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In the depth of winter, our connection to the landscape becomes thin. Weather separates us from our own gardens and from other favorite gardens. There is a temptation to venture out, but excuses often discourage the action. At this time of year, more than any other season, night lighting strengthens our connection to landscape spaces. Rather than simply the black void of a window, even a spray of accent light whisks our eye through the void to reconnect us to the landscape (see Photo #1 & Plan #1 designed by Group #2).

Photo #1
Lighting this Apple tree offers a view out into the garden. It looks like the tree is just outside the window, but it is about 100 yards away.

Design by Group #2

Photo by Kenneth Rice

Plan #1

From November through at least March, we wake in the dark, work all day indoors - too often in spaces without windows, and then return home after dark. Light allows us to enjoy the structural beauty of the garden from the warmth of our homes. It offers arrival identification and location for guests, producing a welcoming signal for them and for us as we arrive home. Lighting also provides a sense of safety and security while approaching the front door.

A soft stroke of light at the driveway edge identifies the boundary between the drive and the arrival path (see photo #2 and Plan #2 designed by Group #1). Yet, it provides more as it reveals the form of nature's plantings (see photo #3) and shows us the way into the warmth of family and home. Using light, as an artistic tool, allows us to recreate our world in a gentle, aesthetic manner. Introducing vertical light helps us feel safe in the dark, but also shows details of the garden to make the view more interesting. It requires less than one footcandle to have that welcome extended. Unfortunately, today the trend is to keep increasing the light level at commercial and residential sites. Too much light, blasting from unshielded flood lights or path lights, at gas stations, convenience store parking areas, and urban and rural banks, diminishes the wonder of the world around us. These unchecked light levels also come with glaring fixtures that create light pollution and make driving less safe.

Photo #2

The path to this front door runs along the house and turns to face the door between two Magnolias. The students in Group #1 provided downlighting from the Oak at the edge of the drive to show the path. Note that they provided a secondary focal point of the fountain as you walk along the path. Photo by Kenneth Rice.
Plan #2

Photo #3

In the spring the downlighting from the Oak shows leaves and flowers of the little Hawthorne and Dogwood as a stronger element than the path, due to the loss of the snow!

Design by Group #1

Photo by Kenneth Rice

Lighting one tree outside a window provides a visual connection to the landscape. What happens to the appearance of that tree from one season to another? That will depend on the type of tree and it's characteristics, the branching habit of the individual specimen, the tree's maturity; and the direction from which it is viewed. Snow introduces another factor. It's reflectance ranges from 60-70%, which is typically higher than the reflectance of the landscape materials (generally 25%) the snow covers. This significantly changes the appearance of the scene (see photos #4, #5 and plan #2).

Photo #4

Uplighting located in the hedges and the planting beds highlight the Magnolias. Downlighting mounted in the Magnolias clearly announces the step down to the front door and lights the hedges as a framework.

Design by Group #1

Photograph by Kenneth Rice

Photo #5

The effect of the snow becomes clear with this spring shot. Notice how much darker the overall scene appears. The path and the front of the house are less noticeable.

Design by Group #1

Photograph by Kenneth Rice

Plan #2

To study this idea, in the fall of 1999, I asked graduate students enrolled in an elective design studio at the Lighting Research Center, if they wanted to participate in an experiment to see how seasonal changes affected landscape lighting. The idea consisted of teams designing and mocking-up lighting designs at a six-acre rural garden in upstate New York. They would treat it as a real lighting commission - interviewing the client, reviewing the site, preparing a conceptual design, presenting the design to the owner, and installing a full-scale mockup of their design. Then, over the course of the next thirteen months (long after the class ended), we would record what happened as the seasons changed.

The mockups were installed using equipment donated to The Landscape Lighting Institute course at The Lighting Research Center by manufacturers in the landscape lighting industry (refer to the list of manufacturers). Power was distributed using existing water-protected GFCI outlets (located throughout the site) and extension cords. For all low voltage equipment, previous LRC students had designed and made-up quick-disconnect kits.

The lighting designed for an Acer platanoides/Norway Maple (a specimen tree approximately 50 foot wide by 60 foot high and sixty years old) included 18 low voltage arrayed in two radiating rings (see photo #8 and plan #4). The inner ring fixtures shine up into the canopy and the outer ring units catch the edges of the canopy's leaves and branches. The students (Group #3) mounted six MR11 fixtures using 20 watt FSV flood lamps and spread lenses in the tree. Three of these tree-mounted fixtures grazed up along the central trunk/branching structure to ensure an effect of height through the upper portion of the canopy. Three downlights grazed the trunk to visually connect the trunk to the ground, to show the bark texture, and to fill around the base of the tree.

