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A Lighting Design for a 24/7 Student Center

May 22, 2011


daylighting electric lighting light design rendering architecture architectural

After months of non-stop work I’m happy to report that I’m officially halfway done with grad school! Hooray! I present to you here the reason for my apparent disappearance off the face of the Earth, my final Lighting Studio 2 project, a daylighting and electric lighting design for a 24/7 student center. This was an absolutely enormous project that involved not only lighting a building but designing that building, architecturally, from the ground up.  The entire project was completed in just over 10 weeks.

daylighting lighting design architecture architectural site context model building student center union university college school education nyc "new york" facade fenestration light hexagon hexagonal window

Above you see the street view of the building designed by myself and my partner, Mark.  The building is located in an infill site on West 28th Street near 8th Avenue in NYC (see site plan below).  This area is right on the edge of Flower District, just to the north of Chelsea and a few blocks south of Madison Square Garden and Penn Station.  The two blocks to the south of our site are mainly occupied by New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT).

daylighting lighting design architecture architectural site plan building student center union university college school education nyc "new york"

Our inspiration for the design of both the building and the lighting sprang from our prior project that focused on the images of light streaking through clouds and a honeycomb.  We believed the play of light in the first image, between the diffuse luminescence of the clouds and the sharp, direct beams of light from the sun, characterized both extremes of a typical student’s day: the diffuse light from the clouds representing introspective, private moments experienced during the day, and the beams of sunlight representing interactive, social, public moments. The second image, of the honeycomb, became not only an appropriate metaphor for a buzzing student center, but also inspired the architectural geometry of our windows, custom luminaires, and other features due to the honeycomb’s ability to interact with light and create those two extreme conditions: diffuse light that bounces around within the honeycomb, and beams of light when light is passed through the structure.

lighting design daylighting architectural architecture concept inspiration images photos light clouds hexagon honeycomb

The combination of these two ideas resulted in the design for our windows and shading devices.

lighting design daylighting architectural architecture window fenestration hexagon hexagonal light pattern sun solar library student center university college school

Our daylighting design then incorporates these windows into the South, East, and West facades of our building.  The window sizes vary on each floor according to how much light we wanted to let in, how important the view was, and the function of the window (which is illustrated in the diagram below).

daylighting lighting design fenestration window diagram daylight view "light shelf" hexagon hexagonal

Here is a section cut through our building demonstrating how our our building is laid out and how the daylighting design performs.

daylighting lighting design building education student center union university college architecture architectural section diagram analysis solar sun viewIn order to present our ideas about the design of the interior spaces in terms of daylighting and electric lighting we completely developed the 2nd floor library, including building a scale model from which we took light readings and photos. Here is a rendered floor plan/reflected ceiling plan (RCP) showing the layout of the 2nd floor and the lighting fixtures. The rendered effects are designed to communicate the electric lighting design in a diagrammatic fashion. Notice the general layout of book stacks and the grand staircase to the North, the elevator core at the center, and the study tables, circulation desk, and lounge area to the South.

electric lighting design light architecture architectural RCP floor plan layout render effect fixture

In our electric lighting design, we took our concept of the hexagon and really ran with it.  We designed almost a complete set of custom luminaires for our project based on the geometry of the hexagon. Below are some thumbnail details of the fixtures we designed for the 2nd floor library.

electric lighting luminaire light design details architecture architectural custom diagrams

Finally, in order to clearly communicate our design intentions for the mood and feel of the space, we developed a set of two daytime and two nighttime perspective renderings demonstrating the effects of the daylighting and electric lighting design.  All of the renderings were developed from photos of a scale model with Adobe Photoshop.

daylighting electric lighting light design rendering architecture architectural

Unfortunately this is just a small taste of the enormous amount of work that went into the design, development, and testing of our project.  I could go on and on about the finer intricacies of the design as well as provide hard numbers about the performance of the daylighting and electric lighting designs based on solar geometry and lighting power density. I could also ramble on about how our scale model performed in terms of the amount of daylight our building lets in, or about how our analysis of the brightness ratios in the space proves that our design creates a visually comfortable environment to work and study in.  I’ll spare you this time though … only if you promise to keep coming back and reading my blog!  If you are interested in learning more about the project please don’t hesitate to ask questions either by sending me an email ( or by writing them in the comments section below.

Life goal #174: Design a building … Check! What’s next on the list?


One Comment

  1. May 26, 2011

    Trying not to sound too proud, but woo-hoo, what a way to end your first year! From fashioning designs out of paper and clothespins to THIS!!! How far you’ve come, how much you’ve learned. You have such talent and vision, Ryan. And that, coupled with your unequaled passion for all things lighting and your ability to “tell a story” with your designs, makes you a lighting designer worth his weight in gold. Bravo!

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