Jul 25, 2022
Barclays Center is the first of many projects planned to revitalize Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards
By Samantha Schwirck

As cultural venues far and wide struggle with grant cuts and ticket-sale declines, a new performing arts center and sports arena in Brooklyn is defying trends. A locus for entertainment, Barclays Center, which is situated at the convergence of Fulton Avenue and Atlantic Avenue in the heart of the borough, is a 675,000-sq ft stadium that is pushing architectural conventions and racking up awards and honors. As of 2013, Barclays has received the Brooklyn Building Award for Economic Development from the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and was named Architizer A+ Building of the Year. 

The project’s interior design and lighting plan was a collaborative effort among SHoP architects, AECOM, and Goldstick Lighting Design (GLD), White Plains, NY, while the center’s exterior lighting scheme was implemented by Tillotson Design Associates (TDA), New York City. As home to the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and host to popular performers such as the Rolling Stones and Jay Z, the venue has been steadily gaining popularity since its opening in 2012.

Karen Goldstick, principal and founder of GLD, says that the project “provided an opportunity to combine our two areas of expertise [lighting design and arena sports lighting]. We collaborated with the architects to create spaces that are more theater-like than sports venue-like. This difference makes attending an event at the Barclays Center a more upscale experience, while still capturing the grittiness and edgy aesthetic of Brooklyn.”

A powerful blend of innovation and sophistication, the lighting at Barclays certainly makes a statement. In fact, the venue has morphed into a visual focal point for the area—standing out amongst the surrounding buildings, while also making itself right at home.


Christopher Cheap, principal at TDA, says the fi rm overcame many obstacles when designing the lighting scheme for the building’s sculptural exterior, which extends from a subway station and surrounding seating, across a plaza, to a 3,000-sq ft, basketball court-sized oculus that contains a 360-deg LED light board announcing events. “Our two primary objectives were to reveal the form of the building and to keep the plaza free of pole lights that would obstruct circulation and views of the building at night,” Cheap explains. Because of the structure’s location and scale, TDA had to be sure that the plaza’s lights—a fi eld of 4 in.-diameter diffuse-lensed LED uplights—could withstand the load of multiple fi re trucks and snow removal vehicles, as well as pedestrian and weather abuse. They installed multiple mockups at MetroTech Center over the span of two years to be sure the fi xtures could withstand the elements and provide a suitable amount of light, without creating glare. The building itself has Corten-steel façade panels that make it diffi cult to see at night, so TDA mounted a staggered grid of linear LED uplights in the openings between the panels. Combined with soft accent lights on the roof of the subway entrance, the scene is lively, especially amongst the common retail stores that surround it. “We felt it was important that the building look occupied 24/7—to create a safe, welcoming district for the residents circulating through the plaza and for the visitors to the arena,” Cheap says.


From the plaza, visitors can see right inside. The full-height of the windows and the openness of the main lobby and main concourse are meant to invite people in. Locally manufactured light rails curve around the space, at a specifi c angle that aligns with the windows, creating a suspended ceiling intended to be more intimate than the area’s actual 17-ft ceilings. The fluorescent linear fi xtures, on 5-ft spacing and 10-ft datum, are also meant to mimic the building’s original rail-yard setting—as well as its railroad-like exterior façade, which was built using weathering steel. In contrast, the space’s dark, highly refl ective terrazzo marble fl oors are illuminated by low-level 15 footcandle lighting which helps to achieve one of Shop’s early ideas of the concourse feeling like a rainy nighttime street scene— one where Gene Kelly might be caught “dancing and splashing in the rain,” says Goldstick. “Two of the design tools used on this project were Revit modeling and architectural renderings,” Goldstick says when discussing the project’s outcome. “The renderings were incredibly lifelike and able to capture the aesthetic goals of the space. Although one can never fully anticipate the experience of walking through a building until it is built, these design tools did provide a comprehensive understanding of what to expect.”


“This project was design-build,” Goldstick explains. “As the lighting designer working for the construction team, it was often a challenge to manage the budget, the primary focus of the construction team, with the aesthetic goals of the design architect driven by the expectations of Forest City Ratner, the owner/developer.” Working with the streamlined architecture and black or white scheme in the semi-private suites and clubs, GLD created three layers of lighting throughout these levels—ambient, focal point and highlight—that interact with each other to create an energy-efficient layout. In the suite-level lobby, murals by local artists are highlighted by art lighting which is offset by decorative spherical fixtures. The suite lounges are dramatic spaces with many points of contrast including highlighted entry doors, backlit bars and suspended glass lights. The Vault at Barclays—an exclusive club comprised of 11 suites—features wall-wash fixtures set against trapezoidal gold-metal mesh that is suspended from the ceiling. The resulting texture is offset by custom pendants that establish focus on contemporary lounge seating as well as the televisions and bar. And in the 40/40 Club, one of four clubs located in the venue, fluorescent pyramidal fi xtures with amber gels provide intimate lighting around the trapezoidal bar, while MR16 accent fixtures—spread throughout the space—illuminate individual tables.


The lighting in the arena bowl, designed in collaboration with Nordstrom-Baxter Associates, is particularly unique because it has two settings—one that is used for all events (a bright, metalhalide system), and one that is used exclusively for Nets’ games. When the Nets play, 10 75-85-ft high flying trusses aim 480 tungsten- halogen fixtures onto the court, emitting a warm glow that causes the court to pop like a theater stage, while the rest of the arena remains dark. The Staples Center in Los Angeles is the only other sports arena with a similar lighting scheme. With the arena’s black seats, small, hidden doorways, and subtle aisle lighting, the vibe is simultaneously intimate and exciting.


The Barclays Center—Interior
Complies with ASHRAE/IESNA 90.1-2007
Watts per sq ft: .87 (not including event lighting in the arena bowl)
Illuminance Levels: entrances = 15 fc; concourses = 20 fc;
clubs/restaurant/lounges/suites = 5-30 fc; concessions =
40-60 fc; practice court = 75 fc; locker room = 50 fc
Lamp Types: 313
Fixture Types: 109
LEED Silver Certified

The Designers
Karen Goldstick is principal of Goldstick Lighting Design, Ltd, White Plains, NY. Christopher Cheap, Member IES, is principal of Tillotson Design Associates, New York City.


Samantha Schwirck

Samantha Schwirck is Managing Editor for... More info »