May 26, 2021

Modern Lighting Transforms the Historic Park Avenue Synagogue in Manhattan

The Park Avenue Synagogue features updated lighting from Ketra and Lutron Electronics. Photography by Eric Laignel. 

Just before the COVID-19 pandemic changed all aspects of life, the Park Avenue Synagogue—a nearly 100-year-old facility in Manhattan’s Upper East Side with Moorish Revival architectural details—underwent a renovation to bring in more dynamic and functional lighting. With ornate fixtures, high ceilings, and Adolph Gottlieb stained glass windows, the lighting design team from Nimblist aimed to highlight the structure’s existing beauty while integrating technological advances.

Prior to the renovation, the space did not have any lighting control systems, limiting its functionality. And since rewiring the building would have compromised its architectural features, Nimblist founder and CEO, Spike Brant, and VP of production, Scott Schecter, devised an ideal solution. Working closely with Ketra and Lutron Electronics, the team opted to replace bulbs in the existing ornate fixtures rather than bring in new ones, preserving its design integrity. “We could replace all the bulbs in the existing fixtures with Ketra, executing both a celebratory event and a permanent solution that was easy to retrofit, easy to control, and would forever enhance this beautiful space,” explains Schecter, noting the impact of Ketra and Lutron Electronics in developing the LED lighting control systems.

“We spent a ton of time planning the install and communicating with the Lutron integration experts, who were incredibly supportive with helping to navigate the process, determining the right control solutions, and programming the more than 200 Ketra bulbs in pendants, downlights and chandeliers,” adds Brant. 

And while the renovation was timed to be completed for an event that coincided with Hanukkah, the team embraced the opportunity to create permanent lighting solutions, complete with smartphone app controls, for the historic space, rather than a temporary installation. The app even enables Cantor Azi Schwartz, Aguyat Yesharim, to trigger instant lighting adjustments that complement the music and message.

“Projects like the Park Avenue Synagogue, where the final results honor time-tested traditions while simultaneously ushering in a new era of experience, are especially rewarding,” shares Cecilia Ramos, senior director, architectural market, at Lutron Electronics. “Driven by the customer’s vision and imagination, our solutions can complement and enhance any interior, historic or contemporary, through the magic of light.” As more places of worship resume in-person services, members of the Park Avenue Synagogue will have the opportunity to see a historic space in a new light. 

“In my mind, light is a key element of spirituality…lighting always works in the background to set the tone, to define the mood, and to create the perfect atmosphere,” says Cantor Azi Schwartz, Aguyat Yesharim. Photography by Eric Laignel. 
The design team preserved the original ornate lighting fixtures. Photography by Eric Laignel. 
Nimblist augmented the installed lighting with just 4 temporary lights for the entrance, along with a few wireless up-lights, but was otherwise able to relamp every fixture with Ketra bulbs. Photography by Eric Laignel. 
More recently, an overhead track was installed in the stage area and Ketra bulbs now highlight the architecture and the area lighting, along with twenty-four S38 track heads that went in last summer. Photography by Eric Laignel. 

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