Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

On the campus of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, a custom bench underlit with Plexineon White 2X Series fixtures encircles a decommissioned Naval plane that’s been repurposed as art.

Sleek and flexible, Plexineon follows curves and creates a clean, “magical” line of light.

A Custom Solution for an Artful Application

New Philadelphia Pedestrian Plaza Glows with Plexineon

Unveiled in October 2011, Lenfest Plaza at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) in downtown Philadelphia provides a streetscape identity for America’s oldest art museum and school — and a gateway for the city’s art scene.

The new open-air gathering space previously was a neglected, half-block long alley that bisected the school campus. Today it’s an outdoor gallery as well as a bustling pedestrian plaza. Giving the campus cohesiveness while creating linkages to Philadelphia’s “Museum Mile” and the newly constructed Pennsylvania Convention Center, the plaza features an iconic permanent public art installation, rotating student exhibitions and temporary sculpture, plus a stage, plantings, and tables for outdoor dining.

Connecting those elements is a custom, three-part serpentine bench that is underlit with iLight Plexineon White 2X Series fixtures. Besides adding a safety element, the Plexineon gives off a glow that arouses curiosity, drawing people along the narrow space and creating an inviting aura.


The Design Challenge

The landscape design for Lenfest Plaza was developed by Philadelphia-based OLIN Partners; for the lighting scheme OLIN turned to The Lighting Practice, also a local firm.

Stephen Hoppe, Project Manager at The Lighting Practice, recognized right away that the distinctive bench was a signature element; made from black locust wood, it softened the urban space. And while limited resources and a tight footprint presented challenges, Hoppe had used Plexineon before and was confident it would fit the bill for a sleek, flexible light source that could follow the bench’s curves.

“With the Plexineon, we were able to check off a lot of what we were looking for,” he says.

What Hoppe couldn’t have anticipated was how iLight Technologies would go above and beyond to ensure the application’s success. For example, to accommodate metal supports installed every 10 feet along the benches, iLight created factory-bent custom curves.

“They curved everything exactly where we needed, so it looks like it runs right through the supports,” he says. “It’s a totally end-to-end look — a continuous line of light.”

“The light quality looks like it did on Day One.” – Stephen Hoppe, Project Manager The Lighting Practice 


The Plexineon Advantage

Hoppe, who has since specified Plexineon for several more projects, says the final result is a clean, “magical” line of light that integrates into the wider scheme.

“The benches seem to float on the light of the Plexineon and the effect is consistent from all views,” he says. “It looks very deliberate. All of the light is in the same temperature range, so the color blends really well with the other light sources.”

Lenfest Plaza has since become a marquee project in Philadelphia, rejuvenating an area and creating a new landmark, plus increased recognition for the PAFA.

Providing illumination from dusk to dawn, the fixtures so far have logged 4,000 hours.

“They still look great,” Hoppe says. “They’re holding up really well. The light quality looks like it did on Day One.”

Also aglow with Plexineon, a serpentine bench seems to float along the narrow space.

Also aglow with Plexineon, a serpentine bench seems to float along the narrow space.

Project Details

Pennsylvania Academy of FIne Arts

Philadelphia, PA

Exterior application

Indirect view

OLIN Partners

The Lighting Practice 

Saylor Gregg Architects

Plexineon White 2X Series

123 LF (37.5 m)

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