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The illumination of the Osaka Aquarium in Japan is among the 2,500 projects Brandston has lit over the past 35 years.

The older of two brothers, Brandston was born in Toronto. When he was 9, his family moved to Brooklyn where his father found a job as a mechanic at a textile factory in New York's garment district.

"Money was nonexistent. The 1940s were not great years," Brandston recalls.

Brandston took advantage of a free higher education available at the time through the City University system. He enrolled in a liberal arts curriculum at Brooklyn College in 1953, studying theater, philosophy, art, and literature. He says those years were instrumental in transforming him into who he is today.

"Humanities is the most education you can get. It allows you to find out who you are and whom you live with. Other education is, in reality, training, and just teaches you how to earn a living and how you serve others in earning that living. But it doesn't make you a whole person and the humanities do," he says. "Specialization should occur in post-graduate studies. Then you get a total human being with expertise, a person far more likely to make a meaningful contribution throughout an individual's career and to continue one's education for life."

The first rule in lighting design is that there are no rules, says Brandston, an adjunct professor who has been teaching master's-level courses at Rensselaer’s Lighting Research Center for more than 10 years.

"For him [Brandston], it's all about what you wish to see, what effect you want to create, what mood you want to set. However, he'll never give you the answer—you always have to find that for yourself,'' says graduate student Patricia Rizzo '01, studying for her M.S. in lighting.

Brandston is known for bringing hands-on experience into the classroom. For their class exercises, Rizzo and her classmates created lighting designs for several buildings on campus, including the Folsom Library, Voorhees Computing Center, and the recently renovated Rensselaer Union.

The graduate students also worked with fifth-grade students at School 16 in Troy to develop lighting designs and other building improvements that the school district may incorporate into a master plan.

Brandston received the 1996 American Institute of Architect's Honor Award for the illumination of the Lighthouse, one of New York City's many structures that have been enhanced through his lighting.

Brandston also has brought Rensselaer to his firm. William "Burr'' Rutledge '95, who earned his bachelor’s in architecture in 1995 and an M.S. in lighting design in 1998, now works for Brandston as a lighting designer. Rutledge is currently working on lighting designs for projects at MIT and Yale University. He is also involved in the $250 million visitor’s center at the U.S. Capitol.

"This office does the best in the world. Each of us is involved in every phase of the projects, from client presentations to design layouts to CAD (computer aided design details). The responsibility is daunting, but it's a great opportunity for me,'' Rutledge says.

"Howard insists on high-quality, well-researched, contextual design from the students. He stresses professionalism," says Russell Leslie '80, professor of architecture and associate director of the LRC.

"He is widely considered the pre-eminent lighting designer in North America, if not the world. He is an important emissary to the lighting industry for the LRC and a tireless public champion for our graduate education program."

For Milena Simeonova '01, also earning her master's in lighting, it was a dream come true when she found that Brandston would be her teacher last spring.

"I knew him as the great lighting designer who lighted the greatest symbol of the USA, the Statue of Liberty. I was in ecstasy when I learned that he would be my professor," she says.

Brandston, who commutes to Rensselaer from his farmhouse in Hollowville, Columbia County, on Fridays, doesn't limit his local involvement to his students. For the past two years, the professor has been working with the LRC to assist three municipalities along the New York State Canal System in developing lighting designs and other improvements. The project, involving the village of Whitehall, the town of Waterford, and the city of Little Falls, is part of New York’s Canal Revitalization Program to help municipalities along the waterfront build up their economies.

Before World War II, commercial activity along the canal drove the economic prosperity of dozens of towns along its waterway. But growing competition from railroads and highways, and the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959, caused commercial traffic on the canal system to all but disappear.

Yet 75 percent of New York’s population still lives along the canal's corridor. Although thousands of boaters use the Canal System each year, its potential to become a world-class destination and recreational waterway has not been fully tapped. The objective now is to promote tourism by showing off some of the beautiful landscape, accentuating the communities’ rich history, and connecting the municipalities to the waterfronts, says Peter Boyce, professor of architecture, who has been at the LRC for 10 years.

One of the LRC’s challenges is to determine the best way to use lighting to connect the boaters with the townspeople. In Little Falls, for instance, a major roadway and a set of railroad tracks separate the canal from most of the city.

"We want to provide some new lighting to direct people to the waterfront and to bring the boaters into the towns," says Boyce, whose specialty is the interaction of people and lighting. "The road and railway are major psychological barriers. People have a mental view of what their home territory is."

For example, the dark and damp underpass beneath the railway is not very inviting. With this in mind, Boyce suggests building a pedestrian bridge across the railway to create a connection and then design lighting to make the bridge inviting. Boyce envisions a covered wooden bridge with lighting aimed into the woodwork to make the structure an attractive experience.

"The lighting would offer a soft glow to make the bridge warm and interesting," he says.

The illumination would also provide a forward view toward the canal and the city's interior while directing attention away from the side views of the railroad tracks and an unattractive roadway.

Additional nighttime lighting, lamps, boat tie-ups, and 12-foot-high post-top luminaires along the canal in areas that lack electricity are other LRC designs the municipalities are considering.

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