Illuminating Society, One Household at a Time


Mom with three children (left); all of the participants with their light fixtures.

Catherine Teegarden (left); Glenda Reed

On 12.12.09 the Center for Architecture Foundation (CFAF) hosted its annual Family Day on Lighting Design. Sponsored by the Illuminating Engineering Society of New York (IESNY), the program provided more than 30 families with the tools to create their own light fixtures. IESNY Board Member Phil Cialdella, who attended the workshop with his daughter, shared his design knowledge and talked about some of IESNY’s other initiatives.

CFAF Design Educator Catherine Teegarden introduced participants to lighting designs in celebratory traditions from around the world. Many traditions incorporate lights made with regular paper, such as Thai lanterns created for the celebration of Loi Krathong and Mexican farolitos made from brown paper bags for Las Posadas. Teegarden also discussed the symbolism of lights. For example, while the abundance of light and greenery in Christmas decorations literally helps us get through the darker days, symbolically it serves to remind us that spring is right around the corner.

The workshop was filled with talented, aspiring lighting designers. Some approached the challenge from a technical standpoint and built architecturally sound structures to house their light source. Others quickly discovered that enough glue can hold anything down, which allowed them to creatively combine a variety of materials. A free-standing lamp had a cut-out snowman; a pair of lights represented “ghosts of Christmas” in green and red; and a pine tree-shaped night light was made from stacked ping-pong balls.

Family Day programs are offered once a month at the Center for Architecture. Three-day design programs for kids in grades 2-12 are also offered during the school vacation weeks this spring. Visit theCFAF website for dates and details.

Children Attach Magnets to SoHo Cast Iron Façades


Participants explore cast iron architecture around town and at the Center.

Inge Hoonte, Patrick Candalla

On 11.14.09 a group of 72 children and adults transformed the streets of SoHo into an architectural playground. Participants of the Center for Architecture Foundation’s Family Day, “Cast Iron Architecture in SoHo,” followed Design Educator Catherine Teegarden from LaGuardia Place to Houston St., Greene St., Prince St., and West Broadway. Along the way, children tried to stick magnets to façades to identify prefabricated cast iron plates.

Attendees learned about the general history and usage of iron in the local architectural landscape of the late 1900s. Teegarden pointed out that glass embedded in iron grates in the sidewalk allow light into basements that historically would otherwise have been dark. Children practiced reading a building by looking at the common rhythm of repeating columns and beams as well as decorative details, which the kids compared to sprinkles on a cupcake.

Upon returning to the Center participants used their newfound knowledge from the street to construct paper façades. They started with a base of horizontal and vertical strips of colored paper echoing the columns and beams that had just observed, then used beads, wooden dots, and fabric rosettes for ornament. One participant drew furniture behind a pop-up screen. Another added narrow strips of bright paper onto a darker shade to replicate a column’s shadow.

The Center for Architecture Foundation presents Family Day programs on the second Saturday of each month. These workshops are designed for children ages five to 13 and their adult companions to work together on a hands-on activity. The next Family Day will explore the role of light in architecture and design. Participants will investigate the traditions of cultures from around the world that celebrate light as well as innovative lighting design strategies. Families will then create their own light fixture to take home. This annual event is sponsored by the Illuminating Engineering Society of NY (IESNY).