Architectural lighting designer Howard Brandston, best known for his work on big public-facing projects such as the American Museum of Natural History and the 1980s restoration of the Statue of Liberty, died Feb. 24 at 87. But the innovator also founded the predecessor of Brandston Partnership Inc., one of the first architectural lighting design firms, and made significant impacts behind the scenes in the design sector. The cause of death was Alzheimer's disease, according to an online obituary.
In 1966, Brandston founded his New York City-based firm, then known as H.M. Brandston & Partners. It has grown since to include a professional staff of 160 with offices also in Singapore, Seoul and Shanghai. He personally contributed to more than 2,500 projects in 60 countries during his career, winning numerous awards, says the firm.
Brandston also wrote the original lighting section of the ASHRAE 90.1 energy standard in the 1970s, was past president of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America and was a founding member of International Association of Lighting Designers. He earned lifetime achievement awards from both groups, among other recognitions.
Robert Prouse, a longtime firm partner who was first to publicly announce news of Brandston’s death. said in a LinkedIn post: “For those who didn’t know him, he was a towering figure in architectural lighting design.”
Brandston helped cultivate many lighting design professionals who followed him. He taught at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in upstate New York, founding its lighting design program, and at Cooper Union in Manhattan. Illuminating Engineering Society of North America awards a grant in his name to college students each year at its annual conference and also published his book on lighting as an art form, Learning to See: A Matter of Light, in 2008.
Charles Israel, founder of the firm Lighting Design Alliance and a past president of the International Association of Lighting Designers education trust fund, told ENR’s sister publication Architectural Record in 2003 that Brandston was one of the few early lighting professionals who first brought credibility to the field.
He "trained architects to appreciate the value of good lighting design,” Israel said. Noted the designers group in a statement: "To refer to Howard as an icon in the lighting design profession only begins to touch upon his impact and importance."
Brandston remained an advocate for best lighting practices late in his career. He played a key role in federal lawmakers’ 2011 decision to defund a 2007 law that would have imposed severe efficiency standards for incandescent light bulbs. Brandston wrote a 2009 Wall Street Journal opinion piece raising concerns about lighting quality and in 2011, testified before a U.S. Senate committee about the issue.
A memorial service is being planned for May in New York City, according to llluminating Engineering Society of North America. Details have not yet been announced.