16 April 08: Lights . . . camera . . .
And that right there is action: Comcast Center's evening lighting scheme.
This photo was taken during the Phillies' four-run ninth inning against the Astros last night, so perhaps the first lighting of the crown was red as a show of support for Pat Burrell's clutch homer and Geoff Jenkins' defiance of third base coach Steve Smith.
Comcast Center's night lights have been progressively rolled out and tested over the past six months, effectively an evening version of the daytime's transparent glass. By that I mean: the portions of the tower which are illuminated -- the atrium, the winter garden, the corners, the cutouts and the crown -- are the same ones sheathed in the clear, transparent glass that break up the long walls of reflective, mirrored glass.
Eric Nelson from Winona Lighting, who produced the LED product that's been installed, explains: "The lighting in the corner spandrel panels and five floors of the 'ice cube' at the top of the building are white only. The very top row of lighting on the building will be color changing." The corners, the cutouts and the crown are all subtly lined with boxes of low-energy LED lights -- 4,100K in color temperature, or a bluish white -- while the top row of the crown has a row of continuous LEDs that are color-programmable, i.e. red for the Phillies, pink for breast cancer awareness month, and so forth. The top row is aimed downward, so as to 'wash' the white crown with color.
Quentin Thomas, the namesake of Quentin Thomas Associates, who designed the lighting, illustrates the idea behind it: "The interior lighting of the building at the corners is specified as 4100K compact fluorescent so as to be sympathetic to and support the illuminated LED spandrel panels. These corner condition compact fluorescent downlights are controlled separately from the typical tenant lighting and can be switched on or off together."
Typical tenant lighting is indeed a concern, if Cira Centre is anything to go off of. While Cira's "Lite-Brite" system of LED dots is either loved or hated, its potential has never been fully realized, thanks to interior office lights remaining on all night long (4/20, A Time for Fishtown). There were even eight floors of office lights left on for the grand unveiling during a Monday Night Football game in November 2005. These interior lights drown out any "wow" effect the lights ought to possess.
Visarc is a Massachusetts-based company which produces renderings for builders prior to and during construction. They produced a simulation of Comcast Center's lighting for Radiance, an online clearinghouse for people interested in the physics of light. The simulation took this interior office lighting into account, and the results comparing bare accent lighting vs the reality of office lighting and nearby ambient light are fascinating -- a 22-page PDF explaining the process is archived HERE.
Like Mellon Bank Center's brightly lit pyramid, it's going to take some maneuvering (bracketing, or this HDR everyone keeps talking about) on photographers' parts to get the exposure right. Comcast's internally-based lighting is a vast difference from City Hall's spotlights mounted on nearby roofs, described recently by Inga as a "Gothic horror house" and a "giant crime scene". It's true, those lights, not exactly LEED-friendly, are distracting from miles away, giving Hollywood-spotlight treatment to the Quaker who'd have run from it. What's the internet saying? A idea, C execution.
But back to Comcast Center at night: white corners, white cutouts (five spandrel 'stripes' on the south and one on the north), and a white cube with a colored top. There it is. What do you think?