Multi-faceted architectural lighting brings form, function, and Tunable White technology to designer headquarters

November 16, 2022 Josh Greenwald

After 20 years in Washington, DC's Georgetown neighborhood, architecture & design firm Hickok Cole moved its headquarters to NoMa. It leased 25,000 square feet of office space on the top two floors of a 3-story industrial building. Sarah Richter Design was retained as the lighting designer for the massive renovation.

Hickok Cole's third floor is the heart and soul of the new office. The open-office concept promotes collaboration, communication, and connectivity in the firm's design studio. One of the most distinctive features on this level is the ceiling, which features five saw-tooth monitor skylights dating back to the building's 1931 construction.

Creating a balanced lighting design that embraced daylight was a key objective. Renna™ direct static white pendants from Peerless® were selected to provide ambient illumination across the studio and reception.

An elaborate grid of white stainless-steel beams intersects the open ceiling at multiple heights and angles. The eight-foot Renna pendants with squared end plates are suspended three feet below the horizontal cross beams. Each delivers a uniform spread of glare-controlled downlight to the workspaces below.

“Renna’s aesthetic straddles the line between modern and industrial, so it was ideal for this space," said Sarah Richter, principal at SRD. "The linear pendants mirror the ceiling's infrastructure, adding dynamism. But at the same time, the slim one-inch frame, white finish, and light aircraft cable combine to make the fixtures almost 'disappear' into the space."

Richter notes, with the character of the expansive height of the “open ceiling” there were many building systems vying for space on the trusses; air ducts, white noise speakers, and oversized industrial ceiling fans, to name a few. The fans, in particular, were a concern for the lighting, but added a cool factor. Renna pendants are suspended just above the height of the fans to prevent swaying, and far enough away from each fan to avoid flickering.

Bringing power and control to the luminaires was greatly simplified in this large space with a Modulus™ open architecture platform that simplifies installation and commissioning for linear lighting systems. It features a remote-mounted driver system (head unit) that can deliver power from up to 50 feet away. Richter says she appreciated the ability to power a large quantity of luminaires, and manage a Lutron controls system, with a minimal number of Modulus head units.

“It was my first time working with Modulus,” said Richter. “Peerless was a great manufacturing and design partner, proposing the best solution for the power drops and Modulus head unit locations, which are concealed in the accessible ACT ceilings of the perimeter office spaces adjacent to the large open work area.”

Tucked into one side of the studio is a collaboration space. An eight-foot Renna pendant suspended from a drop ceiling above the main table continues the lighting aesthetic. This fixture also features an indirect-direct Tunable White luminaire. Designers utilize this space in various ways, from informal meetings to video calls and presentations. Dimmers enable the team members to adjust the up and downlight separately to meet their specific needs. 

The studio is also home to a unique VR lounge, separated by the rest of the floor with a curved sofa and soft pouf seats. To emulate the unusual lines of the space, which includes a cut-out wall, a bespoke Renna pendant in a serpentine pattern weaves across the dropped ceiling. This fixture too offers indirect and direct Tunable White illumination in the space. Controlled separately, VR users often dim the indirect lighting and remove the direct light to darken the area.

“One of the things I really appreciate about Renna is its design flexibility,” Richter said. “It can be direct, indirect, wall mounted, turned vertically, or even shaped, as needed. It enabled us to carry a lighting aesthetic while adapting to specific needs in specific areas.”

While level 3 is the “operations” side of the business, level 2 puts the focus on hospitality, which includes a showcase conference room for internal town hall meetings and client presentations. Managing both sound and lighting were critical elements in the room’s design. Custom acoustic panels are suspended over the boardroom table to address ambient noise concerns from the concrete floors and ceiling. Richter then integrated five eight-foot Renna linear pendants with the acoustic panels seamlessly.

All Renna luminaires in this space are direct Tunable White and contribute an essential element to client presentations. Designers can adjust the lighting temperature to match the environment they are designing. For example, when presenting to a potential restaurant client, they can adapt the illumination to emulate a hospitality setting and more accurately represent the colors and textures proposed in the new restaurant design.

A samples library on the same floor also features Renna direct Tunable White luminaires for the same reason. Designers can manipulate the color temperature to match a specific environment as they choose and evaluate paint colors and materials for a particular project. A unique double curve pattern of Renna pendants, 64 linear feet in total, ensures an even distribution of illumination across the work surfaces. The pattern also seamlessly integrates 24 linear feet of emergency back-up for enhanced occupant safety.

Lighting on this floor is also managed with a Modulus system.

“Nobody is more critical of their space than an architect," jokes Richter. "And our client is pleased with the result. We used lighting to bridge the gap between an industrial space and a space that feels clean, bright and refreshed. The light feels intentional. And the Tunable White, in particular, has been a huge win for Hickok Cole. We are happy that we could find a series of fixtures that was robust and could do everything they wished and more.”


Project Name: Hickok Cole

Location: Washington, DC, USA

Lighting Design: Sarah Richter Design

Agent: Federated Lighting

Completed: August 2021

Photographer: Garrett Rowland

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