Architectural lighting legend Howard Brandston illuminates skyscrapers in Marina Bay and worldwide

The relit Statue of Liberty (above) and Mr Brandston (left). The Art Deco-style Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation headquarters (above) in New York was relit with coloured lights and floodlights that highlight its decorative parapet.
The Art Deco-style Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation headquarters (above) in New York was relit with coloured lights and floodlights that highlight its decorative parapet.PHOTO: BRANDSTON PARTNERSHIP INC
The relit Statue of Liberty (above) and Mr Brandston (left). The Art Deco-style Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation headquarters (above) in New York was relit with coloured lights and floodlights that highlight its decorative parapet.
The relit Statue of Liberty (above) and Mr Brandston.PHOTO: PETER KAPLAN
The relit Statue of Liberty (above) and Mr Brandston (left). The Art Deco-style Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation headquarters (above) in New York was relit with coloured lights and floodlights that highlight its decorative parapet.
The relit Statue of Liberty and Mr Brandston (above).PHOTO: BRANDSTON PARTNERSHIP INC

People have become light junkies even if they do not notice lighting fixtures or sources, says veteran lighting consultant Howard Brandston

Award-winning lighting consultant Howard Brandston has illuminated the Statue of Liberty, the Petronas Twin Towers and other superstructures across the world, yet he confesses that it is hardest to light a home. Unlike skyscrapers that have developers to direct plans, and codes for lighting consultants to follow, there is more nitty-gritty for a residence - and more opinions to juggle.

With a chuckle, the 80-year-old American industry veteran says: "Lighting designers have to deal with a husband and a wife with different criteria. You should look good in your home. Lighting can help you look younger by flattering your complexion. You don't want people in your house looking like ghouls."

The architectural lighting legend was in Singapore recently to celebrate his firm, Brandston Partnership Inc, turning 50.

His architectural lighting design firm has completed more than 5,000 projects globally. Besides its hometown of New York, it has opened offices in Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu and Shenzhen. Its Singapore studio is its latest addition and opened this year in conjunction with the firm's Golden Jubilee.

Some of the firm's major works include lighting the Summer Palace in Beijing, Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and the Hyundai Department Store in the South Korean city of Daegu.

In Singapore, the firm has worked on retail and office building Asia Square and mixed-use development Marina Bay Financial Centre. Both are in the Marina Bay area.

Having spent more than 50 years in the industry, Mr Brandston is in a retrospective mood. He remembers relighting the Statue of Liberty in 1986. That was the 100th year of France's gift of Lady Liberty to the United States to commemorate the American Revolution. There was "real responsibility" in figuring out how to light the copper monument, he says. "It's a well-known symbol that would be seen by everybody."

After days of agonising, inspiration hit when he saw the morning sun softly illuminating the 46m-tall statue. Mr Brandston, who has won more than 100 awards, including the International Association of Lighting Designers Lifetime Achievement Award, says: "That was it. There was a magnificent quality to her. She looks best in dawn's early light. But there were no light sources at that time that would flatter green 'skin', so we created lights that mimick the morning sun and sky."

Working internationally has attuned him to cultural preferences when lighting a building in different cities. For example, Mexicans like a colourful look, he says, while the Nordic countries prefer a toned-down style.

Mr Brandston, whose father was a car washer and mother a bookkeeper, studied theatrical illumination at Brooklyn College. Straight out of school, he was hired by Mr Stanley McCandless, the late architect and lighting designer often considered the father of modern lighting design.

Back in the 1950s, there was "hardly anyone" in the lighting design fraternity and Mr Brandston had only a few lighting options to work with. But now, there are thousands of lighting designers and more projects.

A former president of the Illuminating Engineering Society, he says: "Today, it's a whole new era, with new people bringing vibrancy to the profession. There's also a plethora of equipment to work with."

The progress of technology has elevated the status of lighting designers, he says, and it no longer plays second fiddle to architecture. "Most people don't even notice lighting fixtures or sources because we see so well. But we can't do without light now - we've become light junkies."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 03, 2016, with the headline 'Seeing the light'. Print Edition | Subscribe