The Palm House
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Designing the lighting for the treasured Palm House at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens was an inspired process. When we first met the team on site, we realized the entire project was about lighting. Now, as lighting designers we like to think every project is about lighting, and it is to an extent, but it’s really about the relationship of the lighting to the materials, furnishings, draperies, and artwork.
At the Palm House, we learned that the floor materials would be replaced, and a decorative lighting feature would be added, but everything else was remaining as is, a glass and metal greenhouse.
The previous lighting was reminiscent of the way architecture and rides are lit in theme parks. The metal framework was traced in exposed marquee lights. But over time, industrial holophane pendants and occasional track lighting had been added to supplement.
For the architectural lighting our approach was simple. We wanted to add as much indirect up light to the space by tucking linear LED fixtures above the existing framework to provide tiers and layers of soft light. For accent lighting, we applied discreet, shielded adjustable monopoints throughout.
Once the architectural lighting approach was signed off, we worked with the interior designer to conceptualize the decorative lighting feature.
Because we were in the Botanical Gardens, the interior designer felt it was important for the fixture to draw inspiration from nature. Lucky for us, the site had inspiration all around.
We spent a day in the gardens and happened upon a gallery exhibit of botanical drawings by Dick Rauh.
The interior designer liked the qualities of pieces by Bertoia and the materials artists like Eva Menz use.
Once we saw Rauh’s work, we married the ideas into a sketch. The interior designer worked on materials selections and finalized the piece with a custom fixture manufacturer.
What was most important to us was that the piece captured and filtered both natural and artificial light beautifully.
Event venues are tricky. DJs bring their own lights. Event planners have strong ideas. But we didn’t want the success of the lighting to rely on rented theatrical fixtures. It was important to us that the architectural lighting and decorative lighting stand on their own.
Location, Brooklyn, New York
All before images by James Conathan
All site images by Timothy Hart
Renderings by Charlie Dumais
The happy couple used with permission by EIN Photo