Fulton Center Comes Alive with Holiday Light-and-Sound Show

Light panels are installed in 16 windows of the Fulton Center. From 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. each day through December they feature a two-minute show every 15 minutes. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib 

Dec. 18, 2017

A new show is premiering on Broadway—lower Broadway—courtesy of the Fulton Transit Center.

For the first time in the three years since it opened, the windows at the center, at Broadway and Fulton Street, are not only festooned for the holidays, they’re aglow with splashy, moving imagery. Beginning this week, passersby on Broadway are being treated to the colorful show, with its electronic adaptations of Christmas classics amplified to be heard across the street.

A one-minute sampling of the show. Video clips by Holiday Image; editing by The Tribeca Trib

There are three alternating two-minute shows that run every 15 minutes, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. But the windows never sleep. Bright, morphing imagery continues to shine indoors and out from thousands of individually controllable color-changing LED nodes on 16 panels installed in the center’s windows.

“There are 16,000 lights receiving 50,000 channels of data 44 times a second,” said Ted Mather, the installations lighting designer. “So theres a lot of information going there.

“We’ve rethought the concept of what a holiday window can be in this age,” said Westfield Vice President Shari Hyman. “Where holiday windows are such an important fabric for New York City in general, this is our way of reimagining what that can be in a space that’s just a little bit different than a department store.”

Westfield hired Holiday Image, a company that specializes in grand light installations, to come up with a show for the center’s 10,000-square-foot facade. Matthew Schwam, Holiday Image’s CEO, recalled meeting with Westfield and MTA executives as they conveyed to him the kind of program they were looking for. “What I heard from the room was we want it to feel like a painting,” said Schwam, who lives in Tribeca. “And we want that painting built as we move through the day. That was a giant clue for me, that was enough.”

Schwam said he sought visual inspiration from a wide variety of artists, from Van Gogh and Chagall to Basquiat. “That gave me shapes and forms and little cues that we could tap into when we’re trying to create energy and music, or accentuate instruments.” Mather came up with the visuals based on Schwam’s ideas and the music that would accompany it.

Westfield hopes the holiday light-and-sound show will entice people into the transit hub that is lesser-known for its stores and restaurants. “We want to activate and illuminate what everyone considers to be the crossroads of Lower Manhattan,” Hyman said, “and bring some exciting and unique visual activity to a place where so many in the community just pass by.”