How the White Lighting on the Arch Went Tricolor to Remember Paris Victims | First Time Lighting Switched in Monument’s History

Setting up while crowd watches:setting-up-lighting-french-colors-washington-square-park-arch-2015-3
It started with a call at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, November 14th, the morning after the horrifying multiple violent attacks in Paris, France resulting in at least 129 people dead. Designer Brian Tovar received a call from Daniel Goldstein, a “theater director friend,” who was in touch with the Mayors Office. Goldstein told Tovare that New York City wanted to grace the famous Washington Square Arch with the colors of the French flag, lighting it in columns of blue, white and red, and asked him if he could do the job – and fast.

Tovar recalled via email: “Daniel asked me if I would be up for lighting the Arch, immediately. Then he put all the parties in touch as soon as we got off the phone. We were all on a conference call by 1 p.m. and onsite at 2:30 p.m. for a meeting with the equipment provider, city electricians, engineers, PD, mayors office, DOT, etc… and it was non stop until the job was completed around 9:30-10 p.m.

The Arch was lit up in color that night, Saturday, and then again Sunday night. Monday morning, the equipment was dismantled.

Tovar said, “I am used to designing on a quick timeline, but this one was quick, and unlike any other project I have had the honor of working on.”

The Arch looked magnificent in color, deviating from its traditional white for as far as I am aware the first time in its 124 year history.

It is not the first time lighting has been used for impact at the Arch, however. At the first tree lighting ceremony in 1924, and presumably for some years after, words to the Christmas carols were projected on the Arch, probably not in color and not all encompassing as this was.

I wonder if this will be the start of a more frequent occurrence, hopefully not just for tragic times, and probably best done infrequently. But the Arch took to the change well.

Brian Tovar, the designer:


The end result:
washington square park arch set up lighting french flag honor paris victims

In response to Sunday’s post here about the vigil and the French flag-inspired Arch, Mitchel Cohen, affiliated with the Brooklyn Greens/Green Party, wrote (also providing a more precise meaning of the colors behind the French flag):

“It would have been appropriate for the arch to not only bathe in the colors of the tri-color of France (Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité), but also in the flags of Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, where recent mass-bombings have taken place and many, many innocent civilians killed by the French, and the U.S. Or, how about the universal flag of the Doctors Without Borders, two of whose hospitals were obliterated by attacks by the United States government.

I understand why Paris in particular resonates here in NYC but I also understand what Cohen is saying.

The following is an excerpt from Green Party Presidential Candidate (yes, there is one) Jill Stein’s statement following the Paris attacks issued November 15th. I don’t know what the other presidential candidates have said but I imagine it is not along these lines (maybe, Bernie Sanders):

I join the world in condemning this horrific act of violence and devastating loss of over 127 innocent lives, with hundreds more injured. Our hearts go out to the victims, their families and communities. The Paris massacre is an attack on innocent civilians everywhere.

Sadly, this comes as we mourn the loss of nearly 50 innocent lives the day before in Beirut, and several dozen in Baghdad. And the 224 individuals who were killed the prior week in the apparent bombing of the Russian airliner in Egypt.

We grieve for the victims and their families everywhere. All life is precious.  …

Already we are hearing calls to turn our cries our grief into a call for vengeance. But the use of violence invariably leads to the death of civilians, and drives more recruits into terrorist extremism. Vengeance is not a path to peace. Resorting to more violence in the aftermath of the Paris massacre is especially tragic because there are effective peaceful measures available to us right now to shut down ISIS. …

The violence in Paris is clearly a product of the exploding violence in the Middle East over the past 15 years. Governments have been destabilized and weapons have poured into the hands of extremists. Over a million lives, largely civilians, have been lost in Iraq alone. That carnage enables terrorists to rationalize their own horrific acts. Unleashing more death in response just continues and escalates the cycle of violence. [continued at site]

Top three photos Courtesy Brian Tovar

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