FOCUS LIGHTING TURNS ITS ATTENTION TO NEW YORK CITY In recent months, Manhattan-based Focus Lighting has turned its design focus to its hometown with a series of projects that run the gamut from retail and restaurants to a stylish hotel, the Tribeca Grand. Here, a soft coppery glow is not only warm and inviting, but also creates an environment which makes hotel guests look extremely attractive.
The Tribeca Grand is located on Church Street in downtown Manhattan on a small slice of land that was once a plant shed enclosed with cyclone fencing. A new cobblestone courtyard in front of the hotel sets the tone for the interior decor and lighting. "It's upscale downtown chic, with lots of delicate, beautiful views," says Paul Gregory, principal designer for Focus Lighting, who worked with Brett Andersen, project designer, and Sepp Spenlinhauer, assistant designer for the project. Interior architecture and design are by Larry Bogdanow and Randi Halpern of Bogdanow Partners Architects in Manhattan.
The first surprise is the atrium interior, a design style not often found in a Manhattan hotel. The atrium surrounds a small lobby that looks like a big living room with comfortable chairs and tables leading to the bar area. The floor is variegated stone in shades of terra cotta and gray, while recessed ceiling panels with stretched wires are crosslit with MR-16 lamps in RSA fixtures tucked into recesses. "The lights are on one side only," says Gregory, "so that you don't see them as you enter. All you see is an interesting light on the ceiling."
Surrounding the central atrium are seven guest floors with balconies overlooking the lobby and bar. The balcony ceilings on each floor are softly lit. "The ceilings are a big part of the visual experience from the lobby floor because everyone tends to look up at the skylight. They were a great opportunity to highlight the architectural design," says Gregory, who adds, "it was also a chance to add color to the space." The solution proved rather simple, with Rosco gel sleeves on 3' PMC fluorescents. The colors change from red to amber as one looks up toward the top floor, providing variation in the lighting.
A large semi-circular installation of tall panels with abstract cobalt blue, wavy patterns stands at the entry to the lobby, just past the registration desk. Each of the 10 panels is made of stainless steel mesh, with projected patterns from Precision Projection Systems Wavelight projectors placed in a cove behind the panels. Background blue light comes from Lumiere MR-16 fixtures. The overall effect is of a large water sculpture whose undulating cobalt blue panels stand out in the amber and copper-toned room.
The other element that is blue at night is the skylight atop the atrium. It is made of Kalwall, or two layers of white frosted fiberglass with a grid of rectangular aluminum tubes sandwiched in between the layers. "It lets the sun shine in during the day," Gregory points out. At night, the ceiling is backlit from the exterior with 1,000W Kim floodlights with blue filters from Special FX Lighting.
A series of 25 ETC Source Fours at 20% intensity are affixed inside the top of the atrium for additional lobby lighting without glare. They can be accessed for maintenance from the eighth floor hallway of the hotel. "Six fixtures at 90% would have been less expensive but too glary," Gregory asserts. "You wouldn't have been able to look up."
The lobby windows, which look out onto the Tribeca street scene, have copper-mesh fabric curtains that sparkle under recessed AR-70 lamps in Litelab fixtures. Above the windows are panels of the same fabric sandwiched between glass. The AR-70s are recessed in groups of two and three so that the light hits the panels and not the wood mullions. "The lighting and the fabric in the windows glisten, and help to mute the view of outside. It's like a warm cocoon," says Gregory.
FLICKERS OF INSPIRATION A nice touch in the lighting scheme is the use of ship's prisms, purchased at Restoration Hardware. These are placed in wrought iron fixtures on wooden banisters around the lobby, with power coming up from the floor. A cap on the top of the fixture hides the 50W PAR-20 lamp so that all one sees is the sparkle from the prisms. Below the banisters, amber LED panels are embedded into the floor.
Ship's prisms are also used in groups of 16 as "crystals" in the ceilings of the hotel elevators, with some of the prisms facing up and other facing down to create an interesting design. A-lamps with no color light the prisms from above, while additional light in the elevators comes from Edison Price striplights tucked behind glass panels.
In the elevator cages, AR-70 lamps shoot up to light the entire height of the glass enclosures, for a dramatic effect as the elevators go up and down. The square ceilings in the elevator hallways on the lobby level are lit in a bright red, as a transition from the lobby to the guest floor lighting.
To add extra light to the interior atrium walls, Stonco sconces are placed between each floor on panels of fiberglass with fabric molded into them. Perforated metal shrouds on the sconces are backlit with 50W PAR-20 lamps. "The columns of light are purely decorative," says project manager Andersen, "but they make the space seem more interesting, and it was a nice way to add light to the architecture."
The sconces are fixed in place so that no one can change their positions, and in fact, most of the lighting in the hotel is intentionally not adjustable. Control is via a Strand Lighting Premiere system with Strand dimmers located in the basement. The hotel manager has access to control panels.
As always in a Focus Lighting design scheme, there is what Gregory calls "a first look." In this case it is both the blue glow of the wave wall, and a "fireplace" at the far end of the lobby that draws visitors into the space. The fireplace look is created by rows of liquid paraffin flames glowing against a wall of copper tiles. "The red squares at the elevators and the wave wall really stand out, but the little sparkles of light make it look great," he says.