Photo #8

The lighting appearance of the Norway maple tree in the summer.

Design by Group #3

Photograph by Kevin Simonson

Plan #4

The students were extremely limited as to the mounting locations of these fixtures in the tree. Brooke Carter, an experienced rock and mountain climber scaled a ladder into the tree and then ventured into the branches as far as she felt safe. For a permanent installation, the fixtures would be placed further up in the canopy and, in some cases, further out on the branches to better sculpt the tree's structure and to fill out around the ground plane beneath the tree. This would mean using less accessible locations by enlisting taller ladders, a lift truck, and/or probably, the help of an arborist climbing the tree.

The students design approach for the Maple provided full coverage of the canopy at its outer edges, a clear sense of the scale and three-dimensional form of the tree, and created an impressive effect. The light level was less than one footcandle generally, and at accent areas within the canopy or on the trunk, under three footcandles. The tree was first lit in the fall of 1999 and the lighting was not changed for the dormant winter or full-snow appearance (see photos #10 and #11).

Photo #10

Winter shows the tree's structure.

Design by Group #3

Photograph by Kenneth Rice

Photo #11

The snow blanketing the tree shifts its appearance again.

Design by Group #3

Photograph by Kevin Simonson

Our first photography session was in February of 2000. Kenneth Rice, an Oakland, California-based photographer, agreed to come to New York and take the first in a series of images. There had been very little snowfall so far that winter. The ground was covered with a dusting of snow and the temperatures were well below freezing. The process of recording landscape lighting is grueling in any season - each shot can take over three hours, and the cold temperature made it more difficult.

These first winter shots show the form of the dormant trees and the appearance of the overall garden areas in the winter (see photo #6 and plan #3). The winter of 2000 continued to be mild and brought very little snow. We feared there would be no record of the effect of snow on the trees. Then, on a March weekend a heavy, wet snowfall started sometime in the early morning hours on a Sunday, and by mid afternoon, it was a winter wonderland. Everything was caked with a thick layer of snow. On a moments notice, I enlisted the help of Kevin Simonson (an LRC Graduate Student, who now works at Rambusch in New Jersey) and Dan Dyer, one of the members of Group 3. I called them at about 4PM and by 5PM we were out in the snow with cameras. The magic of snow-laden trees, both evergreen and deciduous, is something wonderful to experience. As incredible as the environment is during daylight hours, adding light at night creates awe (see photos #6 and 7 and plans #3, #4, and #5).

Photo #6

Flood distribution fixtures and lamps softly wash the forest wall as a vista from the house. The branching structure of the deciduous trees contrast with the softness of the evergreen trees. Carefully located downlights announce a path through the forest.

Design by Group #3

Photograph by Kenneth Rice

Photo #7

A blanket of soft snowfall envelops the vastness of the backyard during the March snowstorm.

Design by Group #3

Photograph by Dan Dyer

Plan #3

Plan #4

Plan #5

Maple trees, in general, are not thought of as providing an impressive flower. So, in the spring of 2000 we were unprepared for the way the lighting accentuated the full-bloom that Ken captured on film (see photo #12). Throughout the first year, the lighting had remained exactly the same from one season to another. For each of the filming sessions, the students had to re-aim and sometimes even replant the fixtures due to the effects of weather and the resident dogs bumping them out of desired aiming, and sometimes, just knocking them over completely (remember, this is a mockup).

Photo #12

The profusion of tiny flowers in the spring appears as a full-leaf canopy, but the branching structure clearly shows.

Design by Group #3

Photograph by Kenneth Rice

One of our big surprises was that by Fall 2000, the Maple had grown so significantly that some of the stake mounted fixtures had to be relocated to account for one-seasons' growth (See Photo #9). Recording the Maple's lighting throughout all four seasons demonstrated its distinctly changing personality. The Winter Light gently reminded us of the landscape's wonder and returned us to our childhood love of winter.

Photo #9

The change in translucency and leaf color transforms the Norway maple in the fall.

