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Philadelphia’s most iconic skyline tower began dancing with animated colors for the first time ever this spring, thanks to a lighting upgrade. Now, One Liberty Place is offering residents a chance to control the display themselves.
It took less than a year to revamp the illumination on the zig-zag crown, according to building director Stewart Brown.
The new LED display, made up of 72 sections that are 20 feet each, was installed by two Philly-based restoration and construction companies, Ascent and MJ Settelen. Its on/off switch is solar-dependent, with bulbs lighting up at dusk and powering down at dawn — and the various colors and animations they display are easy to program.
A new app called My Liberty Lights lets regular people schedule a 5 minute interval for which they choose custom colors and animations — and it shows up on the actual building. At this point, you need an invite to try it out.
Pre-set templates include a cascading rainbow, or one with Eagles colors. Feeling patriotic? There’s a red, white and blue setting. Want Christmas in August? Pick red and green.
The interface is easy to use, and you’ll get an email alert to remind you when the display is about to start your programming. Watch live if you have a view of the tower, or via two webcams linked from the page.
You can be one of the first to get access to the app by participating in the contest on the building’s Instagram account, which ends Friday, Aug. 20. Each person who gets access is allowed to invite two friends, so the fun will get spread around.
When it was built in the late 1980s, One Liberty Place was the first skyscraper to break the informal agreement to not build higher than William Penn’s hat atop City Hall. It was developer Willard G. Rouse III who made the then-controversial move, and when the spire first lit up, some surmised the chevron lights were shaped in a “W” after his name.
The skyscraper went through a few ownership changes, and is now owned by Chicago-based Metropolis Investment Holdings and managed by real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield.
Sister tower Two Liberty is owned and run by a totally different group, but the twin buildings often coordinate on the color of the crown lights, along with other skyline fixtures. They could be changed by request (from visiting groups hosting conferences, for example) or set to themes supporting playoff-bound sports teams or celebrating holidays.
Up until this spring, those lights were static. One Liberty’s latest update added animation and the ability to have multiple colors on one line of bulbs. That opened the door to displays of rolling rainbows or other trippy patterns.
The new lighting is fun, but it wasn’t the main reason for the overhaul, per building director Brown.
One Liberty has a LEED-Gold certification and Energy Star rating, and replacing all the lighting with LED helped further that goal.
“We’re extremely committed to sustainability,” Brown said in a release, “and we wanted to make sure that when we launched My Liberty Lights, we were using the most efficient lighting and technology possible.”