Local Celebration of Light

October 21, 2010 / no comments

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What began in 1984 with a group of people gathering together for a candle-lit journey around Jamaica Pond has become an annual tradition bringing together the local community in the celebration of history, tradition and light.

The Jamaica Pond Lantern Parade takes place on the weekend before Halloween. This year’s event will take place on Saturday, October 23rd and Sunday, October 24th at 6:00PM.

Each year, approximately 4,000 people arrive at sunset with their handmade lanterns (typically made from recycled soda bottles) to take part in the parade that proceeds around the pond creating a beautiful display of colored light breaking up the darkness at the water’s edge.

For more information: http://www.spontaneouscelebrations.org

Photo Credit: Brian Talbot

Photo of the Month: December 2009

December 7, 2009 / no comments


As each winter season comes upon us, New England celebrates with holiday light decorations at Faneuil Hall Marketplace.

The promenade is lined on both sides with trees, transformed with thousands of white glowing lights that remind us of all the diverse holiday celebrations and traditions that make this season different from all the rest. The biggest tree is the traditional 87-foot-high Norwegian spruce, decorated with 15,000 white lights, as well as red, green, and gold ornaments.

Faneuil Hall is typically bustling with shoppers, diners, and entertaining street performers. As the sun sets, the holiday lighting really begins to shine. The overall scene that the lighting creates adds another layer of liveliness, stimulating your senses as you wander through the marketplace, admiring the sparkle and cheer of the season.

The holiday lighting creates a setting in which many people stop to admire, take pictures, or just gaze up as they are walking by, but in one way or another it defines that particular moment, that might otherwise be walked past. Lighting is dynamic and complex, yet sometimes the purpose is simply to pause and enjoy the experience.

Photo Credit: Amber Hepner / Lam Partners

Photo of the Month: November 2009

November 2, 2009 / no comments

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Autumn’s waning daylight gives way to seasonal celebrations centered on light. Spontaneous Celebrations’ annual Lantern Parade at Boston’s Jamaica Pond brings together a diverse community to celebrate the changing of the seasons on the fourth Sunday of October.

A sliver of moon, soft breezes from the south, and a few thousand celebrants encircle the pond in lantern light. Lanterns are, for the most part, homemade from two-litre soda bottles layered with diffusing tissue paper cut-outs, and each lighted with a single candle. The 1.5-mile wooded path along the pond is left largely unlit, allowing each lantern to contribute its own warm glow. Rarely has one footcandle* looked so lovely.

* Footcandle: A unit of measure of the intensity of light falling on a surface, equal to one lumen per square foot. Originally defined with reference to a standardized candle burning at one foot from a given surface!

Photo Credit: Amy & Salim

Custom House Tower: Relighting a Boston Landmark

July 27, 2009 / no comments


Custom House after lighting restoration

In the Fall of 2008, Boston’s oldest skyscraper was showing its age. Originally completed in 1849, the twenty-year-old façade lighting on the 1915 tower addition was in disrepair. The building maintenance budget could not keep up with the required frequency of re-lamping in such precarious locations, and only a few of the lights were still operating, as seen below.


Lighting in disrepair before restoration

Motivated by the lighting festival, IlluminaleBoston 08, and the promise of reduced building maintenance costs, the design team and building ownership endeavored to restore the landmark’s night image to prominence in the Boston skyline – but more than a few obstacles stood in our way, and chief among them were budget and time. Though planning for the event began in February 2008, design for the Custom House site did not begin until May. This left less than five months to complete the site analysis, design documentation, and installation. The majority of project funding would come from donations and sponsorship, so the budget was both modest and unpredictable.

To maximize the impact of the project, the team focused available resources on the top of the tower, which is visible all over the city. The main shaft of the tower, up through the 16th floor, was softly illuminated from below with ceramic metal halide floodlights to keep the tower grounded. Narrow-beam LED spotlights with clear lenses uplight the colonnade above from the sides of each column, spilling light onto the entablature above and revealing the granite dentils that confirm its precedent in classical architecture. Two additional fixtures highlight each corner to complete the tower’s form.


Custom House after completed renovation

Linear LED wall-grazers are concealed to wash the balcony-level façade below the clock, and adjustable LED spotlights extended on rotating outriggers light the sculpted eagles and highlight the corners of the clock tower. The outriggers swing over to the accessible balcony for maintenance.

The clock face retained its original lighting. A low pressure sodium lamp in each number provides an orange glow, and blue compact fluorescent backlights the minute marks. At the observation deck above, the columns are silhouetted with LED spotlights behind the base of each column to add depth to the façade and hide the fixtures from visitors’ view. Additional outriggers are located at the corners to accentuate entablature ornaments.


Lighting at the peak was restricted by FAA requirements, but LED floodlights with frosted lenses were concealed at the base of the crown to graze the towers’ cap and expose the pyramid of dormer windows. These fixtures are accessible from the windows at the base of the pyramid.

The completed project has successfully restored the Custom House Tower to its rightful place as one of the crown jewels of the Boston skyline, while drastically reducing the lighting energy consumption and maintenance costs. The building is expected to save 19,000 kWh annually, and to use only 30% of the energy consumed by the previous design over its expected 20-year lifespan.


Location: Boston, Massachusetts

Project size: 496 feet, overall height of tower

Project cost: $75,000 labor and installation / $160,000 donated lighting equipment

Photo Credits: Brad Koerner / Lam Partners Inc (1, 4, 5), Lam Partners (2), Brandon Miller (3)

Photo of the Month: July 2009

July 6, 2009 / no comments

Christian Science Center

The Christian Science Center in Boston is a distinctive example of the idea of architecture and light executed together as a single element.

The plaza’s expression of volume and space is a direct product of light connecting with the structure to create shadow, depth, and visual highlights. As a visitor moves through the space the forms are progressively revealed. The art of lighting and architecture collectively creates vivid, usable, and, perhaps most importantly, stimulating environments.

The reflecting pool is a dynamic example of how light can vary the features of a space. The pool has a strong presence in the plaza, both in daylight and in the evenings under electric light, which enables a third dimension of communication between the surrounding structures as they are reflected in the water. To the visitor, this is an intriguing expression, produced simply by the reflection of light – and changing by the hour and every day, in contrast to the rigidity of the built form itself.

The electric lighting of the arcade clarifies wayfinding and highlights the architectural content and intent of use. The light fixtures themselves serve to scale down the oversized structure to a proportion corresponding to human height; the datum line of the fixtures is established just above head height, in order to create a spatial relationship to the passerby that is comfortable and useful. The lighting also announces the proposed path down the colonnade and accentuates the orderly rhythm of the pilasters.

Lighting is sometimes perceived as something that happens after the architecture is built, but to appreciate the mutually interdependent, enigmatic relationship between the two is to connect form and light in a way that describes and defines space.

Photo Credit: Amber Hepner / Lam Partners Inc