With Insights from Caitlin Bucari at The Lighting Practice

There are certainly many facets of private club design. And while elements such as overall architectural structure, interior ambiance, and the selection of furniture and accessories are more obvious components of the renovation process—there are so many other nuances to consider.  

Are outdoor spaces a focal point that could be enhanced by a landscape architect? Does the project involve unique acoustic elements, requiring the expertise of an acoustician? Perhaps a kitchen consultant could elevate the culinary experience. This is where teaming up with consultants who specialize in specific areas becomes pivotal. 

In the case of the new rooftop dining venue at the Union League of Philadelphia, the importance of lighting took center stage. Here, we discuss the unique benefits of lighting design with Caitlin Bucari, Senior Lighting Designer at The Lighting Practice, and explore what made designing for Trumbauer’s unique. 

Getting Started 

As with any design process, designers at The Lighting Practice start each project with information gathering. Bucari’s team begins by engaging with the architect or interior designer, delving into the overarching design vision and intent for the space. They also explore the dynamics of when and how the space will be utilized to ensure a tailored and effective lighting strategy.  

“The discovery process is key,” says Bucari. “We need to know how the space will be used, who will be using it, and when they will be using it. This helps us as we begin to craft the light story.”  

This part of the process also includes understanding the color palette and materials that will be used throughout the space. The objective is to ensure that the lighting seamlessly harmonizes with the design to produce the desired ambiance and support the interior designer’s story. “At the end of the day, we want to create a beautiful space,” Bucari notes, “but the most important part is making sure we are meeting the client’s expectations.”  

Designing with Intent 

In shaping the design of the new rooftop dining venue, two key elements played a significant role—the impact of natural light permeating the space and the panoramic views of Center City from this historic locale. This presented a dual challenge for the lighting designers: not only did they need to envision what members would observe within the interior, but also how the overall experience would feel when gazing outward, with a focus on optimizing views at every opportunity. 

The space also undergoes a dramatic transformation throughout the course of the day. “The skylight over Trumbauer’s creates a very different mood during the daytime versus at dusk or nighttime,” Bucari notes. “This really emphasized the importance of the Club being able to utilize different light settings to achieve those varying experiences.”  

Bucari explains the team’s keen awareness of the daytime dining experience, considering the abundant and vibrant natural light. “It was critical to be able to balance the light streaming in from the skylight and windows with areas that were further inward or had lower ceiling heights.” It is this attention to detail that contributes to a seamless transition throughout various sections of the dining spaces. 

The integration of various layers of light was also extremely important for Trumbauer’s. “We incorporated focal points throughout the space to draw you in and lead you through. For example; illuminated shelving and bar surfaces, lighting art and sculpture, and highlighting feature materials,” says Bucari. “These lighting elements are softer in the evening to create a moody ambiance but can be bumped up brighter in the daytime so you can still experience the texture of the lighting story during the day as well.”  

Bucari also highlights the impact that a robust control system has on a space. “You can strive to sculpt the space by highlighting special materials and using decorative lighting, but if you don’t have the ability to fine tune the light levels, you won’t be able to achieve the nuanced composition that elevates the space.”

She notes how important it is to understand who will be using the controls. While a row of light switches that can be manually adjusted throughout the day might be appropriate for certain applications, such as a kitchen or back of house area, a space like Trumbauer’s calls for a preset system.The best way to achieve a consistent look day after day, night after night, is to invest in a system that can be pre-programmed with the desired settings, providing your guests with a consistent experience they can come to expect each time they return,” she explains. 

Overcoming Obstacles 

As with most aspects of building a new dining venue on the roof of a historic building, the Union League project posed unique challenges for team members on all aspects of the project. The lighting design process was no exception. In fact, structural challenges proved to be a driving factor that caused the team to pivot more than once—especially when column locations needed to shift during construction.  

“There is a trickle-down effect when major changes occur in construction,” Bucari explains. “Those movements changed the size, shape, and height of various spaces. Not considerably, but enough that required us to be nimble, verify locations, and modify the design to respond to the new structure.” 

The project also involved coordinating with other unique elements of the space. To help control noise levels across the dining areas, Chambers selected a unique acoustical material for the ceiling in the main dining room that was 2.5 inches thick. “This is a much thicker material than standard drywall and required very specific coordination to make it all work,” says Bucari. “Thicker materials can require unique mounting conditions and a thicker installation, so we needed to make sure our specifications accounted for that.” 

Of course, the most unique challenge was developing a solution for the existing lightwell for the Inn at the Union League, which was completely covered by the addition to maximize the available rooftop space. The objective was to guarantee that hotel guests would continue to experience simulated daylight, compensating for the absence of natural light reaching the windows within the lightwell. 

“We conducted light studies with various calculations and renderings,” says Bucari. “We even did an on-site mockup to test these options for the Club’s review.” In the end, the team devised a solution using high-output LED flood lights installed on the floor of the lightwell to wash the entire cavity with white light. The lightwell was also cleaned and painted a bright white to best reflect the artificial light. Lastly, a translucent film was applied to all guest room windows, creating a frosted appearance that eliminated visibility into the lightwell. 

“The lights are timed to an astronomical clock to mimic sunrise and sunset,” Bucari explains. “In the morning, the lights gently fade on for about 30 minutes during sunrise, it remains lit throughout the day, and then slowly dims to darkness during sunset.” This solution ensures that the unique hotel experience at the Club remains largely unaffected by the addition of the new rooftop dining venue. 

Infusing Technology and Tradition 

The lighting design journey for Trumbauer’s showcases the unique effort required to balance modern technology and traditional needs. It also highlights the importance of coordination across many disciplines of design, and how building strong teams is so crucial to the success of a project. Ultimately, the collaboration and attention to detail for all parties involved in this lighting transformation helped to produce a stunning final product that will be enjoyed for years to come. 

For more insights on how lighting design can shape experiences, click here. 

Hoping to chat with Caitlin Bucari regarding The Lighting Practice’s services? Click here to contact her! 

Show More


0 Comment(s)

Show Comments
Read All

Leave a Reply