When it was completed in 1929, Eaton's department store in Toronto stood as the embodiment of style, gracing an entire square city block with its sleek Art Deco limestone facade. While the building was taken over in 1977 by Toronto College Park Limited and converted into a mixed-use office, residential, and retail complex, Toronto's Historical Board ensured that its grand seven-story Art Deco facade was preserved intact.
Though the beauty of the building remains today essentially as it was when it was constructed, the building's owners recently decided its presence needed to be updated to give its lower-floor spaces contemporary energy and excitement. They managed to accomplish their objectives with a full nod of approval from the Historical Board by incorporating a lighting scheme that not only leaves the precious exterior details untouched but exquisitely highlights them, and at the same time revitalizes the building's presence at night and affords the owners an array of marketing options that can change with the seasons or at whim.
The new exterior lighting design was developed after the owners retained Design International, a leasing concept consultant firm, to explore new design approaches that would attract customers and establish the building as a retail anchor at the corners of College and Yonge Streets. Given the fact that the building is designated as a historic structure, the design alternatives were limited, so the most viable and appropriate solution was to enhance the exterior lighting. Joseph Bogdan Associates and the Webb Zerafa Menkes Housden Partnership served as joint-venture architects on the project, and enlisted the firm of H.H. Angus & Associates to develop and execute the exterior lighting design concepts. (The team had previously collaborated on the lighting design for the interior of the building, which is also historically designated.)
The lighting designers began their investigation of how best to illuminate the structure by photographing the building at different times of the day and observing the play of sunlight on its architectural forms and materials. "You can learn from nature, by seeing what the sun does and how shadows are cast," says Ken Loach, IALD, principal lighting design consultant on the project. "You also need to understand how the building looks from different angles." They also studied the existing lighting and determined what was necessary to restore it.
In fact, one of the most serendipitous events in the development of the lighting design, according to Loach, occurred when he contacted the firm of Nelson & Garrett to bid on executing the restoration of the 7'-tall (2.1m) hanging lanterns that flank the building's entrance. "After bidding on the project, Chris Nelson was anxious to find out whether or not he would be awarded the commission," says Loach. "As it turns out, he was awarded the job, and he later told me that it was important to him to repair the lanterns since his grandfather had originally designed and built them in 1929." Having found the drawings in his father's files, Nelson was able to note the original details when recreating the damaged portions of the lanterns. His firm removed the steel hardware, which had been badly corroded over the years by acid rain, and substituted it with more durable bronze and stainless steel. They replaced broken glass shades, added new wiring, and updated the eight original incandescent lamps with electronic 23W compact fluorescents, which offer the benefits of a long 10,000-hour life, good color rendering, and reduced energy consumption.
In addition to restoring existing luminaires, the lighting designers also added new lighting to highlight detailing in the Manitoba limestone facade and the filigree in various locations. The new lighting consists of 70W metal-halide sources in Monarch KFL2 floodlights concealed behind the existing filigree at the base of each 60'-high (18.3m) window recess. Mounted 2' (0.6m) back from the Art Deco pilaster on a metal base, each weatherproof fixture was optically controlled to emit tight, 4x8 1/4 beams of light. "We chose these luminaires because they allowed us to create very tight beams that permitted the light to be projected as far as possible and reach the full height of the recess," notes Loach. In effect these tight beams also control what Loach calls "light pollution" by keeping the light focused on the building. With a color temperature of 3000K and a CRI of 83, the light also accentuates the limestone, says Loach, who tried a mock-up with high-pressure sodium lamps and found that the color of the light left it looking flat.
In contrast to the nearby streetlights, which contain high-pressure sodium sources, the whiter light of the metal-halide lamps sets off the building, enriches the texture and color of the limestone, and delineates the detailing in the Art Deco pilasters in bold relief. In addition, since the reflectors in the floodlights do all the work, they could be specified with a lower wattage and thereby reduce energy consumption.
Finally, the crowning glory of the lighting scheme occurs at the rooftop. Behind the 4'-high (1.2m) filigree at the top, the lighting designers mounted 8'-long (2.4m) high-output fluorescent lamps to silhouette the ornate detailing. The lighting designers also positioned metal halides behind the filigree in the well above the sixth floor to illuminate the setback portion of the building up to the crown. Here the sources were mounted 5' (1.5m) away from the building, rather than right up against it as was done on the lower portion, so 250W sources were used with beam spreads of 32x99 1/4 to provide a wider wash of light. They were also positioned 14' (4.3m) on center to eliminate the shadows that could have been created by the metal bracing structures that support the wall every 28' (8.5m).
The floodlights are covered with colored gels, offering the owners an array of marketing opportunities by giving the option to alter the colors of the gels to suit seasonal events, much as is done with the lighting of the Empire State Building in New York.
All of the lighting is controlled by astronomical timers, which allow the owners to adjust the lighting to go on and off at preset times. The lighting automatically changes to go on later and later as the months move from winter to summer, taking into account daylight savings time and extending the life of the lamps while maximizing their usefulness in a lighting scheme that, indeed, graciously gives new life to one of Toronto's lovelier historic structures.
Jean Gorman is a New York City-based freelance writer specializing in architecture and design. She has recently completed a book on lighting design called Detailing Light.