KDKA-TV Weather Beacon atop the Gulf Tower

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

Photo Credits: William E. Gossett

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From its construction in 1932 to the late 1970s, the Gulf Tower Building in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, was more than just an iconic part of the city skyline it also served as a rudimentary weather forecast system for pedestrians on the city streets below. Red and blue neon tube arrays mounted on the step-pyramid peak of the 44-story edifice provided the city with a simple, color-coded forecast system: red light signified fair weather ahead, while blue light meant rain or snow. If the light was steady, the temperature was predicted to rise; if flashing, to fall.

When the energy crisis of the 1970s forced the Gulf Oil Company to shut down the tower lights due to public relations concerns, the Pittsburgh tradition of the weather beacon effectively died out. Though the neon tubes were replaced several years later with a slightly more energy-efficient high-pressure sodium vapor lighting system, the color-changing capability required for weather prediction remained out of reach, limited by available technology and energy costs. So when the building owners at Rugby Realty Co., Inc., decided in 2012 to resurrect this much-loved city institution, they turned to a Philips Color Kinetics LED lighting solution that could provide both user-controlled color and a high level of energy efficiency.

The design objective of the installation was to create a dynamic, color-changing light sculpture without incurring high energy costs. To accomplish this, the building owners hired lighting designers Cindy Limauro and Christopher Popowich of C & C Lighting, LLC, in cooperation with Vincent Lighting Systems (VLS), which provided systems integration, programming, and equipment supply services. Limauro and Popowich specified Philips Color Kinetics ColorGraze Powercore luminaires for the retrofit. Consuming a maximum of only 70 W of energy per fixture, these 4 ft (1219 mm) linear LED wall grazing luminaires provided the energy efficiency and color consistency required for fulfilling the client's vision.

To ensure even illumination, Popowich and Limauro installed the fixtures on existing 2 in (51 mm) tracks spaced approximately 2 ft (610 mm) from the granite limestone walls of the tower's top six stories, with about 2 ft (610 mm) between each fixture. Each of the 185 installed luminaires is individually controlled by a Pharos LPC 4 controller and Pharos TPC controller for nearly five universes of DMX control.

Taking advantage of this high level of control, the lighting designers devised a

Products Used

ColorGraze Powercore (now specified with ColorGraze MX Powercore)

Method of Control:
Pharos LPC 4 controller

How to Buy

Click to locate your Philips Color Kinetics
sales representative or distributor

Project Credits

Rugby Realty Co., Inc.

Lighting Design:
C & C Lighting, LLC

Systems Integration, Equipment Supply, and Programming
Vincent Lighting Systems

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