Design by Group #3

Photograph by Dan Dyer

Another surprise was the difference in appearance on the primarily-conifer face of the forest during the snowstorm. Normally, the amount of light absorbed by the conifers, due to their dark color and their dense texturing made the lighting on them appear relatively subtle in comparison to the forest's deciduous trees (See photo #6 and Plan #3). The addition of snow onto the conifer boughs balanced the appearance of the two types of trees, but also created an overall more dramatic effect. See photo #13, and plan #3 .The Group #3 students chose high candlepower HID light sources to balance this element of the garden with other areas. Here, with a wall of trees in the range of sixty to eighty foot high, the students needed 35 and 50 watt T and Par Philips Metal Halide Lamps for the forest to appear a similar brightness to other areas lit with incandescent sources.

Photo #6

Flood distribution fixtures and lamps softly wash the forest wall as a vista from the house. The branching structure of the deciduous trees contrast with the softness of the evergreen trees. Carefully located downlights announce a path through the forest.

Design by Group #3

Photograph by Kenneth Rice

Photo #13

Snow on the branches blends

the scene.

Design by Group #3

Photograph by Kevin Simonson

Plan #3

Our last surprise was that in the week prior to the March snowstorm, the weather had been so warm that the pond's ice had melted. For that one night, we had the opportunity to capture the winter scene and it's reflection in the pond's surface (see photo #14 and Plan #5). By the next morning, the pond had started to freeze over again, taking with it the reflection. By afternoon the snow had disappeared from the trees. Although the snow wonder had vanished, the scene unveiled from nights' blanket of dark still connected us to the beauty of nature.

Photo #14

Snow on the dormant rose bushes and Birch trees melds with the conifers making the pond feel more intimate than usual.

Design by Group #3

Photograph by Kevin Simonson

Plan #5

Design Teams from the Lighting Research Center, Class of 2000

Group 1 - Front Yard

Carole Lindstrom- has a bachelor degree in Interior Design, has completed her LRC lighting graduate course work, and is now a lighting designer at MCLA in Washington, DC

Allen Tweed, has a bachelor degree in Earth Science, has completed his LRC lighting graduate course work, and is now a lighting designer at Elliptipar in New Haven, CT

John Tokarczyk, has a bachelor degree in Architecture, plans to finish his LRC master's degree in lighting this spring, and is interviewing for a lighting design position on the West Coast.

Group 2 - Middle Section

Javier Ten-, has a bachelor degree in Architecture, has finished his LRC master's degree in lighting, and is now a lighting designer at Fisher Marantz in NYC.

Kelly Miller- has a bachelor degree in Building Sciences and plans to finish her LRC master's degree in lighting this spring.

Jamie Perry- has a bachelor degree in Architecture; plans to finish his LRC master's degree in lighting this spring, and to return to Lam Partners Inc.

Group 3 - Back Yard

Eve Quelleman- has a bachelor degree in Architecture and plans to finish her LRC master's in lighting this spring.

Dan Dyer- has a bachelor degree in Architecture from and plans to finish his masters in lighting this spring

Kami Wilwol- has a bachelor degree in Building Sciences, has finished her LRC masters course work, and now works as a lighting designer at George Sexton Associates in Washington, DC

C. Brooke Carter-has a BFA in Interior Design, plans to finish her LRC masters degree this spring, and is now a lighting designer at Howard Brandston Partnership.

Manufacturers who donated equipment to the Lighting Research Center for the Landscape Lighting Institute

The following manufacturers donated over 500 light fixtures, with mounting accessories, transformers, and thousands of lamps to use in the week long class that is given roughly every 15 to 18 months for practicing professionals. During the course there are lectures, workshop sessions, and the attendees mockup their lighting ideas at the RPI President's Estate.

Kim Lighting, City of Industry, CA

Hydrel, Sylmar, CA

Lumiere, Westlake Village, CA

BK Lighting, Fresno, CA

Hadco, Littlestown, PA

Unique Transformers, Escondido, CA

Greenlee Lighting, Carrollton Texas

Nightscaping, Redlands, CA

Copper Moon, Dunwoody, GA

Vista, Simi, Ca

Ruud, Racine, WI

General Electric Company, Cleveland, OH

OSRAM SYLVANIA, Danvers, MA

Philips Lighting

Bega, Santa Barbara, CA

Sternor, Eden Prairie, MN

Kichler, Cleveland, OH

Lutron, Coopersburgh, PA

Ushio, Cypress, CA

Qtrans, Nowalk CT

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