The ear-numbing whine of ready-to-die high-pressure sodium streetlights will be a thing of the past in Manhattan when the Office for Visual Interaction (OVI) and engineer Werner Sobek roll out their LED streetlight prototype. The light source is a single line of high-flux LEDs, amplified and directed by custom-molded lenses. Because high-flux LEDs were new to the market when the prototype was designed, OVI conducted extensive testing to ensure that the light levels would meet New York City code. The prototype uses 50 percent less energy than the existing streetlights, and because LED technology changes so rapidly, the modular design of the housing allows for the installation of new and improved LEDs.

The prototype is the result of the second of two competitions held by New York City. The streetlight’s form emerged in the first competition, won by a team that included OVI and Sobek, and was led by New York–based architect Thomas Phifer and Partners. For the second competition, to develop a prototype, OVI and Sobek were the only entrants. Phifer is contracted separately to oversee aesthetic changes during the prototyping phase. Despite this slightly tangled project history, the jury focused its praise on the harmony between design and engineering: “The form seemed purposeful,” John Ronan said, “a nice integration of form and technology.”

The arced luminaire housing stands in sharp contrast to the squat, bulbous forms of standard high-pressure sodium streetlights. The pole can be locked into place with bolts already embedded in the sidewalks for existing streetlights, and its fluted profile allows signs to be slid into metal guides and locked into place at any orientation on the surface. “That’s going to clean up the cityscape right there,” Craig Hodgetts said. The testing and engineering is done, and the project is just waiting for the green light from the city.


Enrique Peiniger
Enrique Peiniger
Jean Sundin
Jean Sundin

LED Streetlight, New York

Client City of New York

Prototype Team Office for Visual Interaction, New York—Enrique Peiniger, Jean Sundin; Werner Sobek; Lighting Science Group; Laslo Bodak; Clare Randall-Smith; LED Specialists

Concept Design Thomas Phifer and Partners, New York—Thomas Phifer, Christoph Timm, Joseph Sevene, Jon Benner; Office for Visual Interaction; Werner Sobek