Charles Stone and Scott J. Hershman are no newcomers to transportation lighting. Stone is a partner in the New York City architectural lighting firm of Fisher Marantz Stone, where Hershman is an associate principal. The firm's award-winning illumination for airports and rail stations stretches from London to Hong Kong. In the 1980s, as part of the Broadgate project in London, Fisher Marantz Stone worked on the platform refit at Liverpool Street Station. They were also principal players in the comprehensive historic renovation of Grand Central Terminal in New York City.
In 1992, while actively working on the detailed design of the new Hong Kong Airport, the firm was selected by the Mass Transit Railway Corporation of Hong Kong to consult on the new Lantau Airport Express line. "This experience ignited a passion for lighting the rails; a passion which continues today," says Stone. "Indeed, it is this strategic and system-wide design role that has been the most captivating from a professional point of view. These mega-projects require several years from design concept to execution and operation. Design strategies and technical requirements must be clearly set forth early in the life of each project."
Current commissions for the firm include ongoing work for the Hong Kong MTR Corporation, a new station on the Taiwan High Speed Rail, and system-wide consulting and platform lighting design for Amtrak's new Acela high-speed rail service along the Northeast Corridor of the United States.
In designing railroad lighting, Stone has developed a specific approach for both terminals and platforms. "Our primary assignment on all of our rail projects has been to encourage commonality of lighting solutions and to maximize efficiency by providing design solutions that satisfy functional requirements and create architectural interest at the lowest possible cost," says Stone. "We try to create luminous environments that are interesting and delightful, pleasing to inhabit, and at the same time both functional and efficient to operate."
In fact, Stone has developed a two-part design strategy to create luminous environments that meet these criteria on system-wide projects. "Speed" and "events" are Stone's buzz words for this strategy. "It is my belief that light can, and should, bring rhythm and punctuation to the experience of rail travel," he notes. "The journey that excites has periods of speed punctuated by events."
Stone's belief is that good station lighting improves the quality of the journey a passenger takes. "Until some 40 or 50 years ago this phenomenon of the rhythm and punctuation of the journey was perhaps obvious to all travelers," he explains. "Encounters with splendor and spectacle were always the rewards of uncomfortable journeys. The great railway stations of the past—and of today—are a kind of proof of this idea. They provided a substantial visual reward at the end of the journey."
In designing platforms as well as station interiors, Stone's philosophy also embraces the notion that the lighting should be expressive of the notion of speed. "The arrival and departure of trains is an exhilarating experience," he adds.
Based on the portfolio of transportation projects designed by Fisher Marantz Stone, the firm was invited to join the team for the Acela project by Wallace Roberts & Todd Architects in Philadelphia. "We had worked on railway lighting projects together around the world for over ten years," says Stone, referring to his collaboration with Hershman. "We were excited to finally be working closer to home," notes Stone. The seven stations included in the scope of this project are (from south to north) Washington, DC, BWI Airport, Baltimore, Wilmington, Philadelphia, Providence, and Route 128 outside of Boston.
The design challenge in the Acela project was to develop lighting that would achieve a system-wide appeal in both new and historic contexts, in both interior and exterior conditions. The technical challenge was to create a system that could be installed in a variety of field conditions and survive the hostile environment found along railroad tracks, including diesel fumes, harsh weather, and continual vibration.
To meet these challenges, an organic linear form was developed, incorporating an aluminum extrusion which houses continuous T8 fluorescent lamps and a periodic synchronized flashing LED marker light to signal train arrivals. "The design is about speed," says Stone. "The illumination system is a direct/indirect linear design which creates a sense of space along the platform. The mounting system includes a multi-adjustable bracket to address the range of dimensional and material tolerances across the stations."
"Organic refers to the shape of the fixture, which is like an egg, oval with pointed ends," adds Hershman. "It is a shape that is taken from nature." The custom-designed egg-like fixtures were developed by Forum Lighting in Pittsburgh, PA. Their first challenge was to design an outdoor linear, bi-directional fluorescent fixture that would withstand the natural elements, along with the dust and vibration produced by the trains. The front face of the lighting fixture required a contemporary, streamlined look, free of any visible hardware.
The fixture design includes individual 4'-long lenses with silicone gaskets around the four sides to seal the lenses from the elements. The lenses incorporate a hook design that rotates and locks the front of the lens into the aluminum extruded body of the fixture. Two spring latches lock the lens in place along with two gasketed straps at each end of the lens to provide a water- and dust-tight seal.
A second design challenge was the issue of thermo-expansion issues that had to be addressed in relation to the various materials used in manufacturing: The fixture is aluminum, the arm assembly supporting the fixture is steel, and the arms were attached to a variety of structures, from wood beams to steel.
In response to this problem, Forum developed a sliding mounting system which permits the fixture to expand and contract with the temperature changes. The design team of Forum, Fisher Marantz Stone, and Amtrak also added an extension, and incorporated breaks in the fixture runs to further relieve expansion forces.
A third design challenge was the need for a weatherproof LED signaling system integrated into the fixture to produce uniform illumination for lengths of more than 450'. The LEDs also had to be illuminated from the sides and the front.
The solution here called for custom power supplies, controllers, and repeaters that were designed to carry the power and signal along the 450' runs. Each LED was fitted with a gasketed injection-molded acrylic prism lens. A texture was added to the inside angled surfaces of the prism to create a surface for the LED to illuminate. The result is an LED-illuminated surface that has equal intensity when viewed from the sides as well as the front of the fixture.
According to Paula Garret and Don Dziubaty of Forum Lighting, one of the most important challenges was that the final fixture design had to meet exacting standards for aesthetics, functionality, and performance. The fixture's appearance had to complement the contemporary Acela, it had to meet or exceed specific lumen output requirements, and it had to perform well in a variety of conditions. Plus, the final fixture had to be no more than 3" wide by 5" high. To make sure the fixture met these final requirements, the designers at Fisher Marantz Stone, Forum, and Amtrak met frequently to study every aspect of the fixture design in great detail.
"It was a grueling selection process," says Hershman, who explains that specifications for the fixtures were sent to several manufacturers, including Forum. Based on responses from the various companies and their ability to produce an extruded, exterior fixture, prototypes were fabricated for table-top discussions and a 480' mockup installed at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia by Forum and one other contender. Forum was selected based on its ability to meet the criteria for the project and was asked to fine-tune its design, incorporating changes to improve installation while preserving the aesthetics, performance, and functionality of the lighting fixture.
"The LEDs provide the desired kinetic element in the fixture," notes Hershman. "Since they are low-voltage, they are in a separate compartment. Also, the fixture is as small a package as possible with the T8 technology. These lamps work well with the 4' modules."
While the Acela trains pick up speed as a new Amtrak service, they will be welcomed into the station by these new fixtures. "The shape fits in nicely with the graphic of the high-speed trains," says Hershman. "The fixtures represent a new direction for the new millennium. They really look different."
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Photos courtesy Fisher Marantz Stone.