Apr 20, 2021

Three years after Fisher Marantz Stone earned an IES Illumination Award of Distinction for the interior lighting at the Oculus in Lower Manhattan, the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey has upgraded the fixtures to achieve color-changing effects inside the iconic building.

Designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, the Oculus serves as a memorial to the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a retail center and a transit hub. Defined by 166 rib-shaped columns that arch over 300 ft into the air before meeting at the apex, the structure resembles a bird taking flight when seen from the outside. The new lighting system—a collaboration among ETC, FSG and Clarté Lighting—was unveiled on Veterans Day, with a red, white and blue scheme honoring men and women who have served.

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The ribs were originally lit with recessed ceramic metal halide fixtures that fit into small housings. When the Port Authority and Constellation Energy decided to redesign the lighting for Veteran’s Day based on a plan by FSG’s Bernie Erickson and Mathle Leyes, the concept called for color-changing LED fixtures, but they didn’t know of any that were up to the task. “The atrium is actually very high in the air and taller than you think,” says Erickson. “You can look into the atrium from street level and it doesn’t give you an appreciation for what is beneath there. You need a fixture with a lot of power to put light where you need it.”

The challenge of finding an RGBW LED fixture that was powerful enough to light the ribs all the way to their apex, while fitting into the existing housing, was met by Mike Aubrey at Clarté Lighting who developed the PAR38 scale RGBW optical array in a matching retrofit kit and new fixture configuration. “We’re grazing the outside of the columns, and lighting them inside and outside through the skylight, with a fixture that is smaller and has a lower profile than the previous metal halide fixtures,” says Erickson. ETC and Paradigm controls allow the lights to dim or brighten according to a schedule or sensors, and enable custom looks for holidays.