Lighting, again

I had a chance to stop though Judiciary Sq’s north mezzanine today, the one with the new lighting scheme.   My concern from the initial photos was that the lighting along the escalators, where the coffered vault has less headroom, requiring direct overhead light rather than the indirect lighting in the rest of the system, was too much of a departure from one of Metro’s distinct design elements.

New mezzanine lighting.  Note the difference between the indirect fixtures in the middle and the direct ones over the escalators.  CC image from flickr.

New mezzanine lighting. Note the difference between the indirect fixtures in the middle and the direct ones over the escalators. CC image from flickr.

The white lines from those lights take away from the pattern of the coffers, despite the increased lighting in the area (which is substantial).

Direct light fixture detail

Direct light fixture detail. Photo of the author.

Increased light near escalators.  Note the birghtness of the walls.

Increased light near escalators. Note the brightness of the walls. Photo of the author.

The increased illumination does indeed make a big difference, particularly in seeing where to walk.  However, might there be another solution to illuminate the walkways without some of the awkward, direct light fixtures.  Several of the new and newly renovated stations make use of LED lights embedded in stairway handrails.  These lights, directed downward, illuminate the floor to ease navigation without the need for overhead fixtures.

LED handrail lights, Navy Yard station.

LED handrail lights, Navy Yard station. Photo of the author.

In anticipation of the baseball crowds for Nationals Park, Metro expanded the Navy Yard station’s Half Street entrance to include an elevator and a new staircase from the mezzanine to the platform, which uses the LED handrail lights to illuminate the stairs.

Might this type of fixture be integrated into the brass handrails in Metro mezzanines?  While these lights might not have much range, they wouldn’t need much – the new, hanging indirect lights in the Judiciary Sq mezzanine work just fine with enough overhead clearance.

5 comments to Lighting, again

  • This desire in Washington to never have things change. About some sort of purity in aesthetics I always find stifling. Buildings are living, breathing parts of the environment. Let them change, watch them grow! It’s freeing I tell you!

  • Alex Block

    Well, I applaud Metro for looking at new lighting ideas, but I think they could be a little more creative in their application.

    LEDs, just from the technological standpoint, offer some really cool opportunities for lighting spaces like this – not to mention energy efficiencies.

  • Ano

    When buildings need to change, they do change. They just shouldn’t make dumb changes.

  • Yeah, I had forgotten about these lights. In the southern entrance to Dupont Circle they installed more lights down at the foot of the escalators and it keeps the drama of the architecture and makes it light. And that light is concentrated where you are walking. Kevin Roche puts lights in railings a lot as well – but those were incandescents and if you’ve been to the Met in New York, then you know how big those rails are.

    Christopher: I agree that buildings do and should change, but they don’t “live and breathe.” Unregulated cities may follow an ecological model , but buildings are made through the decisions of people and organizations. We have to choose our values here – we have the potential to not only make it not only brighter, but also more beautiful. When there is a better option (as at Navy Yard) that satisfies everyone and respects the historic architecture, why not choose that?

    The lighting at Judiciary Square is basically office lighting; it’s dull and hard and does not mesh with the architecture – it’s also not creative or original at all.

  • Alex Block

    One other thing I noticed with the addition of all the new lighting is that there’s a ton of new electrical conduit snaking around the Metro vaults, particularly in the areas around the end wall of the train room. They did a nice job of making sure the fixtures themselves didn’t disrupt things too much, but there’s a lot of extra stuff on the walls in these stations – that’s a reality of dealing with poured concrete, I suppose.

    Anyway, I’m certainly not an expert, but I think there are all sorts of interesting opportunities to use LEDs in stations like this, as they’ve got so many good attributes – they’re small, can be put into things like railings, they’re energy-efficient, they last an extraordinarily long time (perhaps they can some day replace the fluorescent lights between the tracks and along the walls that seem burned out far too often). And the potential for, say, changing colors is interesting.

    You do, of course, have to be aware of unintended consequences. I know Minneapolis installed a bunch of LED streetlights because of their efficiency, but the problem is that they don’t generate much heat – thus when they get covered in snow, they don’t melt it off without help. Ooops.

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