“In our designs, we try to be storytellers. I learned in the theatre that a design wrapped around a strong narrative has the best chance for success. Each decision needs to be checked against that central allegory. We try very hard to listen to our clients and really hear their goals. Their resources and willingness to participate in the process will ultimately shape the project’s outcome.”
Al Borden, Principal with The Lighting Practice, is the featured interview in Mondo*Arc Magazine’s April/May 2013 issue. Al was happy to have the opportunity to share his journey from a theatrical lighting student in Philadelphia/New York City to a Principal of the lighting design firm responsible for the Empire State Building’s Tower Lighting and 230 Park Avenue’s LED color changing façade.
Issue 72 April / May 2013
In the space of a week last autumn in New York City, Al Borden attended the public relightings of two of his highest profile projects: the top 30 floors of the Empire State Building, and the façade of the 34-story 230 Park Avenue Building. Vilma Barr caught up with him to discuss the highlights of a glittering career.
Growing up in New York, Al Borden was fascinated with the lights of Manhattan’s skyscrapers. He couldn’t imagine that in 2012, his lighting designs for two of its most famous buildings would become part of the cityscape.
On November 28, the new LEDs at the top tier of the Empire State Building, from floors 72 to 103, were switched on. A week later, and fourteen blocks uptown, the north façade of the 230 Park Avenue Building, came to life with choreographed rippling patterns of holiday hues.
Alfred R. Borden founded The Lighting Practice in Philadelphia 24 years ago. Now, with partners Helen Diemer and Michael Barber, Borden manages TLP’s staff of seventeen, occupying offices in the neo-classic Public Ledger Building in the city’s historic Independence Hall district.
His fascination with lighting began when he started working on shows in high school. “I never wanted to be an actor,” he says, “but I became very interested in creating the fantasy worlds where the acting happened. Lighting absorbed me; nothing seemed to make a place more ‘real’ than the right lighting.”
Borden pursued theatrical lighting design at Temple University in Philadelphia and then went on to the Master of Fine Arts program at New York University. “The instruction was amazing and very demanding. I was privileged to take lighting classes from John Gleason and scenic design classes from Lloyd Burlingame and Fred Voelpel,” he says. “I learned a lot about design but even more about always striving to be better and what it really means to be a professional.”
The NYU connection gave Borden opportunities to work in the New York theatre. “I knocked around for a few years in New York and Philadelphia, including the first US production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with Andre DeShields, and did the lighting for some dance performances and some concerts. But by the mid-1980s I had had enough with theatrical lighting. I wanted to work on things that lasted. Somehow I heard about this specialty called architectural lighting, so I bought Bill Lam’s book, got inspired, and started searching for a job.”
Read the full article: Al Borden Interview, mondo*arc