Gershwin Theatre: New Façade Lighting By design one

Broadway's Gershwin Theatre opened in 1972 as the Uris Theatre and was renamed in honor of composers George and Ira Gershwin for their contributions to Tin Pan Alley. At 1,933 seats, The Gershwin is Broadway's largest theatre, and has been home to the mega-hit musical, Wicked, since 2003. Its façades were recently relighted, giving the theatre a facelift as it were, by lighting designer Christien Methot and his team at design one, a New York City-based lighting design firm.

Gershwin Theatre Lighting Plot

Click To Expand

"We were hired by the MdeAS Architects to design the lighting for the newly designed façade that covers the Gershwin Theatre exteriors on 50th and 51st Streets," explains Methot, "The architect designed a visual system of grids of white metal separated by black metal horizontal and vertical members. This system protruded from the building a certain distance and by code was not allowed to protrude any further, which meant that we had to find a small and powerful exterior-rated linear fixture. After numerous mock-ups in our studio, we decided on the Martin by Harman Exterior Graze Exterior Linear RGBW. Ken Romaine was of course instrumental and getting information and samples."

Gershwin fixtures


Methot's goal in designing the lighting system was "to create a dramatic horizon line effect utilizing 125 4' units on each street face and a Pharos LPC Controller to control them all. The general contractor, StructureTone, purchased the equipment from us and they went about installing the fixtures over a few months. Carefully planned holes drilled in each of the white metal panels allowed the electrical contractor to chase the proprietary jumper cables from light to light," the LD notes. "The contractor explained that this was tedious work as there was little to no space behind these for access." DMX distribution from Kibo Node was used to collect the 10 DMX home runs from either side of the street back to the main controller.

"Once the lights were physically installed, we met with the Pharos technician on a wet and cold day standing outside on my cell phone, and made sure all the fixtures were addressed properly," says Methot. "The system has the ability to be programmed be create undulating waves of color and we pitched this but as this was a new and bold installation and the neighbors had already complained about it a great deal it was decided that low-key solid colors were the way to go for now."

Gershwin Green

And as one would assume, for the re-opening of Wicked after the pandemic shutdown, the building management made it all green, "which looked great," Methot concludes. "We think the design is classic and will stand up in years to come. And with its ultimate flexibility in color and movement that can eventually be programmed into it, it can have a life that can become more and more interesting."