He came to India in the 1970s to light up some hotels. He's back after over three decades to participate in Light India International 2005, the lighting industry fair closing on September 14.
Meet the soft-spoken light sculptor Howard Brandston, the founder of the world-famous architectural lighting company, Brandston Partnership Inc.
Incorporated in 1966, BPI has completed more than 3000 projects since, including those for companies, government departments, educational institutions and buildings such as the Statue of Liberty, Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur and some halls in the American Museum of Natural History.
Excerpts from the interview with Shuchi Bansal:
How has the company changed since 1966?
Brandston Partnership Inc. is a few hundred million dollar company today. We are present in China with offices in Beijing and Shanghai other than the one in New York. I no longer run the company on a day-today-basis.
I am just a consultant and the brand ambassador for the company. It is managed by my Chinese partner and company president Chou Lien. We are well-known in China. The company was responsible for re-lighting Taipei some years ago.
What are your plans for India?
India is an exciting market for the future. It is a high tech country. My partners are definitely looking at it.
Where did you learn lighting?
I learnt technical theatre lighting at Brooklyn college. But then I became an assistant to Stanley McCandless, the god of lighting. As an aggressive young man, I just called him one day and insisted on being his assistant. He also taught lighting at Yales. I worked with him for four years.
That was the beginning of real education which led to the work that I do now. He was the first generation lighting designer. I did theatre lighting but was personally fascinated by architectural lighting. So I studied architecture informally. I attended classes but did not get a degree.
Which have been your important projects?
Lighting up the Statue of Liberty was not a big project but a very prestigious one. It had been lighted several times before, but there was something wrong. The lady never looked pretty. I hired a boat and I used to go and shine so many lights on her. She always looked bad. I think it was a visual perception problem.
The idea was to make her look tall, commanding and dignified. One morning I sat and watched her. The sun came up and lit her.
Immediately I realised that we needed two light sources to illuminate her. One to mimic the sun and the other to mimic the morning sky. Having done that, we graded her lighting. It grows brighter as you look up so that you are made to look up.
Has the lighting business changed since 1966?
The major change is in technology design. But for the most part, lighting is cowered by the tyranny of science.
Do different organisations require different lighting?
Yes. Every country has a culture. Each government department has a culture. So you cannot have one homogenised office for everyone. The idea is to give them a place they'd like to see.