Erie Canals—Reimagine the Canals

    Fairport, New York, USA

    Photo Credits: 

    NYPA (photo 1)

    Wendy Jiang (photos 2, 3, 5, 6, 8)

    OVI (site overview map 4)

    Frank Forte (photo 7)

    Shining new light on the historic Erie Canal


    Famous in history books and folk songs, the monumental Erie Canal was the first navigable waterway to connect the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. Completed in 1825, the canal features many historic sites along its way from the Hudson River to Lake Erie. Celebrating the remarkable heritage of the canal region is a challenge, given the 339-mile length of the canal and the number of communities it runs through. Reimagine the Canals, a recent New York State initiative, uses light as a catalyst to draw attention to—and help revitalize—the many historic towns along the Erie Canal.


    Color Kinetics luminaires provide specialized lighting to four diverse sites along the canal—the Verona Beach Lighthouse, the Brewerton Lighthouse, Little Falls Lock E-17, and Fairport Bridge. Customized lighting solutions bring new life to each of these sites and the Canal-side communities.


    The team chose Color Kinetics luminaires because of their rugged construction, since these sites are often exposed to rough weather. It also appreciated the diversity of lighting solutions available, which let them tailor the lighting design to each site. And finally, it was important to keep impact and energy use low, making Color Kinetics LED luminaires a smart choice. To further reduce energy use, all Color Kinetics luminaires are programmed to operate at a maximum of 80 percent power.


    Collaboration between the New York Power Authority, The New York State Canal Corporation, and world-renowned architectural lighting design firm Office for Visual Interaction (OVI) led to a holistic plan that carefully considered the distinct structural and environmental qualities of each of the four unique projects along the Canal. The plan called for four unique lighting designs, relying on Color Kinetics luminaires to transform each site.


    • A Dramatic Look for a Singular Lock
      Little Falls Lock E-17, New York's largest single-lift lock, combines Color Kinetics ReachElite Powercore and Graze MX4 Powercore and dynamic gobos on its frontal gate to engage distant views and project rippling light to enhance the lock’s green, industrial patina. Integral glare shields minimize light source reflections in the water. Color Kinetics Blast Powercore IntelliHue adjustable floodlights with 5, 20 and 40 degree optics, fill the void behind the lock gate with purple hues.


    • Vivid White Light for an Historic Lighthouse
      Verona Beach Lighthouse gains a new nighttime identity with rippling light. Color Kinetics ReachElite Powercore IntelliHue 100 luminaires located at the podium illuminate its cylindrical volume. Meanwhile pole-mounted 5500K LED floodlights with rotating wave-patterned gobos mimic the gentle rhythm of surrounding waters against its alabaster white surface. Precise aiming and cross lighting prevent spill light from affecting adjacent neighbors. Programmable color-effects and animation bring new excitement to events.


    • Candlelight for Its Sister Lighthouse
      The reimagined nighttime identity of Brewerton Lighthouse transforms its dim appearance to exude an antique aura that contrasts with Verona Beach Lighthouse, its nearby sister lighthouse. Color Kinetics ReachElite Powercore IntelliHue 100 luminaires are aimed upward from the podium and tuned to 1800K, transforming the dark concrete with a warm candlelit glow. Ethernet/DMX controls precisely calibrate color temperature and brightness intensity. Undergoing a captivating nighttime transformation, this bold structure becomes a true beacon after dark, while enhancing safety and security for park visitors.


    • Dynamic Color for a Neighborhood Bridge
      Celebrating the neighborhood’s industrial character, the Fairport lift bridge features light in rust-colored tones. The illuminated underside reflects copper hues onto the river, linking the illumination with natural elements. Color saturation is curated to shift gradually over 30-minute intervals. Color Kinetics Graze Compact Powercore, RGBW linear luminaires and Burst Powercore RGBW spotlights with elliptical distribution follow the bridge’s curves and are discreetly positioned within structural gaps, avoiding glare for vehicular traffic.


    As proof of the project’s impact, it was awarded a prestigious 2023 LIT Lighting Design Award, winning the Community Building Lighting category. The client for this major, multi-site project was very pleased. “Winning an international LIT Lighting Design Award is a remarkable recognition of the Reimagine the Canals initiative, as NYPA and the Canal Corporation developed the Iconic Lighting Program to highlight the craftsmanship of the Canal system infrastructure as points of pride for Canal-side communities,” said New York Power Authority President and CEO Justin E. Driscoll. “This award reinforces the early success and vision of this innovative program as it draws attention to New York’s canal history and shines light on an incredible recreational asset available to both local residents and visitors alike.”


    And the light shining on these four sites? Hundreds of rugged, high-performance Color Kinetics luminaires.

    Project credits


    New York Power Authority


    Lighting Designer and Certified System Integrator:

    Office for Visual Interaction, Inc. (OVI)

    Installation & Programming:

    LIRO (general contractor)

    E-J Electric (electrical contractor for Little Falls, Verona Beach, and Brewerton)

    O’Connell (electrical contractor for Fairport)

    Buro Happold (Engineers)

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