Case Study: The Wharf & Catenary Vertical Rings


Waterfront Magic

The Wharf & Catenary Vertical Rings

A complex application finds a solution in iLight Catenary Ring Luminaires

Perched along the Potomac River, within a short walk of the National Mall was a mile-long stretch of waterfront property — underutilized by residents and ignored by tourists. That all changed with a $2.5 billion development that transformed the area into a new and bustling 24-acre neighborhood known as “The Wharf” or “District Wharf.” It is now an attraction for residents and tourists alike.

Features include concert venues, retailers, restaurants, hotels, residences, businesses, boat rentals, an outdoor ice rink, and the historic floating Municipal Fish Market, the oldest continuously operating open-air fish market in the United States. The main public plaza is the perfect spot for taking in the scenic views, where 15 rings of iLight Plexineon appear to float aloft at nighttime.

One Design Challenge

(of many)

The Catenary Vertical Rings were the vision of Gilmore Lighting Design after the firm was brought onto the Wharf development project during its final stages by landscape designer LAB. When they pitched their proposal, it was met with enthusiasm. Now they would have to bring their ambitious project to life with a narrow deadline looming.

Fortunately, Debra Gilmore, President and Principal of Gilmore Lighting Design already had a product in mind that could realize her design. She had used iLight Plexineon on previous projects, but the curved fixtures had always been mounted to a surface. She hoped iLight could help her create the rings — and suspend them.

“I sent iLight drawings and they responded quickly,” she says. The team confirmed that Plexineon could be bent to form the circles and suspended from aircraft wire. With all the cables angled, rather than horizontal, a custom mounting would be needed. Gilmore and her team also worked with iLight to determine electrical component sizes and how the connections would work.

Gilmore utilized layers of light for the different scope locations (architectural, landscape, and site) to establish a visual hierarchy according to activity within the locations. Designing functional entry plaza lighting using a minimal energy footprint was needed, and Gilmore wanted to create a solution more unique than typical festoon string lighting.

“Our philosophy and attitude about solving egress lighting is to also create a beautiful night environment,” Gilmore says. The Gilmore team developed an innovative entry solution, consisting of an angled catenary system using suspended, glowing custom LED rings that provide functional egress illumination while adding an artistic moment and a memorable site location by day or night.

Gilmore is glad that, once again, she turned to iLight to help make her vision reality. After a smooth installation it was clear that the close collaboration with iLight had paid off. The result is a stunning feature that creates a formal, monumental pedestrian entrance to the fish market, and serves to attract both business tenants and customers. “I was thrilled. It’s a gem. It’s iconic,” Gilmore says.

Something she could not have predicted was how well the light of the Plexineon luminaires would work within the context of all the surrounding elements.

“During design, building tenants adjacent to the entry were unknown. A Tiki bar added a lot of colored lights that reflect on the rings in a unique way,” Gilmore says. The way the Plexineon Rings interact with blue lighting along a nearby overpass is another happy surprise. “The reflections are really fun,” she adds. “The serendipitous quality of light never ceases to amaze me.”

Gilmore’s success on the project was recognized by the industry – the project won a DC, IES Illumination Award of Merit.

Fast Facts about Bendable Plexineon Catenary

  • Exterior or interior accent lighting, direct or indirect view applications, coves & more
  • Design flexibility – any factory formed, curved or straight, rigid shape imaginable
  • Incredibly durable, featuring IP68, IK10, & 3G ratings
  • 2800K, 3500K, 4500K, 6500K
  • Amber color diffuser when not illuminated, stable and consistent color temperature
  • Inside, Outside corners with field cuttable sections available
  • Factory bends down to 3/16” radius
  • Field bends up to a 72” inch radius on non- channel
  • Surface, Recessed and Suspended mounting options

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