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Liberty Bell Project

There is no symbol of American freedom more recognizable or enduring than the Liberty Bell.
Liberty Bell Project

Philadelphia, USA

Liberty Bell Center

There is no symbol of American freedom more recognizable or enduring than the Liberty Bell. For most of us, seeing this American icon in person is a memorable event. So when the decision was made to move the Liberty Bell as part of the 300-plus million dollar transformation of Independence Mall, every effort was made to ensure that its new home displayed the bell in all its glory. Getting the lighting right by combining state-of-the-art fixtures and sophisticated lighting controls was a key element in this presentation. Leviton is proud to have been selected as the sole provider of lighting controls for the Liberty Bell Center.

Leviton Controls Used at Liberty Bell Center

  • Leviton Modular Dimming System (MDS) Cabinet
  • D8200 LCD Station
  • KB101 8-Scene Pushbutton Stations
  • KB014 Panic Button Station
  • Leviton Photocells
  • And more...


The Design Challenge

The design team on the project designed the lighting to elicit a strong emotional response. "Entering the bell Champer and coming upon the Liberty Bell is the climax of the exhibit and our intent was to use light to enhance the feeling of reverence and respect within the visitor," explains Raymond Grenald, FAIA, FIALD, FIES of the architectural lighting design firm Grenald Waldron Associates. "You could say that, in a sense, we wanted each visitor to leave with a lump in their throat."

"The Liberty Bell hols a special place in our history and our goal was to illuminate it in a way that contributed to the experience of seeing the Bell - especially for the first time," adds Daniel Edenbaum, Project Lighting Designer formerly with Grenald Waldron Associates. "The bell is a very dark bronze and therefore absorbs a lot of light. We lit it the way you would illuminate a ballerina: from all sides, using color and intensity to model it so it appears more three-dimensional."

The space the Bell resides in since it was moved on October 9 is 40 by 50 feet with 36-foot ceilings. The Liberty Bell is a mere three by four feet and sits in front of a huge window with a view to Independence Hall - from where the bell announced the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence. This wall of window means that the room is often filled with natural light, which presented opportunities to use a simple daylight harvesting system to explot the ambient daylight using photocells. On the other hand, Leviton's energy-saving daylight harvesting system presented a challenge to the designers who wanted to maintain their dramatic lighting throughout the day.

The National Park Service, which operates the Liberty Bell Center, desired a lighting control system that used the natural daylight to supplement the artificial light - reducing energy costs, extending bulb life, and minimizing maintenance requirements. That's where Leviton photocells came in. With 30 fixtures and tenlighting zones, the site offered a lot of flexibility. Yet when the lighting design team visited the site after it opened to the public, they noticed that although the daylight-harvesting scheme worked beautifully in the exhibition space, within the Bell Chamber the bell lost much of its luster when too many lights were turned off. "Even in high daylight, you need to hit the bell with as many point sources of light as possible to give it brilliance," notes Dan Edenbaum. "So we scaled back the photocell on/off thresholds and adjusted the two daytime scenes on the Leviton D8000 and we regained the effect we designed." [Because the Liberty Bell was not moved until the day the Center opened to the public, the designers were not able to check the placement of the lighting fixtures and the scene presets on the actual bell. They used a foam core cutout to simulate the bell beforehand, and have continued to make fine adjustments since then.]

Leviton Controls Illuminate History
According to Jerry M. Davis, Lighting Controls Specialist for Diversified Lighting who assisted with the project, "There were several factors that made Leviton lighting controls the best fit for this project. The D8000 stations feature Corian faceplates that are practically impervious to damage." They are also available in a wide selection of Corian colors. "And Leviton offers a full line of lighting controls that met every requirement with the sophistication necessary to satisfy the designers." The man-machine interface is also simple enough to be used by a rotating staff of Park Rangers who need only touch Button 1 upon arrival and Button 2 when they leave.

The Liberty Bell Center uses Leviton's MDS cabinet as the core of the lighting control system. In addition to the D8000 LCD Station, remote stations at the front and back doors provide convenient access to scene selection. A D8000 panic button station in the security office can turn lights to full on if an emergency should arise. The system also incorporates a PC interface that was used to input preset values and for general programming, and can be used to make future adjustments to the system.

Liberty Bell Trivia

  • The Bell arrived from England in 1751, cracked shortly thereafter, and was melted down and recast.
  • The Liberty Bell called Philadelphia citizens to the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 8, 1776.
  • The Bell got its infamous crack, rendering it unringable, in 1846 when it was rung for George Washington's birthday.
  • The Liberty Bell weighs 2,080 pounds and attracts approximately 1.6 million visitors each year (according to GoPhila.com).