From the Archives
Making a Difference
Alumni Travel Program
LIGHT AROUND THE WORLD
For Brandston and his colleagues, today is an exciting
time to work in the lighting design industry.
Thanks to technology, there are fluorescent and halogen lights,
lasers, and liquid crystals. And there is a greater variety of designs
to which light is fixed: floor lamps, reading lamps, track lighting,
dimmers, and desk lamps, to name a few.
Still, the lighting designer creates from the inside first, Brandston
says. Although new lighting products have allowed Brandston, the
LRC, and others to do what great masters before them were unable
to imagine, Brandston insists it is the individual’s inner creativity
that makes a lighting designer unique.
"Technology has changed the way we work but it doesn't change
the way we think," Brandston says. "What I got from Stanley
and from my basic education is that it was very clear that rules
are a substitute for thinking, and it's thinking that makes great
technology, thinking that makes good lighting, not the other way
around. There's no such thing as a bad product, there are just bad
Nevertheless, Brandston concedes, new techniques have created what
was once not possible. For instance, when he began the Statue of
Liberty project, he discovered new applications to illuminate the
monument in ways that could never before be fabricated.
Although the statue that stands today in New York Harbor differs
little from what sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi crafted 100
years ago, not even today do lighting designers make lamps to flatter
ladies with green skin, says Brandston with a chuckle.
Yet Brandston, who says "it was clear that Lady Liberty looked
best in dawn's early light," found a solution.
During the early morning hours, the statue looks her most radiant,
and therefore, most moving, Brandston determined; the position of
her arm, the book she is holding, and the torch are all enhanced
by the morning light. With that inspiration, Brandston devised a
means to replicate dawn, using two lamps developed and donated by
General Electric. One lamp mimics the light of the sun, while the
other mimics the light of the blue sky in the early morning.
RAISING THE BAR
When Brandston isn't immersed in lighting design,
he enjoys hunting waterfowl, pheasant, and grouse with his two bird
dogs, a springer spaniel named Purdey, and a black Lab called Corey.
During his workweek in the city, he shares a Manhattan apartment
with his wife, Melanie, director of development at ORBIS, a nonprofit
humanitarian organization based in New York City that works to eliminate
blindness in developing countries. Friends are fond of calling the
couple "Mr. Light and Mrs. Sight."
Brandston's favorite pastime is teaching. For him,
about encouraging students to develop a broad range of knowledge
in other subjects as well as a chosen field to stimulate independent
and creative thinking.
|The lighting design for the
1932 art deco building that houses Niagara Mohawk's headquarters
"We need to learn to see better. Seeing is learning, evaluatingreading,"
he says. "The more you know about the world, about life outside
your discipline, the better you’ll be at your art."
"He has taught us as much about life as he has about lighting.
He forces us to include all the cultural elements available, both
past and present, into the lighting design," Rizzo says.
Carrying a pocket full of successes, Brandston still yearns for
one more: "My goal at this point of my life is to have my students
surpass what I have done," he says. “In the golden age of painting,
fledgling artists apprenticed themselves to masters. Raphael was
apprenticed to Perugino; Michelangelo to Ghirlandaio. They chose
their mentors wisely, then outperformed them."
To his students, Brandston offers the same concept in this way:
"Milton Glaser, a very well-known artist, said at Cooper Union's
graduation ceremony one year: 'Go out and do good work.' Very simply
it means raise the bar and continue to go over it.