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Howard M. Brandston, 1935 - 2023

Dear All,

It is my sad duty to inform the Association that a founding member of the IALD and Fellow, Howard Brandston, passed away peacefully in the afternoon of Friday, 24 February.

Words can’t express the contribution he made to our profession.

He was a legendary figure in Architectural Lighting Design, and one of the founding members of the IALD in 1967. Prior to the 1960s there were but a few people who ventured into this arena: Stanley McCandless; Abe Feder; Richard Kelly; and Seymour Evans. Howard knew them all and worked directly with McCandless and Evans.

His initial forays into lighting were in theatre: he was involved in productions at Brooklyn College, and eventually met Stanley McCandless while working at Century Lighting, a major supplier of theatrical lighting equipment, and collaborated with him on architectural fixtures as well. After about seven years at Century, he decided to open his own consulting firm.

Howard set up his practice in 1965 on West 28th Street, in the region of New York then known as the Flower District and recently given a Landmark Designation as “Tin Pan Alley”. He incorporated in 1966, though the business did not see much early work; he often joked that he was getting to be a pretty good guitar player because he had so much time on his hands.

One day the phone rang, and it was a call from lighting manufacturer Kurt Versen wanting him to design the optics for a new line of fixtures they intended to produce. The firm was was off and running. During that collaboration, Howard was introduced to the graphic designer Rudy deHarak, and they eventually worked together on the Canadian Pavilion at the 1967 Montreal Expo, the American Pavilion at Expo 1970 in Osaka, and many other projects to follow.

As the company grew, Howard hired designers whom he personally trained to become Lighting Designers. His guiding mantra, instilled in everyone who worked with him as well as his clients was, “What do you wish to see?” He felt that if you couldn’t answer that seemingly simple question, the project was bound to fail. Rather than starting with light levels, illuminance requirements, energy codes, or the like, ask yourself: “What do you wish to see?”

His company went on to design lighting for projects such as the American Airlines Terminal at Love Field in Dallas with Henry Dreyfuss; numerous Hilton locations and other hotels around the world; educational buildings at SUNY, Yale, Washington University, Columbia University, and Princeton; a multi-year relationship with the American Museum of Natural History; many subway stations in New York City and Boston; master lighting plans for several universities, the Denver 16th Street Mall, Battery Park City in New York City, the Dallas Arts District, and the City of Detroit; iconic retail locations like the original Barney’s on 7th Avenue, one of the many incarnations of Macy’s ground floor of their flagship store on 34th Street; sports facilities such as Meadowlands complex; the Louisiana State Capitol; courthouses around the country; and, of course, the project for which he will always be remembered…the re-lighting of the Statue of Liberty.

His work and his career were varied, and each design was unique; always re-inventing himself for every project. He taught at several universities, and helped found the lighting program at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. His “Howard Brandston Student Lighting Design Competition” has proved very popular and continues to this day.

To refer to Howard as an icon in the Lighting Design profession only begins to touch upon his impact and importance. He is warmly remembered and revered, and the IALD community worldwide owes him immense thanks for his talent, care, and contribution over a lifetime of fantastic achievement. In his words, “The passion of this group came from the love of doing the work.”

In our memories always,

Mônica Luz Lobo
IALD President

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