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Wallpaper* Magazine – An Office Lighting Design Concept

December 10, 2010


Well, after countless concept meetings, critiques, revisions, and long hours in the design studio, I can finally present a collection of renderings of my final Lighting Studio 1 project – an office lighting design! So, let’s get started! For the project, each design team was responsible for choosing a client to design for from a short list developed as a class.  The client my co-designer, Patricia, and I selected was the international design, art, architecture, fashion, and lifestyle magazine, Wallpaper*.

The Concept:

Wallpaper* is a high-style magazine that features design and designed objects from all over the world, so we as the lighting designers wanted these designs and designed objects to take center stage in the company’s theoretical new offices. The goal of the lighting design would be to use lighting to create points of interest around the office to pull people into, through, and around the space.  The lighting would play an important role in guiding people through a progression of features, leading them from one point to the next, to the next (similar to the way a magazine leads you from article to article), connecting not only different areas of the office but the different disciplines and nationalities of design represented in the magazine as well.

The Scope:

For this project, each design team was responsible for lighting the offices of a client located on the first two floors of a theoretical office building provided to us by the professors. The building, for this project, was to be located in New York City’s Meatpacking district at the southwest corner of 9th Avenue and 15th Street on a lot currently operated by a lumber company, adjacent to such New York landmarks as Chelsea Market, the NYC headquarters of Google, and the 14th Street location of a flagship Apple Store.

In addition to designing the lighting each team was responsible for making certain architectural and space planning decisions in regard to the layout of a “flexible space” that was to be customized to each client for their particular needs.  Finally, teams were required to support their designs with complete illuminance calculation grids (measured in footcandles) to prove that we were delivering enough light onto work surfaces for people to see what they’re doing, as well as lighting power density calculations (measured in watts per square foot) to demonstrate the energy-efficiency of our designs.

The Design:

For the sake of my sanity I’m only going to go through the first floor of the building here, because it is more visually interesting and has the strongest connection to our concept — the final presentation I had to give for this project was 45 minutes long, so I hope you can understand why I’m offering only a small taste of the larger project.  Hopefully this will explain a bit of our thought process, though, and make clearer some of the images that are displayed in the gallery above.

Okay, let’s start from the outside of the office and work our way in, just as we would start to read a magazine by first reading the front cover.

light lighting design architecture architectural office "new york" nyc

For the storefront facade of the office facing 9th Avenue we deliberately chose to create a visual contrast to the neighboring Apple Store (left) by using both light and dark to create a texture that catches the eye and then focuses it on very specific places, i.e., on a series of five large posters that would display the five most recent front covers of the magazine.

light lighting design architecture architectural office "new york" nyc

Moving around the corner of the building, the full first floor street frontage of the office comes into view, and the same textured wall pattern that exists on the 9th Avenue facade can be seen on the 15th Street facade as well, although on a larger scale.  In the center of the view is the cornerstone of the first floor lighting design that, ironically, wasn’t even designed by us.  The large object you see here is a custom-designed Wallpaper* Magazine vending machine (yes, it dispenses magazines), which features a bright, glowing, color-changing interior and luminous, color-changing “cap”.  Here is a photo of the actual machine:

Our main strategy with placing this machine on the corner of the building is to attract attention with its bright colors, serving as a beacon to pull people into the office, though it serves several other purposes as well.  In the spirit of using the lighting design to highlight items that are featured in the magazine (as stated in our concept), this baby kills two birds with one stone — with the additional benefit that it dispenses hard copies of the magazine!

light lighting design architecture architectural office "new york" nyc

Finishing out the tour of the exterior, this is the view of the office facade from 15th Street.  Here the wall system can be seen in greater detail as a series of alternating “louvered” shelves that were inspired by diagonal magazine and newspaper racks.  This wall serves three purposes in relation to this side of the building: first, it provides a visually-attractive texture to catch the eye of passers-by (who may be on their way to Chelsea Market, for instance); second, it provides a sense of privacy for the open “flexible space” that lies beyond; and third, it provides a single, continuous wall on which to display hundreds of hard copies of the magazine for maximum visual impact.  These same principles apply to the wall system on the 9th Avenue facade, however, the pattern there is scaled to half the size of this one to create visual balance and increase privacy on the busier 9th Avenue storefront.