The bar area echoes the lobby with a smaller version of the blue glass ceiling and an amber neon glow with custom neon by Chris Freeman, which creates another "fireplace" look. A wine case is lit with MR-16s to add sparkle to the bottles, while a flicker generator in a private dining room behind the bar creates the look of candlelight. "There is low ambient light, but lots and lots of points of light," notes Andersen.
Other interesting lighting effects throughout the hotel include custom-designed spun-metal fixtures with frosted white globes set into coves in the ceiling of each bathroom. The lower-level ceiling is thin sheets of white mica backlit with incandescent light bulbs, while walls have panels of aluminum foil lit with MR-16 lamps.
In the downstairs screening room, the ceiling treatment is like one big fixture with 26 boxes curved over the seating area to create an industrial look. "The light boxes create an interesting surface," says Andersen, noting that interspersed downlights can be turned off, leaving just the boxes glowing softly. A Panja touchscreen controls the lighting in this room, which is used for movie screenings and corporate events.
When it comes to Manhattan restaurants, Focus Lighting can reel off an impressive list of credits, ranging from Vong and Nobu to Le Cirque and Michael Jordan's Steakhouse. Many of these were designed in collaboration with architect David Rockwell, principal of the Manhattan-based Rockwell Group.
THE MAGIC OF MEXICO One of their latest joint efforts is Rosa Mexicana, a Mexican restaurant located a few blocks from Lincoln Center on the Upper West Side. Here Gregory was aided in his "first look" by Rockwell's design of a large blue-tiled wall covered with water. Pinned to the wall are 200 white figures of divers that add visual interest to the otherwise monochromatic surface.
"Traditionally you would light water from below," explains Gregory, who was forced to look for another solution due to budget constraints. The result is that the wall of water is lit from above, with two coves built into the ceiling to house small fixtures. The first cove is very close to the wall, with 150W PAR-38 lamps in Litelab fixtures with High End Systems blue dichroic filters. The second cove is placed 5' out, with MR-16 lamps in Lightolier fixtures and blue dichroic filters, again from High End Systems. These fixtures are angled to light the top of the wall.
"There is a great contrast," says Gregory, who served as principal designer along with project designer Jeff Nathan. "There is a little aura around each diver. The end result is magical." To add extra sparkle to the wall and bounce light into the pool of water at the bottom, Lumiere fixtures with MR-16 lamps are placed under the dramatic floating red and orange terrazzo staircase in front of the wall.
In the dining areas, tables are lit from above with recessed ceiling-mounted fixtures with 75W R30 lamps to add a soft glow. This also means that the tables can be moved without losing their light. Niches around the room have an edge glow provided by low-voltage Lucifer striplights with no color.
On the exterior of the building, one can see the blue glow from the interior wall. In addition, 400W metal-halide lamps in Kim exterior floods with rose-colored filters streak up the building right to the cornices. These are placed on top of architectural enclosures 3' wide by 18' tall along the facades of the restaurant. Inside each enclosure is one 12'-tall Aztec god lit with PAR-38 lamps and Devon glass filters in amber, gold, lavender, and steel blue. "The cool colors are in the background with the warmer colors on the rusted steel of each god," notes Nathan.
WINDOWS ONTO THE CITY For the flagship store of H&M retailers on Fifth Avenue at 50th Street, Gregory and project LD Alex Sebeshalmi took a different approach. "The windows tell the story," says Gregory, who adds that the store reflects a European point of view about lighting. "It is very bright with steep angles and exposed lamps. We spent a lot of time with the angles." With 150fc on the clothing and accessories, the goal was to get the right angle to avoid glare and hot spots.
The windows allow for a view into the three-story building, so that the lighting for the store also lights the exteriors, with a combination of fluorescent and MR-16s, mixed with automated fixtures. Six Clay Paky Golden Scans are placed at the top of an atrium and shoot all the way down to the ground floor with Rosco geometric patterns to highlight different groups of products.
Rosco/ET Horizon software is used to control the Golden Scans. "We imported AutoCAD files of the building into the Horizon system and programmed in our office on a 3D visual model of the space," notes Gregory.
"As the lights move, there are occasionally patterns on the floor, but they are mostly used in white," he points out. A vibrant streak of blue light in each of two three-story columns at the end of the atrium provides a stark contrast to the largely black and white space.
Where the windows are dressed with a full scrim, High End Systems dichroic filters in ETC Source Four PARs are used to add a color wash behind the mannequins. The windows stay lit all night and command attention, even in the high-profile Fifth Avenue retail district.
Inside, around the perimeter of the store, RSA fluorescent fixtures are mixed with RSA three-head MR-16 fixtures, LSI track fixtures with metal-halide PAR-38 lamps, and 70W PAR-30 lamps, as well as pockets of neon to help accent the products. "The look is very high-energy," says Gregory. "The store is very popular and always crowded."
Gregory also collaborated with Rockwell on the new Citarella restaurant which opens later this month in a historic townhouse near Rockefeller Center in Manhattan. Here Rockwell's designs play off the seafood theme of the restaurant. Tiny glass beads between wooden panels on the ground floor carry light through to the second floor, which is meant to suggest the inside of a seashell. Gregory's dramatic lighting enhances this sparkling interior and just proves that the world is his oyster.