The Kimball Museum at Fort Worth in Texas is one of the greatest buildings of all time. Its architect was Louis Kahn, a brilliant Estonian émigré who ranks with Le Corbusierasthemostpoeticand inventive of twentieth century moderns.
Yet the Kimball’s finest moment – its beautiful gallery
lighting, blending daylight and electric lighting in an
ethereal, compelling and practical mix – would have
been impossible without the genius of Edison Avery
Price. Almost single-handedly, Price initiated the forms
of lighting that make modern architecture especially
credible by night, and was the founding father of the
modern lighting consulting industry, of which even
today, there are few stars.
Quite simply, lighting design is difficult. Most of us
have worked in modern buildings uniformly lit with
cruel fluorescents and know first hand how treacherous
modern lighting can be – tiring. disturbing, ugly. Few
architects and their clients, a century on from the
invention of the electric lamp, are able to get the balance
right between brightness and comfort, light and delight.
Price knew that the best way to light the majority of
modern public spaces was to hide sources of electric
light, as in the top-lit, barrel-vaulted galleries of the
Kimball (1966-72), which he worked on with the great
lighting designer Richard Kelly. If fittings had to be
seen, they should be discreet and the ally rather than the
enemy of the sensitive human eye.
During his long career, he was credited with many
lighting ‘firsts’, including the design of glare-free
recessed fixtures for the track lighting systems that have
become a stock feature of architect-designed interiors.
Price was born in Manhattan. His father, who had set
up Display State Lighting, a company that specialised
‘Almost single-handedly, Edison
Avery Price initiated the forms
of lighting that make modern
architecture credible at night’