Architect David Rockwell’s “Luminaries” Aims To Create A New Holiday Tradition

The installation comprises 650 translucent LED lanterns and a series of touch-sensitive “wishing stations” throughout NYC’s Brookfield Place.

This last Tuesday, New York City’s Brookfield Place–known as the World Financial Center before its recent $250 million renovation–lit up with 650 floating LED lanterns. The Rockwell Group-designed Luminaries installation is the Battery Park’s answer to Rockefeller Center’s monumental tree and aims to create a holiday lighting tradition for the city’s downtown area.


“The Rockefeller center tree is one of the greatest lighting installations in the world,” says David Rockwell, founder of the Rockwell Group, the renowned architectural firm behind TAO Downtown, The New York Edition, and the set of Kinky Boots. “I was intrigued by big scale installations like Rockefeller and in smaller traditions like the Saks window . . . This is the first time [the Rockwell Group] is using light as a building material itself.”

Inspired by sky lanterns in Mexico and the traditional Lanna festival in Thailand, Rockwell designed the installation so that it hangs like a floating magic carpet above visiting tourists and locals. Three “wishing stations” installed among the Winter Garden’s grid of Palm trees add the interactive element: when visitors put their hands on the touch-sensitive podiums, a wave of color travels across the lanterns above. When wishes from multiple stations are released simultaneously, the colors mix together like luminescent tie-dye.

The installation was designed in Rockwell Group’s LAB, an initiative that uses digital design to make immersive installations for the likes of the Whitney, the Met and the Cosmopolitan hotel in Las Vegas. “The LAB’s purpose is to look at technology as a material that connects people in real time, rather than separates people,” says Rockwell. “The notion emerged that we should do something that would allow people to create memories together, and be user-generated. The extraordinary advancement in programming that’s connected everyone through social media turns our attention away from real-time connectivity. But the fact that [this installation] involves touch and interaction gives a new kind of energy to a lighting installation.”

Luminaries will be in Brookfield Place’s Winter Garden atrium through January, after which it will be de-installed—until next year.

About the author

Meg Miller is an associate editor at Co.Design covering art, technology, and design.