parsons classes, which is frequently used in architectural lighting applications.  There are also plenty of discussions that happen throughout the day about more specific applications of lighting or luminaires, about such things as a new fixture that’s just come out, or control systems for large projects, which are interesting to listen in on.  If nothing else it’s just been fun to hang around a working office, observe, and chat with the staff.

I’m very much looking forward to spending more time there and learning even more.  Of course, I’ll continue to post updates here (or on the Focus Facebook page) about interesting and exciting things that are happening, so keep checking back!

An Architect of Light: Louis Kahn

November 9, 2010


In the spirit of some research I have been doing lately on architect Louis Kahn for my architecture class, I wanted to pass along some quotes of his about light that are thought-provoking, inspiring, and poetic.  I will not even begin to try to attempt to describe Louis Kahn and his gift for incorporating natural light into architecture, but I have included some photos of his work here so those who don’t know it can get a sense of his style. Enjoy!

“I sense Light as the giver of all presences, and material as spent Light.  What is made by Light casts a shadow, and the shadow belongs to Light.”

louis kahn light lighting architecture design

Kimbell Art Museum, Forth Worth, TX

“I sense a Threshold: Light to Silence, Silence to Light – an ambiance of inspiration, in which the desire to be, to express, crosses with the possible … Light to Silence, Silence to Light crosses in the sanctuary of art.”

louis kahn architect architecture light lighting design

Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, CA

“I gave myself an assignment: to draw a picture that demonstrates light. Now if you give yourself such an assignment, the first thing you do is escape somewhere, because it is impossible to do.  You say that the white piece of paper is the illustration; what else is there to do? But when I put a stroke of ink on the paper, I realized that the black was where the light was not, and then I could really make a drawing, because I could be discerning as to where the light was not, which was where I put the black. Then the picture became absolutely luminous.”

louis kahn architect architecture light lighting design

National Assembly, Dhaka, Bangladesh

“Architects in planning rooms today have forgotten their faith in natural light.  Depending on the touch of a finger to a switch, they are satisfied with static light and forget the endlessly changing qualities of natural light, in which a room is a different room every second of the day.”

louis kahn architect architecture light lighting design

Exeter Library, Exeter, NH

“Today, shadows are black.  But really, there is no such thing as white light, black shadow.  I was brought up when light was yellow and shadow was blue.”

louis kahn architect architecture light lighting design

Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT

“Even a room which must be dark needs at least a crack of light to know how dark it is.”

louis kahn architect architecture light lighting design

Esherick House, Philadelphia, PA

“Also marvelous in a room is the light that comes through the windows of a room and that belongs to the room. The sun does not realize how beautiful it is until after a room is made. A man’s creation, the making of a room, is nothing short of a miracle. Just think, that a man can claim a slice of the sun.”

A New Opportunity at Focus Lighting!

November 1, 2010


focus lighting architectural design new york

That’s right, thanks to a fortunate series of events I’m now officially the new intern at the offices of Focus Lighting in New York!

I’m really excited to get some experience in a working lighting firm to complement and reinforce what I am learning at Parsons.  I am learning a ton at Parsons, thanks to my great professors who are all working professionals as well, so this is absolutely no reflection on them or on the program at all — I’m simply a person that loves to learn.  My first day at the office was this past Friday, and from what I can tell so far, I will learn a lot from the people there, not just about lighting but about the design business as well.  When I made the decision to move to New York I never imagined that the entire city would become my classroom, but here I am!

What’s fun is that after only a day I already started finding mutual connections to people in the office; I know it’s a cliche but I have to say it: it truly is a small world.  One of the people there even went to Emerson for his undergrad, just like me!  Anyway, hopefully I’ll be able to post and comment on interesting experiences and things I am learning there, without getting too specific and breaching confidentiality agreements, personal privacy, or anything of that nature.  I do hope that Focus soon jumps on the blog/social media bandwagon with me, though, because there are certainly a lot of interesting things going on there to share.

At any rate, a huge thank you to the people who helped make this possible, especially my highly-supportive family and friends.  I’m really excited to see where this opportunity will take me, and I hope you’ll continue reading, commenting and exploring with me!