As a side note, I want to take a brief moment to explain how this louver system works as a privacy screen.  As can be seen from the photo above, when looking into the building, only every other row of louvers is positioned to allow a view into the room beyond (the others are positioned perpendicularly to the view).  Due to the fact, however, that every row of louvers is positioned at these alternating 45-degree angles, if you were to stand across the street and look straight into the room, you wouldn’t see through the wall at all!  Walking parallel to this wall on the street, then, the effect is that the angle of the louvers slowly reveals a view of the room at a point a few feet ahead of you, but hides everything immediately next to you.  It’s an effect that can really only be explained by experiencing it in person, but the idea is that it offers privacy as well as visual interest as people walk by.

Ok, enough with the exterior of the building, let’s turn the cover and open the magazine to see what’s on the first page.

light lighting design architecture architectural office "new york" nyc

After being enticed inside by the glowing, color-changing vending machine inside the front doors, a series of recessed downlights create a path of light to the reception desk, the first stop on your visit to the Wallpaper* offices.

light lighting design architecture architectural office "new york" nyc

Approaching the reception desk, the louvered wall system can be seen in greater detail as a feature that wraps around the corner from the 9th Avenue facade wall to create a feature wall behind the receptionist that is illuminated with a wall-grazing system from above and is punctured by the iconic asterisk from the Wallpaper* logo.  Two downlights above the reception desk illuminate the task surface.

light lighting design architecture architectural office "new york" nyc

Turning to your right, immediately past the vending machine, you are greeted with the “flexible space,” which is here interpreted as a lounge area that can accommodate light reading or larger reception functions.  Above the space a symbolic architectural “page” floats, sweeping down to form a wall to the room.  The floating “page” is silhouetted against the lit ceiling above by linear fluorescent light fixtures.  In the moments where structural columns must pierce the “page”, light pierces it as well, celebrating those moments while providing additional illumination below.  Table and floor lamps provide most of the illumination in the “lounge” area to maintain a comfortable, low-light mood for reading or social events.  A few accent lights recessed into the floating plane illuminate an area to be used as a podium for guest speakers and lecturers.

light lighting design architecture architectural office "new york" nyc

Turning to your left, walking past the reception desk, you discover the first floor conference room.  A high ambient light level is maintained here through the use of cove lighting on the ceiling and another wall-grazing system illuminating the far wall.  Four small-aperture downlights provide illumination for the task surface.  Here, also, the privacy effects of the “louvered” wall system are more visible in the gradients across the two walls.

light lighting design architecture architectural office "new york" nyc

Continuing past the conference room, the soft glow from the service counter and the digital content displays attract you towards the semi-private offices on the first floor.  This service counter is another custom-built item for Wallpaper* and is thus highlighted by five small-aperture downlights that also provide illumination for the task surface.  Finally, in the distance, the glowing elevator doors signal the direction towards the second floor private offices.

light lighting design architecture architectural office "new york" nyc

… And that wraps up the tour of the first floor! … Still with me? Like I said, I’m going to stop here, because I would still have the whole second floor to explain. I’ll leave you with this teaser image, though, of the second floor open office space.  The themes I presented for the first floor (using light to create points of interest, etc.) continue onto the second floor, but there’s generally a higher light level here to accommodate day-to-day office activities.  I’m afraid, though, if you want to hear the rest of the presentation it’s going to have to be in person – there’s only so much I can explain in one blog post!

Hopefully my explanations were easy to follow, but if you have any questions please feel free to ask them in the comments section below.  I have complete support documentation to go along with this as well, so if you’re interested in more of the technical information just let me know. Of course, positive and constructive feedback is always welcome too!

Now it’s time to go celebrate finishing this monstrous project!  Thanks for reading!



  1. Stacy #
    December 11, 2010

    Absolutely incredible post! I reached the end and wanted to read more about this fascinating project! I first viewed the post on my phone and didn’t realize until I viewed it on my laptop that you had incorporated detailed descriptions of each of your renderings. Finding and reading the descriptions of each of the pictures was an added treasure! Such a thoughtful, well-integrated, and creative design and so well presented on your blog, Ryan! You should be so proud of what you have learned and accomplished in a short three months. Do you get to submit your design to Wallpaper*? Sure would be interesting to hear their take on what you and Patricia have designed! Can’t wait to see what comes next!

  2. December 19, 2010

    Most what i read online is trash and copy paste but you definitely add value. Bravo.

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