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IALD Radiance Award winner: 5 thoughts

New York’s Lincoln Square Synagogue won the Radiance Award for the highest point score across all categories at the 33rd Annual International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD) International Lighting Design Awards in San Diego, California. The Eaton’s Lighting Division team caught up with Tillotson Design Associates’ Ellen Sears, principal designer, to learn more about the project and what inspired its innovative features.

What did you and your client hope to achieve with this design?

Our client needed a larger synagogue and expanded facilities. The Jewish faith emphasizes symbolism in architecture, and the building honors Jewish history and traditions. We always approach any project by first determining what the architect has envisioned and how we can amplify that vision with our lighting designs. Lighting is integral to overall design, and everything should flow seamlessly. We approached our role with an eye on illuminating the elements and materials that made this project special.

Can you share your design inspiration for the Lincoln Square Synagogue?

Every architectural element is inspired by the Jewish faith. The front wall design of the glass façade, divided into five undulating glass ribbons, represents a Torah Scroll. The “light” comes from within the Torah as a guiding symbolic reference; as such, the illumination of the entire façade alludes to this reference. Linear LEDs incorporated into the bottom and top of each glass facet illuminate a sheer, bronze-colored, fabric interlayer, as well as a white translucent pattern on the interior. During the day, the fabric layer sparkles in the sun; at night, the translucent pattern and lighting help create a soft glow. The wall is truly special.

Inside, the sanctuary’s 613 1-3/4” diameter recessed LED downlights, set in a moderate convex ceiling with brilliant acoustical properties, equal the number of commandments in the Torah and are meant to symbolize the stars in the desert sky. We wanted these downlights to be small, yet we worried that they wouldn’t give off enough light. But LEDs advanced so rapidly after we started this project in 2007 that in the end, everyone was extremely confident about the light levels in the sanctuary. These lights were also positioned using a formula to show that God’s plan is always at work, even if it is not always visible. Finally, the ceiling had to be plastered due to the synagogue’s acoustical system, creating a need for small flanges and access to the drivers through the actual fixtures.

The interior walls have soft lighting that emphasizes the angled facets of the acoustical wall panels, creating a tent-like feeling. The sanctuary’s “in-the-round” seating also represents the nomadic history of the early Jewish people.

How did you select lighting products?

We had a lighting design that required small products, extremely complex wiring and remote driver locations. It was a special design, and we needed the right partner to make it work.

The Lincoln Square Synagogue marked one of our first projects that called for the illumination of an entire façade with LED fixtures, and the interior design was multifaceted as well. In total, the design called for about 500 individual fixtures, each of which was about 12 inches long, and 50 remote drivers. We needed a product that could handle the design’s complexity yet create something beautiful.

We had used Eaton’s iO LED brand in many previous projects, and the product was well-tested by the market. The iO LED brand includes indoor and outdoor LED architectural products such as linear floodlights, cove lighting and illuminated handrails.

We felt we could depend on iO to deliver what was necessary for the synagogue design. Eaton offered extremely small products, which we needed, and they helped us figure out a lot of the wiring. We worked closely with them to complete the project.

What kind of feedback have you gotten from your client and the community?

The Lincoln Square Synagogue design is striking. It’s just a beautiful project, and people respond to that. Our client and the community have embraced it.

How did it feel to win the IALD Radiance Award for the first time?

Everyone at Tillotson Design Associates was thrilled to win the IALD Radiance Award. It’s an incredible feeling to have your work validated by your peers.