—By: Jessica Stephen – Special to The Daily Reporter—
Apart from architecture, Marty Peck’s corner of the construction world is the place science and art most often meet. “A good lighting design will enhance architectural form and function, but it’s kind of a hard sell because good lighting looks like it just happens. lt’s kind of a black art because light is invisible. There’s a bit of voodoo and mystery mixed in, but a lighting designer is part imagineer, coming up with creative solutions to tell the story of a space. We balance that with a big dose of technological expertise,” said Peck, principal and owner Creative Lighting Design & Engineering in Germantown.
Peck has spent decades explaining his work.
But with a background in theater and education, plus experience as a design engineer at Kohler and as a manager of engineering for a light fixture company, he’s uniquely qualified to educate contractors about his invisible art.
Nearly 25 years ago, he started CLD-E, a synthesis of his artistic ambitions and his eye for engineering.
“I really wanted to bring expressive light and drama into architectural spaces,” Peck said. “Back then it was almost unheard of as a field. I really saw a niche there to bring architecture to life.”
Recently he helped bring a bit of history to life with the award-winning “Ghost Train” project in Shorewood, which won him an excellence award at the IES Illumination Awards. [Correction – The BB King’s Casino won the Excellence Award – MP]
The installation is based on the story of the 400, one of the first high-speed luxury trains of its era when it debuted in 1935. The line ran from Chicago to Minneapolis in 400 minutes, rumbling over Capitol Drive in Shorewood – today the site of the Oak Leaf Trail.
The $375,000 project uses programmable lights to show what the train might have looked like. And every night since Halloween, traffic stops at 8 and 8:30 p.m. for about 90 seconds to take in the sight.
lt’s an artistic expression of what Peck and his team can do – a counterpart to the work they’re often asked to do in high-end commercial spaces, museums, homes, and casinos, some spanning more than 14,000 square feet.
With projects such as The Ghost Train and CLD-E’s work at the Potawatomi Hotel and Casino and the Basilica of St. Josaphat, both in Milwaukee, Peck said his services are becoming more mainstream. But it’s still an afterthought for many construction crews.
“In Chicago it’s a norm to bring a lighting designer in for an architecture construction project. In Milwaukee it’s a bit more of an exception; a lot of developers and contractors are just winging it. But, more and more, we’re being brought in as part of the design-build team. With lighting, there may not be a black or white or a right or wrong, but there are codes we have to meet. And if it’s poorly done it can be glaring and obnoxious. And if it’s done well, it can be seamless.”
Especially with new installation techniques.
“No more spacing cans and troughers and putting them in two-by-two tiles,” Peck said. “Fixtures are not like that anymore. Every fixture has a different lumen output. Lighting has become miniaturized, and there are so many cool decorative elements. In the past you used to stick lighting in the architecture and now it’s more lighting of the architecture – these magical lines of light that just feel like they’re part of architecture. And that’s really a passion of mine. How we can bring that to life? There’s a new paradigm with lighting in construction projects.”
Getting to Know Peck
The Daily Reporter: What surprises you most about your work?
Marty Peck: I think the variety of different lighting projects and solutions. There are so many different types of projects, from the Ghost Train to the Acuity flagpole we did a few years ago. There are a lot of different solutions, and that’s what I just love about lt.
TDR: What would you change about the construction industry?
Peck: I think educating contractors and developers about the value of good lighting the lighting design and products
TDR: What other job did you consider trying?
Peck: My dad was a golf course superintendent so I grew up on and in the golf course. My dad lived for 85 years in the same house, and it was owned by the golf course. So, I thought about becoming a golf course superintendent, but I also thought about becoming a landscape architect.
TDR: What profession would you not like to explore?
Peck: One that comes to mmd is roofing. You’re always up there on a hot day and working on the edge of your physical ability.
TDR: What would you never wear?
Peck: I know I certainly would never wear a kilt I don t need that kind of air conditioning
TDR: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Peck: I wish I was a little more of a people person, that it felt a little more natural. Sometimes you feel a little self-conscious when you’re talking with people, trying to promote your business. Sales people make it look so easy:
TDR: What would your colleagues be surprised to find out about you?
Peck: I have a strait jacket. Back in my theater days I came across the strait jacket and it became a fun costume. How many people have a strait jacket? I keep saying when I get driven over the edge, I might have to go put it on.